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The Efective Primary School Teacher

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 The Effective Primary School Teacher                                        601027

There are numerous ways in which a Primary school teacher can be effective within the school environment.  It is important that the teacher creates a positive climate that is conducive with learning, allowing the children to work within set structures and boundaries. An effective teacher will also be consistent in his/her approach and this can be applied to many aspects of teaching.  The areas that I have chosen to look at in some depth are: Assessment, behaviour management and the ability to promote self esteem within children.

The first area that I will focus on is assessment.  Assessment is a key area in teaching and one that an effective teacher will understand and use to the benefit of the class as a whole.  Brigg et al (2003) argue that;

Assessment is important as it provides information on which to base the next teaching and learning activities; feedback for the learners to motivate them and information to assist in evaluating teaching. Thorough and accurate assessment in the short, medium and long term will assist a teacher in achieving learning objectives and enhancing the learning experience of children with wide ranging abilities.  (p.3)

There is substantial research evidence to show that using appropriate assessment techniques (assessment for learning) can improve pupils' learning.

Regular assessment enables a teacher to understand and determine the quality of pupils’ learning. An effective teacher will realise that assessment is linked to learning and will be able to plan future lessons based on what he/she has assessed that the children need.  By making links with current knowledge, skills and understanding, the teacher can plan more effectively.  Graham J and Kelly A (2000) state that;

If a teacher understands, monitors and records each child’s knowledge, strategies, strengths, difficulties, confidence, and skill, he/she will be able to ensure, through planning appropriate teaching, that progress is maintained. (p.113)

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During my recent extended school experience, my year one class were working extensively on the science topic of ‘Sound’. The children were introduced to the range of sounds around them through games, stories and poems and had a visit from a tribe of African drummers.  I took responsibility for a sound activity that involved working with small groups constructing wind chimes using a variety of materials collected from home.  The wind chimes were later hung around the courtyard outside the classroom.  This activity was enjoyed by every child and some commented verbally on the range of sounds that the different objects made.  I realised the importance of recording these verbal responses, noting those that had and had not grasped the concept that different materials make different sounds when they strike each other. William, a mid-ability child commented that, ‘wood makes a dull sound, but metal pings like a high-up sound’ (sic).  I was able to compare this with a lower ability child’s observation that, ‘the cd makes a nice sound when it bangs because it is made of music.’  Through this verbal, formative assessment, I quickly grasped that William’s understanding of the topic was fairly advanced, while Daniel the lower ability child, needed further guidance.  From these responses, I was interested to take my assessment a step further and investigate how much the class as a whole had understood the sound topic.  I devised an assessment sheet (see appendix 1) and questioned each child in an informal discussion.  I asked questions about the wind chimes and the loud and soft sounds they could recognise.  It was hoped that some children would be able to go further than others and describe the reasons why different materials made different sounds and this proved to be the case.  It also enabled me to report back to the class teacher with areas of weakness that could be focused on in subsequent sessions.  Some of the lower ability children were particularly keen to talk to me about what they had learnt as they were more able to express themselves verbally than through writing. It is important to realise the importance of verbal assessment, especially with younger or less able children. An

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effective teacher will be aware of the range of assessment styles available and will chose the most suitable to assess specific tasks.

The class teacher on my ESE also assessed children by marking their work and correcting errors.  She was extremely positive in her assessment, and children were awarded for trying something that had pushed them outside their safety zone, even if the attempt had not been successful.  Through marking the children’s work she was able to assess which children were struggling in particular areas.  She then acted on this and organised small group sessions the next day for those children needing a particular focus.  The children benefited greatly from these small sessions and often caught up quickly, so the whole class could then progress together. The teacher also used assessment as a tool for communicating with home, giving parents areas that they could focus on if they chose to.  Graham J and Kelly A (1998) state that;

Proper marking of written work is one of the ways in which those who do not see what goes on in the classroom (e.g. parents) feel they can judge a teacher’s effectiveness.  (p.124)

The assessment focus for reading was quite intense during my ESE and every child read one to one with a teacher/TA or helper every day.  The children were assessed through short comments in their reading record and verbal discussion about the reading. Although this gave the children a good opportunity to read each day, I occasionally felt that the children were being called away from essential class work to read.  I noticed that some children adopted a ‘not reading again!’ attitude.  It is essential at this young age that children are introduced to reading carefully and are not pressured in any way.  Such pressure could lead to a dislike of reading in later years.  An effective teacher will get the frequency and the quality of assessment right in order to keep the children motivated.

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Assessment is one the most important and time consuming parts of a teacher’s school life, but if done effectively it is an invaluable resource to the children’s learning.    

The second issue that I believe to be of importance is the teacher’s ability to promote self-esteem within the child through positive praise. Self-esteem is important to all human beings and is essential for our mental well-being. Good self-esteem could greatly enhance a child’s educational progress.  White (1996) says that;

Positive self-esteem gives us ‘the courage, confidence and motivation to deal with the harsh realities of life’. (p.22)

There are many ways in which an effective teacher can promote self-esteem; one of these is by using positive reinforcement as a motivational tool to enhance a child’s academic development. During my first ESE, I saw numerous examples of effective teaching through positive reinforcement.  The year one class teacher continually focused on good behaviour offering rewards in the form of wishes in a wish pot for children trying their best.  She also praised lower- ability children, rewarding them for meeting individual targets.  These children were encouraged to push themselves further, their self-esteem enhanced by the teacher’s positivity.

Alberto and Troutman (1999) define positive reinforcement as, the contingent presentation of a stimulus immediately following a response, which increases the future rate and/or probability of the response (p.222). Therefore, in order to raise self–esteem through positive reinforcement the teacher must be consistent in her/his approach.  A child may react negatively if the boundaries are not firmly established and in order to create a class with a high level of self esteem, the children need to feel safe and secure both in their environment and in their teacher.  

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During my ESE the class teacher implemented many different techniques that raised self-esteem. The children had an achievement card that was stamped regularly with penny stamps, given for good behaviour, meeting targets, or simply being positive and cheerful. When twenty stamps had been received, the child was invited into the school ‘shop’ where they could exchange the stamps for a pencil, ruler, notebook, or small toy.  The children reacted well to this form of structured praise, and were motivated by the ‘prize’ at the end.  The teacher made a conscious effort to raise the children’s self-esteem and this policy was followed throughout the entire school.

Walker (2004) states the two main advantages of positive reinforcement;

Firstly, it is responsive to the child’s natural need for attention and approval, and secondly it decreases the probability that the child will exhibit inappropriate behaviour in an effort to obtain needed attention. (p.125)

The effects of rewarding children and raising their self-esteem have positive benefits within the classroom. Children with high levels of self esteem will have more confidence and this may reflect in their academic achievements.  

Finally, an effective teacher will have developed numerous strategies for behaviour management. These strategies are essential for the smooth running of the classroom.  He/she will have a constant classroom awareness, and will not allow themselves to get too engrossed with the activities of any one group, leaving the other groups to potentially run wild. By having an awareness of what may happen in the classroom, a teacher will always be one step ahead and will be able to nip behavioural issues in the bud.

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The Hay McBer Report (2000) states;

Effective teachers establish and communicate clear boundaries for pupil behaviour.  They exercise authority clearly and fairly from the outset, and in their styles of presentation and engagement they hold the pupils’ attention.

It is essential that children are aware that they fit into a class structure and that the role they play is important.  By creating class rules, behavioural problems may be limited as each child is aware of behaviour that is, and is not acceptable.  The effective teacher will have an authoritive stance and will be respected.  It is important that teachers are firm, but fair.  Rogers (1995) states that;

An effective teacher takes an authoritative, as distinct from an authoritarian, stance that exercises power in a thoughtful way to ensure social order, not mere control.  (p76).

During my ESE the class was covered by a supply teacher every Friday morning allowing the class teacher time to carry out her SENCO duties away from the classroom.  I observed that each time the children were taught by the supply teacher they behaved extremely badly and did very little work.  Even children that were normally quiet in class saw this time as an opportunity to become boisterous.  The teaching style of the replacement teacher differed greatly from the class teacher.  The supply teacher was softly spoken, gentle when giving instructions, and did not carry out punishment threats; for example taking time away from the children’s play time for bad behaviour.  I noted that although the usual class teacher might be viewed by some as strict and authorative, this was in fact what the children craved and they did not work as well when this structure was removed.   Pollard and Tann (1993) observed, when asked about their ‘best’ teachers, a majority of junior age pupils chose fairness and consistency as the chief qualities.  (p.164)

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An effective teacher will have numerous strategies for controlling the children’s behaviour, however for these to work it is important for the teacher to know each child individually.  Some children respond well to hand signals, or facial expressions.  Some will not understand these subtleties and will need verbal reminders.  By understanding each child, an effective teacher will control behaviour more effectively. I witnessed an example of this during my time in school. The teacher asked 5 of the most disruptive children to draw a picture on a small card of something that represented good behaviour to them.  She then laminated the cards and the 5 held them at carpet time and had them on the table during work sessions.  When the behaviour of any of these children became unacceptable, the class teacher would say; ‘look at your card’.  For two of the children this simple idea worked extremely well and their behaviour improved dramatically. The other three folded, chewed and lost their cards and were not interested in what the significance was.  Some methods that work for visual learners may not be as successful with kinaesthetic ones.  A good teacher will understand the differences.  

It is extremely important that the teacher uses all knowledge they have about a child effectively and to the child’s benefit.  An effective teacher will be aware of the child’s cultural and religious background and will pay particular attention to any specific needs.  This is also the case for children with special educational needs.  By being interested and informed, the effective teacher will successfully manage the class to it’s maximum learning potential.  In my recent ESE I experienced such a case; Wiktoria is a Polish girl who had very little speaking English and naturally struggled with class work.  I noticed that she was not labelled as ‘low ability’ simply because she did not understand the language. She was given support from the TA and often

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came up with correct answers before the english speaking children.  She was extremely able and just needed extra assistance as she leant the language. In some schools she may have been automatically placed at the lower end of the abilty range; however this was not what was required and the class teacher had realised this and acted accordingly. Of course it is understandable that in a class of thirty children, issues such as these will occasionally be missed.  But if left, children such as Wiktoria could become frustrated at their inabilty to understand and follow the other children, resulting in behavioural problems.  The class teacher informed me that Wikoria had been transferred from another local school where she had been considered ‘a problem’.  During my three week placemnent, I saw no sign of any behavioural issues with Wiktoria, mainly because she was handled extremely effectively by the class teacher.  It is important that children are viewed as individuals with different needs and not left unmotivated as this can result in bad behaviour.

An effective teacher will encourage discussion and contribution and ban the children from mocking or laughing at incorrect answers.  An effective classroom is one where pupils learn, and all staff help them to do so without spending too much of their time managing 'problem' or 'difficult' behaviour.  The Elton Report on Behaviour Management, comissioned in 1989 states;  

Everybody involved in the planning, delivery and evaluation of the curriculum should recognise that the quality of teaching and learning has a significant impact on pupils' behaviour.

An effective teacher is one with a variety of teaching skills and a flexibility to implement them whenever they are required.  By creating a positive and stable

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classroom environment with rules and boundaries, the children will be able to express themselves and work to the best of their abilty.  It is essential that children feel respected and included and a good teacher will realise the importance of high

self esteem among his/her class.

I have studied a wide range of skills that I feel make up an effective teacher, three of which I have discussed during this essay.  I am aware that in order to develop my strength in these areas I will need to practice and apply the skills within a school environment and I am looking forward to doing this later in the year.  The successful combination of personal attributes and practical knowledge that combine to make a successful teacher is a mix that I hope to achieve through hard work and keen observation.  

Number of words: 2610

References

Alberto, P, and Troutman, A, (1999) Applied Behaviour Analysis for Teachers, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Merrill.

Graham, J, and Kelly, G, (1998), Writing Under Control, London, David Fulton.

Hay McBer, (2000), Research into Teacher Effectiveness – A Model of Teacher Effectiveness, Report for the Department of Education and Employment,.

Pollard, A, and Tann, S. (1993), Effective Teaching in the Primary School, London, Contiuum International Publishing.

Rogers, B, (2002) Teacher Leadership and Behaviour Management, London, Paul Chapman.

Walker, J, et al, (2004) Behaviour Management: A Practical Approach for Educators,

Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Merrill.

White, M, (1999) Building Self-Esteem through Circle Time, Bristol, Lucky Duck.

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When Assessment Can Improve Pupils Learning, article accessed: 07/02/07 http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/supplyteachers/detail.cfm?&vid=3&cid=13&sid=76&ssid=3031003&opt=sectionfocus

The Elton Report, 1989, Behaviour Management, article accessed on 07/02/07, available from,

http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/supplyteachers/detail.cfm?&vid=4&cid=17&sid=107&ssid=4030501&opt=0

Bibliography

Black, O, Harrison, C, Lee, C, Marshall, B. & William, D. (2003), Assessment for Learning: Putting it into Practice. Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Cole, M (ed), (2005), Professional Values and Practice:Meeting the Standards, London, David Fulton.

Docking, J, (1990), Managing Behaviour in the Primary School, London, David Fulton.

Macgrath, M, . (2000), The Art of Peaceful Teaching in the Primary School – improving Behaviour and Preserving Motivation, London, David Fulton.

Moyles, J, and Robinson, G. (2002), Beginning Teaching, Beginning Learning, Berkshire, Open University Press.

Munn, P, et al, (1992) Effective Discipline in Primary Schools and Classrooms, London, Paul Chapman.

Wragg, E, (1993) Primary Teaching Skills, London, Routledge.  

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