Sunday, August 30, 2009

Teachers' Champ

Straits Times Interview with Professor Linda Darling-Hammond
Click HERE to read the full article (by Sandra Davie)

The article was brought to our attention on the very morning when it was published (26 August 2009, Wednesday) when we had our weekly PD session. Mrs Chew took the trouble to read out a couple of paragraphs that really, wanting to emphasize to us that Teacher Quality is really to key to students' learning. Coincidentally, that's also the message that was communicated to all of us during the Teacher Mass Lecture.

She read,
  • Teacher qualifications, teacher knowledge and skills, make more difference for student learning than any other single factor. One of the more recent studies was that conducted in North Carolina by academics Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd and Jacob Vigdor. It found that a teacher's experience, test scores and certification all had a big impact on student achievement.
  • In comparison to the effects of changes in class size or to the socio-economic background of students - such as the education level of their parents - teacher credentials were way out in front. Prof Darling-Hammond insists that 'you cannot ignore teacher effects - the difference is substantial'.
  • She points out that another study - this one by statistician William Sanders - disputes the connection made by much of the education world between poverty and low student performance. He found that all other factors studied, such as class size, ethnicity, location and poverty, all paled into triviality compared to teacher effectiveness.
  • Furthermore, his research showed that students unlucky enough to have a succession of poor teachers were virtually doomed for the education cellar. His study found that students with three straight years of effective teachers had 60 per cent greater achievement than those who had a succession of ineffective teachers.
  • ...demonstrated that well-qualified teachers make more of a difference to lagging students. So, she insists, the best teachers should be teaching the weakest children, who stand to benefit the most from having a well-qualified and experienced teacher.

Indeed, we all acknowledge that teachers make a difference! What motivates us? Apart from the target/ambition that some of us set out, in fact, a significant figure is usually the factor cited. Here, the significant figure could be the teacher, someone who serves the role of the mentor or teacher, though might not be a 'formal' teacher. Fully agree - It makes or breaks. The impact is greater for the younger soul who experienced it. I would still remember my P1-P3 Mother Tongue teachers whose encouragement and influence played a big part in my love of the Chinese language. It's also my P2 EL teacher who had turned English Language to the most feared subject I had over all these years - which I'm still suffering from the impact though it's more than 30 years ago. So, to build or destruct? It lies in our hands.

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