Clinical Teaching in Education

Assoc Prof Larissa McLean Davies, Dr Nicky Dulfer, Dr Jeana Kriewaldt , Assoc Prof Suzanne Rice, Dr Daniela Acquaro, Dr Christine Redman, Ms Catherine Reid, and Dr Teresa Angelico | View as single page |Feedback/Impact

Evidence- and research-informed practice

Teacher practice has often only been relatively loosely coupled with both evidence of student learning, and the current research base around what we know on effective teaching and learning. Pre-service education often exposed pre-service teachers to educational research, but there was little to support them to link this to their experiences in schools, and few requirements for teachers to remain connected to developments in knowledge around effective teaching and learning following graduation (Mclean-Davies et. al., 2013). Within a clinical model of teaching, the teacher bases their decisions on what, when and how to teach around current research on teaching and learning, and on evidence about the student. Tiers of interlocking evidence that clinical teachers integrate to support student learning are as follows:

  • classroom based-evidence – the data gathered in the classroom context and as a result of verifiable observations, and formal and informal assessments;
  • para-classroom evidence – data about the student’s out-of-classroom life that impact on their capacity to undertake tasks, meet learning outcomes;
  • external assessment evidence – summative assessment measures determined by governments and fed-back to school leadership and teachers; and,
  • research evidence – knowledge about learning drawn from reputable research that informs teacher understandings of the efficacy of various interventions and suitability for their context.

A clinical teacher draws heavily on evidence about the student in determining action within the classroom. This includes detailed information on what the student has learnt and what they are ready to learn next, together with an understanding about what may be driving particular patterns of response – for example, what do the student’s responses indicate about their understanding of a particular mathematical concept? Implicit in a clinical model of teaching is the need for ongoing formative assessment based on developmental approaches that highlight next steps in the learning progression. In addition, evidence also comprises the broad range of knowledge teachers bring to their work about who the student is, and factors that may be impacting on their learning. So a teacher using a clinical approach will not only make judgements about what the student has learnt and is ready to learn, but will also take into consideration in making judgements about how to work with the student information about the student’s personality, their home life, their cultural background and any current issues they may be experiencing. A deep and nuanced understanding of the interplay between cultural, personal and social elements connected to student trajectories within schools is an essential part of the clinical teacher’s knowledge.

In determining how best to advance the learning of a student or group of students, the clinical teacher also makes ongoing reference to our current research-based knowledge about effective teaching practices.  Clinical teachers have a broad understanding around what the research literature says about effective teaching and learning, and use this knowledge to decide how to proceed in the classroom. The clinical teacher adopts a stance of openness to new research evidence about quality teaching and student learning, and a commitment to maintain and refresh their knowledge around this (Cochran-Smith et al., 2009).

Finally, the commitment to evidence also means that the clinical teacher collects evidence around the impact of their own teaching and uses this to inform future teaching and their own professional learning. Clinical teachers monitor and evaluate their impact regularly, seek to understand the reasons behind what the evidence suggests, and make plans to maintain, change or learn further about their practice based on these evaluations.

Evidence base and references

McLean-Davies, L., Anderson, M., Deans, J, Dinham, S., Griffin, P., Kameniar, B., Page, J., Reid, C., Rickards, F., Tayler, C and Tyler, D. (2013). Masterly preparation: Embedding clinical practice in a graduate pre-service teacher education programme. Journal of Education for Teaching, 39(1), 93-106.

Davies, P. (1999). What is evidence-based education? British Journal of Educational Studies, 47(2), 108-121.

Cochran-Smith, M., & the Boston College Evidence Team (2009). “Re-culturing” teacher education: Inquiry, evidence, and action. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(5), 458-468. doi: 10.1177/0022487109347206