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What Makes an Effective Teacher? Quasi-Experimental Evidence

  • Victor Lavy

This paper measures empirically the relationship between classroom teaching practices and student achievements. Based on primary- and middle-school data from Israel, I find very strong evidence that two important elements of teaching practices cause student achievements to improve. In particular, classroom teaching that emphasizes the instilment of knowledge and comprehension, often termed "traditional"-style teaching, has a very strong and positive effect on test scores, particularly among girls and pupils of low socioeconomic background. Second, the use of classroom techniques that endow pupils with analytical and critical skills ("modern" teaching) has a very large positive payoff, evidenced in improvement of test scores across subgroups differentiated by gender and socioeconomic background. However, a second element of modern teaching, instilment of the capacity for individual study, has no effect while transparency, fairness, and proper feedback in teachers' conduct with their students improve marginally academic performance, especially among boys. Apart from identifying "what works" in the classroom, these findings yield two insights for the debate about the merit of "traditional" versus "modern" approaches to teaching, which are often discussed as rival classroom pedagogical approaches. First, both may coexist in the classroom production function of knowledge. Second, it is best to target the two teaching practices differentially to students of different genders and abilities. The effect of the effective teaching practices estimated is very large, especially in comparison with that of other potential interventions such as reducing class size or increasing school hours of instruction.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16885.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16885
Note: CH ED LS
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  1. Daniel Aaronson & Lisa Barrow & William Sander, 2007. "Teachers and Student Achievement in the Chicago Public High Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 95-135.
  2. Jesse Rothstein, 2010. "Teacher Quality in Educational Production: Tracking, Decay, and Student Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 175-214, February.
  3. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2008. "Does Mentoring Reduce Turnover and Improve Skills of New Employees? Evidence from Teachers in New York City," NBER Working Papers 13868, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Andreas Ammermueller & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2006. "Peer Effects in European Primary Schools: Evidence from PIRLS," CEE Discussion Papers 0065, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  5. Sass, Tim R. & Semykina, Anastasia & Harris, Douglas N., 2014. "Value-added models and the measurement of teacher productivity," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 9-23.
  6. Cory Koedel & Julian Betts, 2007. "Re-Examining the Role of Teacher Quality In the Educational Production Function," Working Papers 0708, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  7. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Nathaniel Hilger & Emmanuel Saez & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Danny Yagan, 2010. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence From Project STAR," NBER Working Papers 16381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2005. "Principals as Agents: Subjective Performance Measurement in Education," NBER Working Papers 11463, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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