Book title: Effective Teaching (4th Edition)
Author/Editor(s): Daniel Muijs & David Reynolds
Publication date: 2017
1. What is your overall impression of the book?
Effective Teaching: Evidence and Practice is a succinct yet comprehensive book that looks at what makes effective teaching, based on recent and relevant research. Both authors are professors of education in universities in the UK (Swansea and Southampton) and between them they have an extensive output of research and publications: Daniel Muijs is recognised for his expertise in teacher effectiveness.
It adds to the canon of teaching and teacher effectiveness books well and, whilst you might not find any new silver bullets, the presentation is excellent and it is an enjoyable read. With two authors we never hear one voice in this book, but rather get a sense of a collective voice of two highly experienced and clear communicators, who put pupils first and recognise the impact teachers have on learning.
I wouldn’t recommend this as a book for teachers keen to explore an aspect of their practice in depth, however. In some respects the book tries to cover too much and certain sections, for example the ‘Teaching Gifted and Talented’ chapter, can feel rushed. If you wanted something very detailed, you might be disappointed in the brevity of the book. That said, for overviews and a suggestion of useful research that informs areas of teaching practice, this book abounds, and the reader would find a great deal of useful starting points in gaining a recent research-informed perspective on key aspects of pedagogy.
2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?
In many respects, Effective Teaching: Evidence and Practice is an ideal text for those who are new to teaching. As an experienced teacher I also found it to be a useful refresher. All who read it will learn (or re-learn) the key components of effective teaching, the key thinkers and researchers who shaped these approaches, and how they arrived at their ideas.
It is a good book to have in your CPD library at school, especially for staff involved with NQTs and RQTs so they can quickly look things up during the induction process, and get core pedagogical ideas expressed succinctly coupled with references for further investigation.
3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?
The writing is easy to read and ideas are explained well – it’s an efficiently written book throughout, and one that does not waste any words. It’s not a slim volume at over 300 pages, but it is structured well.
It is split into 17 chapters, each covering an aspect of teaching, such as: the basics of teaching and learning; creating a framework for learning; adaptive teaching; subject teaching and assessment; and developing teachers and education. Each chapter contains helpful summaries of the material covered at the end, as well as ‘focus on research’ sections, ‘think points’ and reflective questions.
It feels very much like a textbook in that respect, and the reflective questions that end of each chapter could be useful for group discussions as well as individual reflections. The think points are supported by suggestions of what one could say in response to these at the back of the book, and I enjoyed being able to have that dialogue with the authors by forming my opinions about their questions before reviewing their points.
You might dip into this book periodically rather than read from cover to cover, though you could read it in either way. The references to research are plentiful and there is enough detail that you won’t always need to follow up using the references.
4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence does the author use? Is it robust and up-to-date?
The volume of research quoted to support the ideas is drawn from a broad historical span and includes many studies completed by the authors and international researchers. The book cites studies by the authors including their work investigating the teaching of mathematics, for example Effective Mathematics Teaching (2000) and a longitudinal study into student background and teacher effects in mathematics (2001).
The authors evaluate the research they mention, and are quick to mention when they feel certain qualitative research projects do not have sufficient participants to justify the claims. The cited research is fairly recent, and now in the 4th edition they have ensured the book retains its relevance in a quickly changing profession.
5. What did you learn from reading the book? What ideas/approaches/practice will you change or adopt as a result of reading this book?
Whilst I was not surprised by the contents of this book, it does give you a sense of pride in a profession that demands a considerable amount of knowledge and expertise from its teachers to deliver educational experiences to a broad spectrum of pupils with differing needs.
I found the chapter on ‘non-cognitive outcomes’ particularly interesting. This has sharpened my ideas around motivation and resilience and helped me to understand the limits of the contribution teachers can make, but also to recognise the importance of nurturing these through effective teaching. I will be considering these more readily in my own teaching, particularly by exploring how to generate curiosity in lessons to promote more intrinsic motivation and to be increasingly aware of finding the right amount of challenge to motivate pupils.
Ideas of self-concept and wellbeing are increasingly important and this book was an impetus for me to make these priorities in my classroom. For example, I will consider the volume and appropriateness of homework more carefully to ensure it promotes a positive academic self-concept.
6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?
'As we have stated repeatedly in this book, teachers matter… education systems need to ensure that they recruit the highest quality teachers, train them well, provide ongoing support and professional development, but also evaluate teacher performance so as to know where to target improvement efforts.'