What is targeted teaching? Does it produce better student outcomes? How do you implement it in your school?
The answers to these questions are included in a new report titled "Targeted Teaching: How Better Use of Data Can Improve Student Learning", from the independent think tank, the Grattan Institute.
Dr Pete Goss, Director of the Institute's School Education Program, spoke to The Learning Capacity Podcast about the report.
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Dr Goss and his co-author Jordana Hunter gathered information and data from a wide range of people in government education departments, education experts, and teachers, and had in-depth interviews with 15 schools.
What is targeted teaching?
According to Pete Goss targeted teaching is a very old concept which recognises that teaching to every student's individual needs is the best way to maximise their learning progress. He quotes, " The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach him accordingly."
He points out it is necessary to assess where each student is in their learning, target the teaching in some differentiated way, check progress over time and then adapt teaching practices based on the things that are having the most impact.
What is the evidence that targeted teaching produces better student outcomes?
The report noted that schools which are using targeted teaching well are showing evidence of improved student performance. But beyond these schools the evidence is not as strong as it could be because there is not a widespread culture of solid evaluation at program level in Australian education.
Targeted teaching and NAPLAN 2015
Dr Goss says although the standardised tests only measure some aspects of learning, NAPLAN provides an "invaluable snapshot of what's happening at a system level and triggers a bunch of questions".
He says that Australia should be aiming for higher educational achievement to address social inequity and our poor performance against other countries.
Targeted teaching, properly implemented, can improve educational achievement.
How to implement targeted teaching
It's not easy. "This is tough work. It's very professional work, and it extends and challenges the skills of all the teachers," says Pete Goss. His advice includes:
- As an individual teacher be realistic about how far you can push targeted teaching on your own
- Find assessment tools to understand the spread of abilities in your classroom
- Pick one area and find a way to ensure that every student is learning at an appropriate level, at least for some time
- Convince another teacher to do it with you - use team teaching
- Group students who are at similar levels so you can target teaching to each group rather than personalising different lessons for each of the 25 or 28 students in your class.