Want to identify what really works in teaching? Student observations could be the key according to Ronald F. Ferguson, a Harvard University senior lecturer in education and public policy, based on his analysis of nearly 3,000 Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project surveys.

Bringing together 3,000 teachers, as well as other education researchers and experts, MET is designed to discover “how evaluation methods can best be used to tell teachers more about the skills that make them most effective and to help districts identify great teaching.” Ferguson compared student achievement against their observations of the “seven Cs” of teaching:

  1. Cares about students;
  2. Captivates them by showing learning is relevant;
  3. Confers with students to show their ideas are welcomed and respected;
  4. Clarifies lessons so knowledge seems feasible;
  5. Consolidates knowledge so lessons are connected and integrated;
  6. Controls behavior so students stay on task; and 
  7. Challenges students to achieve.

“Educators often think caring is the most critical practice for student achievement,” Ferguson explained in an Education Week interview.  In terms of student achievement, however, control, challenge, and clarify were the key teaching practices, in order of importance. Teachers who practice those Cs first, “had students achieving a half year of learning more than students of teachers in the bottom quartile of the seven Cs,” according to Ferguson. Policies that promote supportive school administration, rigorous curricula, and well-prepared teachers capable of teaching all students to high standards should be priorities among lawmakers as they strive to improve student achievement and teacher quality.