If you have what is known as teacher clarity, you can have a much larger impact on how well your students do in your class.
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. You also need to ensure that your students are equally clear about what they must learn and how they can prove they have learnt it.
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 Is Often Misunderstood
Misunderstanding 1: It’s Not All About Learning Intentions & Success Criteria
Both Hattie and Wiliams encourage you to use learning intentions and success criteria to achieve this clarity. Their enthusiasm may explain why many teachers have started plastering their walls with learning intentions, often at the behest of eager school leaders. Other teachers don’t use the words but plaster their walls with similar things – e.g. mastery ladders.
Yet, the meta-analysis Hattie reviewed did not refer to learning intentions or success criteria per se. Rather, it referred to teacher clarity. This doesn’t mean that learning intentions and success criteria are bad. It means that they are merely one way of achieving teacher clarity. The same applies to other strategies, such as mastery ladders.
You can call them as learning intentions, mastery goals, lesson objectives or any other label you prefer.
What matters is that they clarify exactly what students need to know/understand and what they must be able to do.
Misunderstanding 2: It’s Not Just Being Clear About What Your Students Need to Learn
Furthermore, being clear about what you want your students to learn is only 1 aspect of teacher clarity.
Having clarity is only a high impact strategy when you allow it to influence how you go about your subsequent teaching.
And this leads to my next point.
Teacher Clarity Has 5 Parts
Many teachers see little, if any benefit to learning intentions, mastery ladders, lesson goals or similar. this is because they are doing it for the sake of doing it, rather than to focus their teaching. It is focusing your teaching that makes the difference.
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’ results. Yet, being clear about what you want your students to learn is just one aspect of Fendick’s definition of teacher clarity. There are 4 more aspects of teacher clarity. Aspect 2-4 refer to focusing your teaching. The full 5 aspects of teacher clarity involve:
- 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 the aspects of teacher clarity collectively, your impact on your students’ results nearly doubles.
Shaun Killian is an experienced teacher and principal with a passion for helping students to excel. He believes that assisting teachers to adopt evidence-based education is the best way to make this happen. Shaun is committed to bringing you practical advice based on solid research.