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Prof. Daniel Mujis on the Research Behind Ofsted’s New Inspection Framework

On 18th October we welcomed Ofsted’s Head of Research, Daniel Mujis, to talk about the concept of ‘quality of education’, discussing research into pedagogy, teacher effectiveness and how this relates to student outcomes – but also how these are insufficient indicators of quality of education.

He discussed the wide body of research into the concept of ‘teacher effectiveness’ – which is often cited e.g. by this Sutton Trust document. This an excerpt from one of Daniel’s slides:

  • There is clear evidence that the effectiveness of individual teachers has a significant impact on student outcomes. Explains up to 75% of classroom level variance in pupil performance
  • If one takes two pupils with identical background (SES, gender, …) and test scores at beginning of year, the pupil taught by the most effective teacher will score 25% higher at the end of the year than the pupil taught by the least effective teacher (Muijs & Reynolds, 2001).

We also know that the quality of teaching is more important for pupils disadvantaged by socioeconomic background, for lower achieving pupils and for pupils at risk.

Of course, trying to pin down exactly what characterises ‘effective’ teachers is more problematic. Teaching is obviously a dynamic, interpersonal process which resists simple quantification. However, there are some clear indicators of what ‘effective practice’ might look like which highlight the particular benefits of: direct instruction, metacognition, classroom climate and relationships (warm but learning-focused), feedback and assessment (how do we make sure that assessment is built into and informs learning, that feedback is effective).

Recognising the deformative impact that Ofsted has previously had on school performance measures (creating ‘Ofsted’ lessons and criteria matched closely to perceived Ofsted grading criteria), Daniel went on to discuss why focusing simply on pedagogy – as the research discussed above does – is not sufficient when considering quality of education. Instead, he argued, we need to consider not only howsomething is taught but also whatis taught. Here’s another excerpt from his slides:

  • What if we use good pedagogy, but don’t have good subject knowledge?
  • What if we use good pedagogy to teach harmful content?
  • What about what happens outside of the classroom?
  • What do lessons mean in isolation?
  • Can we effectively teach poor content?
  • There is a relationship between teacher subject knowledge and teaching behaviours/strategies
  • But we can teach poor content well!
  • What do we need to do to ensure the what, as well as the how of teaching are addressed?
  • What if we teach harmful content?

Daniel discussed how the interaction between what happens in the lesson and outside the classroom is also important, and also the limitations of observing a snapshot of learning in a single lesson, and the importance of how learning builds in sequences over time. All of this, was used to justify and explain the Ofsted focus on the curriculum – why curriculum matters.

He also touched on the contested issue of ‘cultural capital’ – offering these views…

Cultural capital:

  • The symbolic elements (knowledge, tastes) we possess, and typically share with others
  • Provides us with more or less access and social mobility in a stratified system
  • Cultural capital is not equally shared, but valued forms are more present in some social groups than in others
  • Education can help to provide what is not present in the home, which can help provide social mobility

But we will write about Cultural Capital in a separate post…

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