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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Victor Lavy, 2011. "What Makes an Effective Teacher? Quasi-Experimental Evidence," NBER Working Papers 16885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16885
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jesse Rothstein, 2010. "Teacher Quality in Educational Production: Tracking, Decay, and Student Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 175-214.
    2. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Nathaniel Hilger & Emmanuel Saez & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Danny Yagan, 2011. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1593-1660.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Ammermüller, Andreas & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 2006. "Peer Effects in European Primary Schools: Evidence from PIRLS," ZEW Discussion Papers 06-027, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    7. 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.
    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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    Cited by:

    1. Cristina Lopez-Mayan & Ana Hidalgo-Cabrillana, 2015. "Teaching styles and achievement: Student and teacher perspectives," Working Papers wpdea1502, Department of Applied Economics at Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona.
    2. Richard B. Freeman & Martina Viarengo, 2014. "School and family effects on educational outcomes across countries," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 29(79), pages 395-446, July.
    3. Riphahn & Caroline Schwientek, 2015. "What drives the reversal of the gender education gap? Evidence from Germany," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(53), pages 5748-5775, November.
    4. Comi, Simona Lorena & Argentin, Gianluca & Gui, Marco & Origo, Federica & Pagani, Laura, 2017. "Is it the way they use it? Teachers, ICT and student achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 24-39.
    5. José Antonio Molina Marfil & Oscar David Marcenaro Gutierrez & Ana Martín Marcos, 2016. "Procesos de enseñanza-aprendizaje y producción educativa: un análisis de la competencia matemática," Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación volume 11,in: José Manuel Cordero Ferrera & Rosa Simancas Rodríguez (ed.), Investigaciones de Economía de la Educación 11, edition 1, volume 11, chapter 32, pages 585-604 Asociación de Economía de la Educación.
    6. Metzler, Johannes & Woessmann, Ludger, 2012. "The impact of teacher subject knowledge on student achievement: Evidence from within-teacher within-student variation," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 486-496.
    7. Marina Bassi & Rae Lesser Blumberg & Mercedes Mateo Díaz, 2016. "Under the "Cloak of Invisibility": Gender Bias in Teaching Practices and Learning Outcomes," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 94336, Inter-American Development Bank.
    8. Gerald Eisenkopf & Pascal Sulser, 2013. "A Randomized Controlled Trial of Teaching Methods: Do Classroom Experiments Improve Economic Education in High Schools?," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2013-17, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    9. Bietenbeck, Jan, 2014. "Teaching practices and cognitive skills," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 143-153.
    10. Rosario Maria Ballatore & Paolo Sestito, 2016. "Dealing with student heterogeneity: curriculum implementation strategies and student achievement," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1081, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    11. TANAKA Ryuichi & ISHIZAKI Kazumi, 2017. "Do Teaching Practices Matter for Students' Academic Achievement? A case of linguistic activity," Discussion papers 17108, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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