“It is dangerous to say there is one particular method that will work in any classroom in any school,” warns professor Daniel Muijs, head of research at Ofsted. The former University of Southampton academic explains that education research is incredibly “complex” and judging teacher or school effectiveness is therefore also difficult.
“The research suggests you need a holistic approach to assessing teacher effectiveness so you do not rely on any single measure,” he says. “You could never attribute the attainment of pupils purely to what the teacher does.”
Neither, he says, can you rely on added-value measures to judge individual teachers.
“We have to be careful with progress measures and judging individual teachers. The cohort size is quite small if you are looking at one classroom so your confidence intervals – your estimates – are not particularly reliable,” he says. “So I would not advocate judging teachers by value added measures alone.”
Judging schools is similarly complex, he feels, with a need to be open to multiple ways a school can work successfully in order to overcome any bias in the analysis.
“Teaching is partly a contextual activity, so it is about the interaction between the teacher, student and curriculum,” he explains. “[And] teaching is both a science and an art. There is an element of expertise to it that is not necessarily captured in research evidence. We need to be aware of the different models that exist and that work. We also need to experience different schools, the more schools you visit the more aware you come to be.”
In a wide ranging interview, professor Muijs discusses his plans for research projects while at Ofsted, the ethics of education research and also the lack of evidence-based approaches to behaviour management.
“The evidence on the how stringent you need to be on behaviour is not that clear at the moment,” he says. “There is evidence for both a no excuses approach and approaches that are much more laissez faire.”