QUINT Centre is growing with a new project SYNTEQ
Capitalising on QUINT Centre’s work so far, SYNTEQ project sets out to re-analyse Nordic classroom data in order to synthesise research on teaching quality.
Klette is looking forward to starting the rigorous work of synthesising what we know. Photo: Alex Tufte, UiO.
The new project, Synthesizing Research on Teaching Quality (SYNTEQ), builds on QUINT Director Kirsti Klette’s previous work. Starting from the Norwegian large-scale “Linking Instruction and Student Achievement” (LISA) project that is a video-based study in teaching quality, leading to building the needed infrastructure for data collection and data sharing, and finally receiving the funds to start a Nordic Centre of Excellence in 2018 to facilitate Nordic-wide research collaboration in this area. This new project tops it all off with a synthesising effort. Now we have a possibility to complete the work and do the reviewing and synthesising efforts needed in order to move the field forward, Klette says.
Synthesising what we know so far
There is a lot of research over the last two decades that evidences how the quality of the teachers’ teaching and instructional repertoire in the classrooms is vital to students’ learning. Apart from the students’ socioeconomic background, this is the most crucial factor to influence the students’ learning. As a result, there have been a lot of studies focusing on instructional quality and teaching quality, often linked to classroom studies and video studies. However, the different studies do not communicate very well with each other.
- There are many case studies, but there is a lack of building upon each other and linking the different studies in terms of conceptual frameworks or key findings. There are few synthesising efforts across the studies.
- What we are proposing in this study is not to collect new data, but to use the data we already have from Nordic classrooms and synthesise what sorts of analytical frameworks and instruments, methodologies and findings these studies have produced.
- In order to move the field forward we need to synthesise and integrate what we know so far, Klette asserts.
SYNTEQ study builds upon the comprehensive data collection accumulated by the QUINT Centre. LISA Nordic study for example is the largest data collection of its kind in Northern Europe. SYNTEQ will use this existing data and reanalyse it in terms of conceptual frameworks, theoretical methods and methodologies. Klette believes that this kind of effort is direly needed.
- Instead of everyone making their own small paths going this way or that, maybe we could put our efforts together and build a ‘highway’ for ways of studying teaching quality. Start that rigorous, hard work of synthesising what we know, she suggests.
Klette admits that we need a lot of research, but highlights the importance of also taking stock of what we already know. It is important to put it all together and build on it, instead of reinventing the wheel repeatedly.
- I would argue that in the area of teaching quality we have come to a point where integrative mechanisms and efforts are more needed than to collect new data. We need to take stock.
Substantial improvements for studying teaching quality
SYNTEQ study aims to identify the key elements that are crucial for studying teaching quality. These can then be developed into a key manual or instrument, resulting in a more robust data analyses nationally as well as across the different countries.
For this purpose, we also need to build infrastructure for joint work and collaboration, Klette explains. This means building an open infrastructure that makes it possible to share and access data across the geographic and institutional borders.
- We can use the data as a starting point for a joint panel discussion between key stakeholders: teachers, students, policy makers and researchers.
Klette is looking forward to having discussions with teachers and students, once the data is analysed. This offers a good way to find out what teachers and students for example prioritise as key aspects of instructional quality, and would contribute to establishing shared criteria for judging teaching quality. In order to move the field forward we need to have these key stakeholders on-board, she highlights.
Strengthening comparative Nordic research
SYNTEQ provides an opportunity to treat the Nordic countries as a laboratory for testing out the key aspects of instructional quality. It accommodates for thinking more systematically, in order to analyse aspects of teaching quality across the Nordic countries. It is a great way to strengthen Nordic comparative research.
- We have comparative data from large-scale studies, such as PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS etc. However, these are based on tests and surveys, and they provide information only to a certain level. We need to combine these with more in-depth information derived from systematically analysing rigorous collected classroom data in each of the countries.
- The Nordic countries provide us a perfect natural laboratory for such an ambition; they are similar enough, but also different enough to allow comparisons, Klette emphasises.
Working with established and upcoming researchers
SYNTEQ is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the research collaboration with QUINT researchers such as Professors Nikolaj Elf (University of Southern Denmark) and Michael Tengberg (Karlstad University), Klette says. The project involves both established and upcoming researchers in the field. For example, Anna Praetorius, an upcoming strong new scholar, and her supervisor, Professor Eckhard Klieme. Klieme has been involved in both large-scale international studies like the PISA, as well as being in charge of the TALIS video study organised by the OECD. Also scholars like Professor Pam Grossman, who has argued for programmatic research for a long time, is part of this study. She is excited about the way we are doing this in the Nordic countries, and is known for linking her research to teacher training and professional development. Grossman is also one of the designers of PLATO, which is one of the observational instruments SYNTEQ is testing out across the Nordic countries.
- We are interested in the cultural, theoretical and psychometric bias linked to different instruments, and for that purpose, we also have Dr. Courtney Bell on-board who is a world-leading researcher in this area, especially measurement wise, Klette says.
Most important is the programmatic part, to systematically look at the theoretical underpinnings, ways of conceptualising teaching quality and how that is done across the different frameworks and instruments. To see how that links to measurement properties, how we score and rate, and how these produce different findings. We need to compare across the different frameworks and instruments, data sets and countries, and finally accumulate knowledge in the area, instead of starting over and over again all the time.
- We also need to reveal some myths around understanding teaching quality, Klette highlights.
- When we discuss qualities of teaching, people seem to have some quality indicators, which are often implicit. For the purpose of myth busting, we need to review what is working or not. We need to know more about this.