Teacher clarity is critical. Eminent educators, Dylan Wiliam and John Hattie agree that you must be very clear about what you want your students to learn. You need to know exactly what you want them to understand and what you want them to be able to do. More importantly, you need to ensure that your students are equally clear about what they must learn and how they can prove they have learnt it.
In fact, Hattie’s review of research showed that teacher clarity has an effect size of d = 0.75.
Put another way, clear teaching helps students to progress 9 months further than students whose teachers did not have high levels of teacher clarity.
Teacher Clarity Misunderstood
Both Hattie and Wiliams encourage you to use learning intentions and success criteria to achieve this clarity. However, this has led to a lot of time being spent on plastering walls with learning intentions, mastery ladders and alike with very little benefit. Teachers are doing it for the sake of doing it, rather than to focus their teaching. Yet, it is focusing your teaching that makes the difference.
In fact, the meta-analysis Hattie reviewed does not refer to learning intentions or success criteria per se, but simply to teacher clarity. This doesn’t mean that learning intentions and success criteria are bad, but rather that they are merely one way of achieving teacher clarity. The same applies to other strategies, such as mastery ladders. You can make use of these strategies when they help you achieve clarity what you want your students to learn. However, don’t ever use them for their own sake or worse, in contexts where it wastes your time without affecting your subsequent teaching.
And this leads to my next point.
Teacher Clarity Must Lead To Clear Teaching
Hattie reviewed just one meta-analysis on teacher clarity, which was conducted by Frank Fendick. Fendick found that teacher clarity had a substantial impact on students’ subsequent results. Yet, being clear about what you want your students to learn is just one aspect of Fendick’s definition of teacher clarity. Teacher clarity involves:
- Being clear about what you want your students to know and be able to do
- Clearly explaining new content to students
- Clearly demonstrating relevant skills and processes that you expect students to do
- Give students practice tasks clearly focused on what you want them to know and be able to do
- Checking that students have a clear understanding of the new material
Of these dimensions, clearly explaining new content has the largest impact on subsequent results. However, when you attend to all the aspects of teacher clarity, your impact on your students’ results nearly doubles.