Defining good quality teaching

QUINT Researcher Michael Tengberg has published a chronicle about many aspects of teaching quality in the Swedish journal Svenskläraren.

classroom with pupils reading

The students' learning is affected by more factors than the teacher's teaching, Tengberg writes. Illustration Photo: Colourbox.

Professor Michael Tengberg from Karlstad University and the co-leader of QUINT Theme 1 - Studying teaching quality across subjects and settings- recently wrote an article on defining teaching quality in the Swedish journal Svenskläraren (3/2020). The article titled, What is good quality teaching, considers the many ways of defining teaching quality and why thinking about quality matters.

As Tengberg points out in the article, quality in teaching is often considered to be too elusive to be defined. This does not however mean we shouldn't try. The act of trying to define teaching quality ultimately helps in developing a professional language that makes the central aspects of teaching skills visible and accessible.

Drawing on British researchers Fenstermacher and Richardson, Tengberg highlights that the quality and efficiency of students' learning is affected by more factors than the teacher's teaching. Fenstermacher and Richardson (2005, p.191) write:

"Note that good teaching is but one of four “ingredients” in our mix. The others are that the learner desires to learn and expends the necessary effort to do so; that the social surround of family, community, and peer culture support and assist in learning; and that there are sufficient facilities, time and resources (opportunities) to accomplish the learning that is sought. The point of introducing this list is to clarify that learning, if it is to be both good and successful, calls on a cluster of conditions, only one of which pertains to the nature of the teaching received by the learner."

Tengberg considers these four factors - teaching quality, individual motivation, environmental support and material resources - as deeply integrated conditions. Learning is not just a sum of these ingredients. He emphasises:

– No teaching in the world helps if the student's motivation is lacking or if the time for work and for having a dialogue between the teacher and students is missing.

Tengberg therefore suggests it would be better to see Fenstermacher's and Richardson's four factors as a multiplication, where if the quality of several factors is raised they reinforce each other. 

Image may contain: Headphones, Ear, Audio equipment, Head, Organ.
Svenskläraren Nr.3 / 2020

The article is available to read in Swedish in Svenskläraren, the member magazine of the Swedish Teachers' Association. It is specifically targeted to teachers in Swedish language arts, covering topics such as pedagogy, research, language and children's and youth literature. The article has received positive feedback on a Facebook group for Swedish language arts teachers, where one teacher wrote: "Very interesting articles in the latest issue of Svenskläraren on the theme "listen"!" Referring specifically to Tengberg's article problematising quality in teaching, that they found clear-sighted, the teacher said:

- So much in the debate and rhetoric around this reduces learning to a soup consisting of one or two ingredients. Better to consider what Tengberg writes here as each key factor is multiplied by the other three key factors."

Part of QUINT's ambition is to make research available to teachers so that the findings may benefit the practice of teaching. In fact, most of QUINT research is conducted in close collaboration with teachers and teacher students. Therefore ensuring that the research results are useful and applicable to improving teaching practice is an important part of QUINT’s mission, as projects such as VIST in Norway, LISA-PLOT in Sweden and the newly launched Icelandic Professional Development Programme, Quality in Lower Secondary Teaching, also show. 


Fenstermacher, G. D. & Richardson, V. (2005). On Making Determinations of Quality in Teaching. Teachers College Record, 107(1), 186–213.

Tags: education, research, teaching quality By Larissa Lily (QUINT/UiO)
Published Dec. 9, 2020 1:59 PM - Last modified Aug. 2, 2021 10:10 AM