In a nutshell
- School and classroom structural factors have some significance to a child’s learning and motivation, but they explain only a small fraction of the variation in learning outcomes.
- Quality of the classroom interaction processes supporting learning is rooted in how teachers apply the curriculum in class, and what kind of goals and study they stress.
- The process quality of the interaction between teacher and children plays a crucial role in explaining learning outcomes.
- The teaching through interaction (TTI) framework conceptualises the quality of teacher–child interactions by dividing them into three broad domains: emotional support, classroom organisation, and instructional support.
- The most important factors supporting learning are: Time used in learning, Teacher-child relationship, enhancing self-regulation skills, teaching of learning strategies, clarity and consistency of instructions, demonstrating teaching and modelling behaviour, repetition and rehearsing of the learned skills and supporting learning difficulties.
The quality of the learning environment
It is not easy to identify effective teaching, although better teaching practices are needed to tackle the possible learning crisis in low- and middle-income countries. In recent research, attention has been directed to learning environments from both structural and process viewpoints. The structural quality factors defining the quality of learning environments can include recourse, teacher’s educational level and work experience, class size, number of assistants in the class, number of children with learning difficulties, number of learning materials or technical devices, suitability, stimulation, safety of the physical surroundings, and curriculum aims. Although the factors which concern the school and classrooms have some significance to a child’s learning and motivation, they explain only a small fraction of the variation in learning outcomes. However, recent research stresses the process quality of the interaction between teacher and children, which plays a crucial role in explaining this variation, possibly because the quality of the interaction processes supporting learning is rooted in how teachers apply the curriculum in class, and what kind of goals and study they stress.
Teaching through interaction
The teaching through interaction (TTI) framework conceptualizes the quality of teacher–child interactions by dividing them into three broad domains: emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support. These key domains direct teachers’ teaching practices and children’s learning processes. Based on the TTI framework, effective teaching requires tailored strategies and well-targeted support from the teacher to strengthen children’s learning. The Classroom Observation System (CLASS) instrument is based on the TTI framework, with these three domains, and has been shown to be a reliable instrument to observe the effectiveness of teaching in several educational contexts around the world.
Emotional support stresses the qualities of the interactions that promote a child’s social and emotional functions in the classroom. In the CLASS, it is built on four dimensions: positive and negative climate in the classroom; teacher sensitivity; and regard for the child’s perspective. Its theoretical foundation is based on attachment theory which posits that a child needs a safe, predictable, and consistent learning environment. Such environments are marked by an absence of negativity, such as punitive control or disrespect in communication, and are, instead, seen to support a child’s self-reliance and ability to take risks. Moreover, from the perspective of self-determination theory, this domain highlights that children are driven by an innate psychological need to experience competence, autonomy, and relatedness. These needs further support a child’s motivation and engagement in learning. Emotional support, made up of a positive and supportive classroom atmosphere and positive teacher–child and peer relationships, has been associated with a child’s willingness to participate in classroom activities, academic achievement, social competence, and motivation. Although emotional support has been shown to be important for all learners, it has been found to be especially important for children who are vulnerable and risk failing at school.
Classroom organization includes a wide variety of classroom processes related to proactive behavioural management, productivity, maximizing time for learning, and a variety of engaging instructional learning formats. Theoretically, this domain is related to how children’s self-regulation skills develop, the way environment regulates learning, and constructivist ideas regarding how children best attach to learning when they can participate in planning goals, monitoring, and regulating their learning process, as well as regulating and controlling, by themselves, their actions, learning, and motivation. Learners have better self-regulating skills in well-functioning classrooms; thus, they have better opportunities to learn things. Learners are not passive in learning situations; rather, they are active agents of their learning and strongly attached to learning situations. High-quality classroom organization (e.g., clear rules and routines and inherently interesting activities) is associated with greater interest in learning activities among children, on-task behaviour.
Instructional support focuses on teacher–child interactions in relation to linguistic and cognitive development. Moreover, it emphasizes the development of metacognitive skills, and awareness and understanding of learners’ own thinking processes. For these reasons, the dimensions of instructional support are different across different ages. In pre-primary and primary school, it is defined as learning vocabulary, quality of feedback, and linguistic modelling, while in lower secondary school, understanding content, quality of feedback, analysing, differentiating, and problem solving, as well as dialogue of teaching, are stressed. Instructional practices in which a child’s learning is supported by scaffolding enable them to comprehend content deeply and interconnect new constructs with previously acquired knowledge.
Vocabulary learning concerns a teacher’s ability to use instructional discussions and different ways of working to develop learners’ knowledge of concepts and thinking skills. High-quality feedback includes scaffolding, interaction, and feedback loops, and it progresses thinking processes. Feedback deepens learners’ knowledge and understanding and also encourages persistence, trying, and participating. A teacher asks learners to describe and explain their thinking and challenges them to evaluate solutions or what strategy might work with a given task. A teacher asks questions to support learners’ understanding and gives new knowledge to deepen that understanding.
Linguistic modelling includes techniques for learning (such as open questions, repetitions, widenings, and enriching vocabulary) through which a teacher gives linguistic stimulations and supports the development of language. Understanding content refers to the depth of content given during a lesson as well as a teacher’s way of helping learners understand the central things, concepts, principles, and working models. With differentiation and problem solving, a teacher progresses learners’ higher-level thinking and metacognitions.
In dialogue of teaching, a teacher uses the sharing of goal-oriented views and ideas via structural questioning and discussion to progress learners’ understanding of content and their thinking skills. Instructional support of high quality has been found to be related, to a great extent, to positive interactions between child and teacher, as well as more active classroom engagement and better academic outcomes among children.
TEACH tool for teachers’ professional development
TEACH is an opensource classroom observation tool developed by The World Bank to holistically measure what happens in the classroom in low- and mid-income countries. It is intended to be used as an educational evaluation system and for teachers’ professional development. TEACH captures the quality of teaching practices, as well as practices that nurture children’s cognitive and socioemotional skills. The three domains of TEACH, namely the classroom culture, instruction, and socioemotional skills, are similar to the classroom organization, instructional support, and emotional support domains of the CLASS observation instrument. However, TEACH differs from CLASS in that it captures both the time teachers spend on learning and the extent to which students are on task, and the quality of teaching practices (focusing on classroom culture, instruction, and socioemotional skills) that help develop students’ outcomes.
First, the teacher creates a classroom culture that is conducive to learning. The focus is not on the teacher correcting learners’ negative behaviours but, rather, the extent to which the teacher creates: (1) a supportive learning environment, by treating all learners respectfully, consistently using positive language, responding to learners’ needs, and both challenging gender stereotypes and not exhibiting gender bias in the classroom; and (2) positive behavioural expectations, by setting clear behavioural expectations, acknowledging positive learner behaviour, and effectively redirecting misbehaviour.
Second, the teacher instructs in a way that deepens learner understanding and encourages critical thinking and analysis. The focus is on the extent to which the teacher: (1) facilitates the lesson, by explicitly articulating lesson objectives that are aligned to the learning activity, clearly explaining content, connecting the learning activity to other content knowledge or learners’ daily lives, and modelling the learning activity through enacting or thinking aloud; (2) checks for understanding by using questions, prompts, or other strategies to determine learners’ level of understanding, by monitoring learners during group and independent work, and by adjusting their teaching to the level of learners; (3) gives feedback, by providing specific comments or prompts to help clarify learners’ misunderstandings or identify their successes; and (4) encourages learners to think critically, by asking open-ended questions and providing learners with thinking tasks that require them to actively analyse content.
Third, to fosters learners’ socioemotional skills the teacher: (1) instils autonomy, by providing learners with opportunities to make choices and take on meaningful roles in the classroom; (2) promotes perseverance, by acknowledging learners’ efforts; by having a positive attitude toward learners’ challenges by framing failure and frustrations as part of the learning process; and by encouraging learners to set goals; and (3) fosters social and collaborative skills, by encouraging collaboration through peer interaction and by promoting interpersonal skills.
Factors supporting learning
Time used in learning. When learners have learning difficulties, they often need more time to practise basic skills and adopt the learned things. Sometimes, just giving them extra time to do exercises or in the assessment situation may be enough support. Similarly, flexible transitions as well as clear functioning models and routines give extra time for learning. It is useful to note that many learners needing support cannot pay attention for a long time, especially if the learning situation requires the passive following of teaching. Using different learner-activating work habits helps learners to pay consistent attention and adopt things. Giving them breaks and spacing the practice are necessary not only to enable learners to keep paying attention but also so they can manage the to-be-learned thing in the mind.
The teacher–child relationship. According to attachment theory, child individualisation and maturation mainly happen in early emotional relationships. The warm relationship between the mother and child emphasises a sensitive closeness towards a child’s emotional expressions and actions as well as the significance of open communication to a child’s self-image and communication skills. A warm relationship between a teacher and child consists of closeness and open communication, while conflicts in the relationship may be seen as rare mutual agreement and discordant interaction. A close teacher–student relationship strengthens a child’s emotional security in the group and enables the child to focus on studying and practising skills. Positive emotional support from a teacher promotes children’s reciprocal social support for each other and, thus, supports learner motivation and bonding to the school. It is also possible that when the teacher–student relationship is positive, the teacher shows more sensitivity to learners’ individual needs and can thus better support them. These results underline the significance of the teacher–student relationship as a modifying factor in children’s favourable development and a compensating factor for possible problems in other environments.
A teacher clearly plays a significant role in forming and maintaining positive interaction relationships in the classroom. They can, through their own actions, also support learners’ interaction relationships with each other. It is known that a teacher’s beliefs in regard to a learner’s success are associated with how much a teacher encourages and gives positive feedback to the learner. It is found that learners who are the object of positive beliefs from a teacher receive more attention, positive feedback, and encouragement than learners for whom the teacher has low expectations of learning.
Learner’s gender, behaviour, and learning difficulties seem to affect the interaction and relationship between a teacher and child. The emotional relationships between teacher and child, as well as the approval of the former, are particularly important to children who have difficulties in their learning. Moreover, when a family has a child who needs support in school, the building of a positive, trusting relationship requires the teacher to initiate and sensitively maintain the interaction relationship with the child and parents. It is important to note that the beneficial results of positive interaction processes with a school tend to accumulate and affect the child’s learning and success throughout their school career.