What is good teacher training


Olaf Köller

Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller, born in 1963, is Professor of Empirical Educational Research at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel and Executive Scientific Director of the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education. The focus of his work lies in the area of ​​teaching and learning research. He recently published: Köller, O., Schütte, K., Zimmermann, F., Retelsdorf, J. & Leucht, M. (2013). Strong class, high performance? The role of class performance in individual math and reading performance in lower secondary education. Psychology in Education and Teaching, 60, 184-197.

Hilbert Meyer

Prof. Dr. Hilbert Meyer, born in 1941, has been Professor of School Education at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg since 1975; retires for the winter semester 2009/10. His longstanding work focuses on general didactics, teaching methodology and school and teaching development. He is currently working on a book on the subject of "Teaching Development" (Berlin 2015).

Is there a magic formula for good teaching? Educational research has been asking this question long before the Hattie Study. How well learning succeeds in school depends on numerous factors. But hardly anything is more important than the actions of the teacher.

Talking is also part of it: this elementary school teacher takes time for a student. (& copy dpa / JOKER)

A rare occurrence: the scientists largely agree!

What actually constitutes good teaching? This question should interest many more than ever before, as the studies of John Hattie have provided new and detailed insights into it.



John Hattie summarizes global research

The Australian John Hattie published a book in 2009 in which he summarized the results of over 50,000 empirical studies published around the world on the question "How does successful learning in school?" has gathered. Based on the many findings, Hattie's credo is: It depends on the teacher and the quality of teaching for which she is responsible: If she teaches well, the students also learn a lot. General school conditions such as B. the class size or the school structure, so Hattie, have little influence on the successful acquisition of knowledge and skills.

Hattie is not the first researcher to examine the question of what exactly defines school lessons in which students learn particularly well. Rather, generations of scientists from different disciplines have developed ideas about which influencing factors are important. In some cases, they have also tried to measure their models of successful teaching against reality, that is, to use empirical studies to check whether they are correct. Even if researchers from different disciplines often came to different assessments, today there is at least a broad consensus on the following aspects:
  • High complexity: Teaching is a very complex matter. Its process is determined by an unusually large number of influencing factors, such as the specifications of the curriculum, the professional skills of the teacher as well as the learning requirements and the social origin of the students. The effects of the lessons on learning, the motivation or emotions of the students are diverse and therefore hardly predictable. Some lessons may motivate some students and may bore others. Research in this field is correspondingly complicated.
  • Diversity of teaching objectives: Schoolchildren should not only acquire technical skills in class. They must also have the chance to develop their interests, to strengthen their social and emotional skills and to practice independent, self-reflective and democratic thinking and acting.
  • Surface and deep structures: Across the world, the understanding is that it is not so much the surface phenomena that determine the quality of teaching, such as the school's financial resources, class size or different types of school. Rather, it depends on the deep structures, e.g. For example, the credibility of the teachers, a climate conducive to learning, the comprehensibility of the teacher's language, a feedback culture, the art of making students think, and reflecting on their own learning together.
  • Varied learning arrangements instead of monoculture: The research results clearly show that a balanced mix of social forms of learning leads to better results than relying primarily on one form of learning. Frontal teaching, group and individual work should complement each other and not be played off against each other in a polarizing way.
As Rule of thumb The following applies today: The pupils themselves have the greatest influence on successful learning, the teachers the second strongest. Only in third place come the general school conditions.

Three central dimensions of good teaching

Regardless of the special features of the respective subject, lessons must meet the following three conditions in order to motivate the learners and encourage them to think along ("cognitive activation"):

Efficient class management helps bring about a high proportion of real learning time. The teacher tries to prevent disruptions in the lesson and thus reduces the scope of the necessary interventions; she keeps organizational tasks out of class or does them casually; it varies the social forms (frontal teaching, group and individual work) and ensures that teaching is rhythmic with an introductory phase, a development phase and a backup phase; Rights and duties, rules of the game and rituals are mutually agreed; attention is paid to compliance.

Cognitive activation means that the task is selected and presented so skilfully that it leads the pupils to reflect, i.e. to actively deal mentally with the topic under discussion. As research has shown, there is a considerable need for development in everyday school operations. One of the many ways to cognitively activate is cooperative learning, in which the students independently acquire knowledge on a topic in small groups. The effectiveness of "reciprocal learning" has also been well documented, in which pupils slip into the role of teacher for a certain period of time and teach their classmates in tandem, in small groups or in plenary sessions. Cognitive activation is not a blanket approach. A minimum degree of internal differentiation, taking into account the different levels of performance of the students in a class, for example with different tasks, is required.

Constructive support means that a teacher gives their students regular and individualized feedback on their learning progress. By dealing with mistakes constructively and making you think about your own learning, it promotes subject-specific learning. By showing reliability, patience and empathy and also being the contact person for social problems, she contributes to the positive motivational and emotional development of children and young people.

Professional knowledge of the teachers as a prerequisite for good teaching

But what knowledge and skills does a teacher have to bring with them so that they can meet the requirements for good teaching just described? So far we know little about this. Research has only progressed further in the area of ​​mathematics lessons. Mathematics didactics - this is the science of how mathematics is conveyed in such a way that it is understood - has developed into the leading discipline of subject didactics (but this must not lead to the thinking short-circuit that the mathematics lessons given in Germany are particularly good).

The American education researcher Lee Shulman distinguishes three types of knowledge that teachers need for their profession. Your professional knowledge is then made up of pedagogical knowledge, specialist knowledge and specialist didactic knowledge. Pedagogical knowledge is primarily based on the findings of pedagogy and pedagogical psychology about learning in general. Subject knowledge refers to the deeper academic understanding of the subject the teacher is teaching. Didactic knowledge ultimately includes knowledge of the previous knowledge and motivation of the students as well as knowledge of how the subject content should best be structured and presented for learners so that they can be understood.

Shulman's studies were continued in Germany by educational researchers such as Jürgen Baumert and Mareike Kunter. You examined the interplay between professional knowledge, teaching quality and student performance and came to the conclusion: Teachers with a high level of specialist knowledge also tend to have a pronounced specialist didactic knowledge. Teachers who are well-positioned in terms of subject didactics can, in turn, better activate their students cognitively in class, and this leads to higher student performance. The studies also show that teachers have different levels of specialist and didactic knowledge, depending on whether they were trained for elementary school, secondary school or grammar school. For grammar school teachers, they are on average higher than for teachers in other types of schools. Not least, this has to do with the different length and intensity of the technical and didactic training.

What does a good teacher do and leave behind?

We could now make it easy for ourselves and say: A good teacher is someone who, on the basis of his or her differentiated professional knowledge, strengthens the three dimensions of good teaching mentioned. So it ensures efficient class management, cognitive activation and constructive support. But that doesn't answer the real question. Because What does this "ensure that ..." consist of? This will be outlined in the following with a few lines. Aspects are incorporated that have so far been given little or no attention in empirical research, but are necessary for coping with the entire task that teachers have to solve every day:



Six characteristics of a good teacher

  1. A good teacher knows how to be a Working alliance to establish an agreement with their students on mutually accepted rights and obligations.
  2. She knows that some of her tasks can conflict with one another (e.g. the duty of care towards the individual as opposed to the fair treatment of all). But she understands that Balance contradictions.
  3. It's wide and deep Expertise and you dominate didactic and methodical tools.
  4. She encounters every student with respect and tried to get one in the classroom democratic teaching culture to develop.
  5. She can thoroughly rethink her own actions and their effects and base it on the reflection continuously develop.
  6. She likes to work in team and sees itself as a member of a professional community.

With the help of this catalog, strengths and weaknesses as well as the individual profile of individual teachers can be recorded. It should be emphasized that a teacher does not have to be equally "top" in every single one of these areas, because weaknesses in one characteristic area can be compensated for by strengths in other areas. What to do?

Everyone agrees that the key to securing a humane and high-performing education system in the long term is teacher training. The three facets of professional knowledge according to Shulman are built up first and foremost in teacher training and then deepened in further and advanced training. For us it follows:
  • Teacher training at universities and colleges must be strengthened - not so much through a few excellence initiatives, but rather through solid technical and didactic training in all subjects across the range of locations.
  • Teachers at elementary schools, secondary schools, secondary schools, etc. need training that is as good and as long as the teaching staff at grammar schools and vocational schools.
  • The practical components in teacher training should be designed in such a way that the professional knowledge acquired during the course can be reflected on and further developed in the light of initial practical experience in working with students.
  • The career entry phase (after the 2nd exam) requires special attention. Here it must be ensured that the more theoretical professional knowledge that was acquired at the university is translated into teaching.
  • Participation in in-school programs and projects to further improve teaching and peer-to-peer observation should become a natural part of the teacher's work.
  • Regular teacher training must be made a compulsory event fully paid for by the employer.


    This article is a revised and supplemented version of the following publication by the authors:

    Köller, Olaf and Meyer, Hilbert (2013): From "good teaching" to "good teacher", in: Activity report 2013 of the DSZ - German Foundation Center. On the happiness of education. Foundations 2013: 28 - 31.
    (This text is also available as a PDF on the website of the German Foundation Center.)