Feedback and behavior management keys to student success?

By on 12.02.2018 in Research findings
Lisa study: Linking instruction and study achievement

Teacher Margareta Öhman discusses Harper Lee’s “To kill a mocking bird” with 9th grade students at lower secondary school Norsen in Helsinki.

It all started with a mediocre PISA reading score for Norwegian pupils in 2001. Senior Researcher Astrid Roe was intrigued: “I wondered what was happening in the Norwegian classrooms.” After years of researching reading literacy, Astrid, as a part of a research team, started collecting video recordings from classrooms. The latest findings are significant – classroom management and teacher feedback appear to be key factors in student success.  

The small groups of students are scattered around the classroom, with a copy of Harper Lee’s ‘To kill a mocking bird’ in their hands. Some are riffling through the pages, others are prudently expressing their thoughts while a few gaze at their phone or chat joyfully. In the back of the room, Senior Researcher Astrid Roe is monitoring the 9th grade students and especially their teacher. With her headphones on, Astrid listens carefully to their conversations and follows their interactions through two video images on a small monitor. The aim is to find out what makes a good teacher and good tuition. She is mostly focusing on the actions of the teacher, Margareta Öhman, who is moving from one small group of students to the other, encouraging them to interpret the book.

Lisa study: Linking instruction and study achievement

Astrid Roe is keen on finding out what good teaching sounds and looks like.

Care, control and captivate
Astrid is part of a Norwegian research team that examines how the teachers’ behavior in the classrooms is connected to the students’ perception and achievement. The study includes video recordings from classrooms in Norway, Finland and Sweden. “We are looking at the connection between the tuition we can perceive through the video tapes and the results from the questionnaire answered by students”, Astrid explains.

After being recorded on video, the students get to score the teacher and the tuition in a questionnaire with 38 different items. They get to report on the frequency of essential elements of good instructional practice and classroom management, such as care, control, challenge, clarification, captivation, conference and consolidation. The research team grades the video recordings by evaluating the teacher’s interaction with the students.

Lisa study: Linking instruction and study achievement

Through two small video images on a monitor, Astrid follows the interaction between the teacher and the students.

“For the grading we use a manual called PLATO (Protocol for Language Arts Teaching Observation), developed by the University of Stanford, US. We had to go through an exam to be certified to use this research manual, and at first, we failed the test”, Astrid says with a smile.

The video materials and questionnaires can also be linked to students’ achievements, and this is done in Norway where the researchers also take into consideration the students’ achievement gains based on scores from national tests in 8th and 9th grade.

Teacher leadership correlates with student results
So far, the researchers have found a seemingly strong link between students’ achievement in reading and the teacher’s classroom management. “When the students report a lack of respect for the teacher, when there is disorder and noise during the classes, it correlates with low test scores and also with what we have perceived in the video materials,” Astrid says.

In classes, where students highly rate the classroom management and the teacher is in control of the class, it is clearly connected to the quality of the teaching. Astrid points out that if the teacher is a good leader, the students seem to have a better starting point for learning:

Lisa study: Linking instruction and study achievement

This small group of students had lots of interesting interpretations on Harper Lee’s “To kill a mocking bird”.

“In a class with lots of noise and disorder the teacher hasn’t got time to teach, the students are not listening and accordingly, they don’t learn anything. We still need to interpret the results more carefully, but it seems that if the learning environment is good, the teacher is the leader of the class room and respected, the students are also more focused on learning.”

Feedback means higher gains in test results
Feedback also stands out as a key factor. When the teacher actively gives feedback to the students, it tends to correlate with higher gains in tests. The higher the score the teacher gets on her feedback activities, the higher gains the students show in their test results. This concerns especially language arts, but also mathematics to some extent. “The schools with the highest gains in reading and numeracy also have relatively high PLATO scores and high scores on the student questionnaire.”

The schools with the best achievements also seem to get higher scores from both the students and the research team, and accordingly, schools with lower achievements and scores, also ranked poorly in the evaluation of the research team and the students.

“What we hear and see is what we get”, says Astrid with a smile. “We can only measure what we hear and see on the video recordings, such as the oral feedback from the teacher. The written feedback is also important, but not easy to observe from the videos.”

Lisa study: Linking instruction and study achievement

“What we hear and see is what we get”, says Astrid and shows me the two monitors where the teacher’s and students’ movements are all recorded.

The twelve PLATO elements are scored on a scale from 1 to 4. For feedback, the teacher is scored 1 if no feedback is given. If the teacher gives brief feedback like ‘good or great’, it’s a 2, and if they give a short feedback adding why it was good or what can be improved, it’s a 3. If the teacher gives some more substantial advice with explicit information on what was good and why, in addition to how the students can improve, it’s a 4.

Differences in Scandinavian classrooms
As a former language arts teacher and a teacher educator, Astrid is interested in finding out what makes a good teacher.

“After the PISA ‘shock’ in 2001 lots happened in Norway, it was an eye-opener. We had expected to be at the same level as Finnish students,” says Astrid, “but the reading scores for Norwegian students were at the OECD average. Norway turned out to have the second worst scores when it came to behavior management in the classrooms, according to the students.”

Today, Norway has improved both the reading scores and the classroom management, but still there seem to be some differences in the teaching methods in the Nordic countries, according to Astrid:

“In Finland, the teachers seem to be more focused on conveying the content of the subjects they are teaching, compared to Norway and Sweden. In Finland, the teachers seem to jump straight into the content and what the students should learn. I attended a class here in Finland a while ago, and I was surprised by the amount of grammar during the lesson. I haven’t seen that in 20-30 years in Norway. The teacher started with grammar and went on with grammar for two hours straight.”

Lisa study: Linking instruction and study achievement

“In Finland, the teachers seem to be more focused on conveying the content of the subjects they are teaching, compared to Norway and Sweden.” says Astrid Roe.

Astrid has met many Finnish teachers, who call themselves a little bit old-fashioned and conservative. “In Norway we used to change methods more often and the Swedes have been in the forefront adopting new methods. We usually copied the Swedes even before they knew if the method works, but in Finland you seem to wait until you know it works for sure.”

Astrid and her colleagues in the research team will soon start giving classes to teachers in the Oslo municipality.

“We are also just about to start a blog, where we will share findings from the research project, both from survey data on what the students report about the teaching and eventually some findings from the video study. I think this might interest many teachers out there”.

Lisa study: Linking instruction and study achievement


Lisa study: Linking instruction and study achievement
• The study started in 2014 at the University of Oslo and is led by Professor Kirsti Klette
• The focus is on 7th and 8th grade students in language arts and mathematics classes in the first year of lower secondary school.
• Video recordings have been collected in:
◦ 50 schools and 100 different class rooms in Norway
◦ 7 schools and 18 classrooms in Finland
◦ Ongoing collaboration with another research team currently collecting data in Sweden.


Read more about the Lisa study here!

Text & photos:

Charlotta Järf

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

About the Author: Charlotta Järf is in charge of the communications and marketing activities for JustEd, The Nordic Centre of Excellence, an international research network with 14 partner universities in 8 countries. With ten years of professional experience in Communications and Marketing, and five years as a TV, radio and newspaper journalist, Charlotta has a practical set of skills in strategical communications, PR, social media, graphic design, video and content production. .


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Comments are closed.