Photo: A. McKenzie
David-Lang (2013), summarizes John Hattie’s book, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (2012) this way: “The big idea is – know thy impact! Expert teachers are not wedded to specific teaching strategies – rather, they regularly focus on evaluating the effects they have on students, and adjust teaching methods accordingly” (Summary of the Summary).
Of the influences that teachers can have on student learning which ones do you think are the top 3 of the lot? Interestingly, it isn’t feedback or metacognitive strategy programs (they rated highly but not the highest) and it certainly isn’t matching students with learning styles, which rated low – it is (David-Lang, 2013, p 10):
- Providing formative evaluation to teachers;
- Teacher credibility in the eyes of the student;
- Student expectations.
I have already been reflecting on the importance of instructor feedback so that was expected but it was the “(t)eacher credibility in the eyes of the student” (David-Lang, 2013, p 10) that surprised me. Yikes! I had better get reflecting on teacher credibility!
Brookfield (2015) acknowledges the importance of teacher credibility and pairs it with another term – authenticity. So, in a nutshell, what exactly do these terms mean?
“Credibility is the perception that the teacher has something important to share and that whatever this “something “is (skills, knowledge, insight, wisdom, information), learning it will benefit the student” (Brookfield, 2015, p 43). Indicators of credibility include (Brookfield, 2015):
- Expertise ( p 43) – “students say it is reassuring to know that the person in charge of their learning clearly knows, and can do, a lot” (p 43);
- Experience ( p 46) – the perception that the teacher is able to “ . . . draw on a substantial history of teaching the course” (p 46);
- Rationale (p 47) – sharing rationale behind classroom decisions- “Students say that it inspires confidence to see that teachers clearly have a plan, a set of reasons, informing their actions (p 48).
It certainly makes sense to me now why credibility is so important to students. When I reflect about teachers I think of as having high credibility, I would say I learned a lot from them because I trusted them; I focused on everything they said and did because I knew I would learn something. In other words, what they said and did mattered to me.
“Authenticity is the perception that the teacher is dealing with students in an open and honest way” (Brookfield, 2015, p 43). Indicators of authenticity include (Brookfield, 2015):
- Keeping your words and actions congruent (p 49) – walk your talk! Sometimes we may not even know that our actions and words are incongruous which is why it is so important that we obtain student feedback;
- Full disclosure (p 50) – “ . . . find ways to communicate your criteria, assumptions, and purposes and then . . .keep checking in to make sure students understand them” (p 50);
- Demonstrate responsiveness (p 51) – Respond to student concerns;
- Disclosing Personhood (p 52) – “Personhood is most appropriately evident when teachers use autobiographical examples to illustrate concepts and theories they are trying to explain, when they talk about ways they apply specific skills and insights taught in the classroom to their work outside, and when they share stories of how they dealt with the same learning fears and struggles that their students are currently facing” (p 52).
I can certainly see how the 2 go hand in hand – I need to know my stuff, to share my thinking with my students, respond to feedback, model the behaviour that aligns with my expectations of students and share appropriate personal experiences. I can also see how striking a balance between credibility and authenticity can be challenging, for example being knowledgeable without being authentic could come off as arrogance, and being too frank about your flaws could affect your students’ perceptions of your expertise.
Here is a video featuring Stephen Brookfield sharing his insights on credibility and authenticity.
Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
David-Lang, J. (2013) The Main Idea current education book summaries: Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, Hattie, J., 2012 retrieved from: http://www.tdschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The+Main+Idea+-+Visible+Learning+for+Teachers+-+April+2013.pdf