Thou shalt not praise: the seven deadly sins of teaching

Richard Vaughan

Telling students they have done a good job may seem like a sensible form of encouragement, but dishing out excessive praise has been named as one of the seven deadly teaching sins.

“Lavishing” approval on pupils, grouping by ability and ensuring students are always “active learners” are among the teaching don’ts that appear in research released today.

Whereas having a deep knowledge of the subject they teach and enforcing good classroom management are among the six teaching dos for educators.

The list was compiled by Professor Robert Coe, director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University, who analysed which teaching methods showed clear evidence for boosting students’ attainment and which had little proven benefit.

It was published by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, which is hoping the research will be distilled into an easy-to-use toolkit for improving teaching methods and learning.

Seven teaching don’ts:

1. Use praise lavishly.
2. Allow learners to discover key ideas for themselves.
3. Group learners by ability.
4. Encourage re-reading and highlighting to memorise key ideas.
5. Address low confidence and aspirations before teaching content.
6. Present information to learners in their preferred learning style.
7. Ensure learners are always active, rather than listening passively, if you want them to remember.

Six teaching dos:

1. Have deep subject knowledge.
2. Ensure quality of instruction, such as good use of questioning.
3. Insist on a demanding classroom climate/expectations.
4. Have strong behaviour/classroom management
5. Have firm beliefs about why teachers adopt certain practices.
6. Illustrate professional behaviours such as reflecting on and developing professional practice.

For more on Professor Coe's research,  read today's edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

Related stories:

Setting by ability to be focus of major academic study - 5 September 2014

Ofsted brands idea of forcing schools to set by ability 'bizarre' - 6 September 2014 


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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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