6. Teaching methods

Reliable evidence from meta-studies

No practising GP would consider it their job to analyse the results from dozens of different experiments before making a "professional judgement" on the treatment for their patient. They rely on meta-studies, drug testing regimes etc. Teachers need the same level of reliable advice.

Successful teaching methods

This list of successful methods is mostly drawn from the meta study analyses done by the McREL team under Robert Marzano in Colorado with some additions from the Auckland University team under John Hattie. see sources These two studies have been combined in Geoff Petty's book "Evidence-based Teaching". In addition we include the general findings from the CASE (cognitive acceleration through science education) program as this has been sufficiently rigorously tested to provide reliable evidence.

This list does not tell you "how to teach". It simply provides an introduction to the ten methods which, according to the best evidence we have available, will most promote learning. It is not exhaustive - there are other good methods and variations.

This material is not exclusive to these sources, it is found, perhaps using different words, in wider range of teaching advice. However, most other sources promote the methods only by "bold assertion" or personal experience. All the advice given here has strong supporting evidence.

Note that there are few "surprises" on the list - they are the sorts of thing all effective teachers do. However, the top 3 methods are little used and require practice by both teacher and pupils to be effective.

Method Effect size*
General methods
1 Similarities and differences; classification; metaphors and analogies 1.60
2 Summarizing, note taking and mind-mapping 1.00
3 Reinforcing effort and providing recognition. 0.80
4 Homework and practice 0.77
5 Non-linguistic representations, graphical organisers 0.75
6 Co-operative learning 0.73
7 Setting goals and providing feedback, AfL 0.61
8 Generating and testing hypotheses 0.61
9 Activating prior knowledge, assertive questioning 0.59
10 Advance organiser 0.59
Examples of methods which combine several of the above
Cognitive Acceleration 0.80
Whole class interactive teaching 0.80

* (Effect size refers to the number of standard deviations of improvement. Effect size of 1.0 is equivalent to about 2 GCSE or A-level grades. (Effect sizes are not additive!))

Accelerated Learning suggests a set of principles which is very similar:

Applying these methods

A flowchart for using these methods in a topic can be found at: Applying the methods to a topic

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