Five Reasons I Don’t Give a Beep for TEEP

The Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP) is a package of CPD, often used by schools looking to create a consistent approach to teaching. It’s based around a six stage learning cycle:

  • Prepare for learning
  • Agree learning outcomes
  • Present new information
  • Construct meaning
  • Apply to generate
  • Review

There are also five core teaching and learning behaviours:

  • Assessment for learning
  • Collaborative learning
  • Effective use of ICT
  • Accelerated learning
  • Thinking for learning

Hundreds of schools across the country use, or partially use the training and associated materials. The TEEP website uses the following evaluation reports to support their claims about TEEP’s impact:

  1. The Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (2016)
  2. Dr. Judith Gunraj (2010)
  3. Department of Education Studies, University of York (2008)

Interestingly (and unsurprisingly given the nature of the programme) much of the evaluation material focuses on the qualitative impact of the package on teacher’s behaviours and “learners’ behaviours.” The University of York study does look at the impact on attainment though and states:

“Where a critical mass of teachers has been trained in a department (at least half or more), implementation of TEEP over a two year period has a noticeable affect on pupils’ performances, particularly at KS3.

In schools that face challenging circumstances, introducing TEEP might not be a way of transcending the difficulties that the school faces and so any changes are less likely to be reflected in the performances of pupils in the short term.”

This ties in with the Education Endowment Fund’s findings about TEEP. The programme was evaluated by the EEF using an RCT “with over 10,000 students in 45 low-performing secondary schools across England. Schools were eligible for inclusion in the project if their performance was below government floor standards at the point of recruitment.” The EEF found that:

  1. In the low-performing schools selected for this trial, there was no evidence of an impact on pupils’ GCSE English and maths attainment in schools selected to receive TEEP training compared to other schools.
  2. Both teachers and students were enthusiastic about the programme and believed that it improved students’ learning.

It seems alarming that a programme designed to enhance teachers skills is both popular amongst teachers and found to produce no evidence of improvement in attainment in maths and English, two of the core school subjects, in low performing schools – schools where, you would think, teachers’ effectiveness needed to be enhanced. 

Just prior to taking up post at my current school, in 2012, a decision was made to roll out the TEEP training. All staff at the time experienced the first two days of CPD with a small number receiving additional training too. Not long after, we cut our losses. We refer to TEEP now as being an error we made in attempting to develop teaching in the school. Recently though, I’ve had a few conversations with school leaders who are thinking about introducing TEEP in their schools or who are in the process of doing so. As a result, I’d like to provide five reasons why I think TEEP wasn’t the right choice for us and is highly likely to be the wrong choice for others.

The TEEP Effective Learner Behaviours do not include “Secure essential baseline behaviours in the classroom.”

Instead of securing basic behaviours, there is a greater focus on theoretical concepts such as listening with understanding and empathy, thinking flexibly, thinking about thinking (metacognition), striving for accuracy and precision, questioning and posing problems and applying past knowledge to new situations, to name but a few. These, in some cases, are potentially useful aims. However, there is an implication that, if teachers plan for these elements of learner behaviour through providing variety and choice, then basic behaviours will follow automatically.

This implication is present in the literature and was present in the training. In one leaflet, we are told, “Teaching procedures that counter passive learning and promote quality learning require student effort and energy, hence they need to be varied to retain freshness. Secondly, variety is another source of student interest.”

It isn’t inevitable, but what this can (and in my experience is likely to) lead to, is teachers believing that they will be blamed for students’ behaviour because there is not enough variety in the activities they are providing. This then makes teachers less likely to use behaviour systems and we enter a vicious circle: “My senior leaders are telling me my lessons need to be varied and dynamic and engaging to improve and maintain behaviour. My lesson today isn’t varied or dynamic and I don’t think it will engage the students. I won’t use the behaviour system because it’s my fault they’ll be disruptive. Oh. They’re being disruptive. That must mean my lesson is dull.”

There are times when students actually need the opposite of variety as they repeatedly practice a procedure.

Piers Morgan loves TEEP. High in edutainment. Low in substance.

Basic behaviours are the foundation of an effective education. Students can’t engage fully in metacognitive tasks and it is incredibly difficult for them to be consistently accurate and precise unless their classrooms are disruption free. If this is to be possible across a school, it requires a whole school approach to basic behaviours which is either missing from TEEP or is so well hidden it may as well be absent.

TEEP implies that all learning should take place in six phases. 

This isn’t stated explicitly by TEEP but it is implicit. Some trainers are careful, thankfully, to explain that they wouldn’t expect all six phases to take place in a single lesson. Some  trainers are, unfortunately, less so. They make it seem that it could be plausible to fit the six segments into sixty minutes. There are also slips in the written communication. For example, in a 2013 SSAT document we’re told “The learning outcomes may focus on curriculum content, skills, or both, and should be expressed as what the students will be able to do or demonstrate by the end of the lesson” (bold type is my emphasis not theirs). This suggests that the cycle should be completed in a single lesson. Cramming all six of the stages into one lesson is not the healthiest way to treat subject content. Some content may require less than a lesson to cover, whilst other content requires substantially longer. 

The originators of TEEP experiment to see how many TEEP trained teachers they can fit in a mini plenary.

In addition, although there are a number of useful elements in the cycle, putting these steps at the heart of diagram and their entire model leads many teachers to feel that all subject content requires these six stages – that this is the best and only way to teach. 

A lesson is the wrong unit of time, as Bodil Isaksen argues in this post which is no longer available online: 

TEEP suggests all activities are valid, no matter the curriculum domain. 

The organisation behind TEEP have produced lists of suggested activities which can slot into each of the six stages of the cycle, no matter the subject. Here’s a taster from the twenty activities on the Apply to Demonstrate list:

  1. Create a questionnaire
  2. Create a Facebook profile
  3. Form a recipe
  4. Unpick a text
  5. Turn text to images and vice versa
  6. Create a poem/ leaflet/ poster/ song

Some of these activities could be effective in some contexts. For example, composing part of a song in music has value; writing part of a poem in English has value, unpicking a source text in history has value and forming a recipe in food technology has value. 

True fact: Einstein auditioned for the first series of The Voice. He sang his own song “It’s all Relative.”

However, there are two main reasons I take issue with the subjects being divorced from the activity here. 

  1. Teachers have limited time in the curriculum to teach their subject content. If a novice English teacher who has been given the advice to ensure their lessons included a variety of activities, were to see this list and feel it equally valuable to create a Facebook profile or unpick a text, they’re likely to be drawn to the Facebook profile. Creating a Facebook profile is a low value task in an English lesson. 
  2. One of TEEP’s own core principles is Assessment for Learning. However, if a teacher were to want to assess a student’s knowledge, understanding or skills in a specific domain by using a task from another domain or a task which has been designed for engagement rather than rigour, it often results in the inferences they draw from the quality of the work being less valid. For example, if a science teacher were to ask students to write a song about food chains, it is likely the child who is the best songwriter would out perform others who actually know more about food chains but who struggle with rhythm and rhyme. If you don’t believe anyone would suggest students should write a song about food chains, there is a genuine TEEP pamphlet which advises we should “Get students?to perform a dance routine based on graph equations.” Should we assess this for choreographic quality or understanding of graph equations? Who knows?

TEEP divorces the curriculum from the pedagogy. 

Building on my previous point, for me, the curriculum is at the heart of our teaching. 

As children don’t attend school for an infinite amount of time, we have to make value judgements about what we teach them. We have to decide on the most effective sequence in which to teach the content. 

If our main focus is on teacher effectiveness and this is given a position over and above curriculum effectiveness, then we put ourselves, our subject and, most importantly, our pupils in a vulnerable position in terms of learning. The TEEP subject courses are normally left until last in the promotional materials. One wonders whether this is why their team of trainers can help teachers to follow their programme, but not have nearly as much impact on the quality of subject success in currently low performing schools. 

TEEP implies we need to rush through knowledge and teachers should bust a gut making this happen

Part of the TEEP package is Accelerated Learning. TEEP distinguishes this from an accelerated education (used in some educational systems to move “gifted and talented learners” through material quicker than others) saying it is not merely a speeding up of the curriculum or making the curriculum more efficient. Rather, according to TEEP, it “focuses on making the learning process more efficient. It does so [they claim] by drawing on the latest research findings about how the brain works (neuroscience) and creating a positive environment in which students are active and learn together.” We then have a huge list of things teachers should do to support this process. Some of this is sensible, some of it not so much and wildly overstated. Examples of strange statements in the material which could lead teachers astray include:

  • We access information through all of our senses. 
  • Teachers should allow adequate time for reflection and review. This should be planned for in every lesson and if necessary between each activity. 
  • Students should be offered the opportunity to access a range of activities that vary in their approaches. 
  • People remember context rather than content.
  • Positive emotions trigger motivation to learn.

In addition to these attempts to “accelerate” learning is the dash past knowledge. Apparently, “teachers tend to concentrate on ‘knowledge recall’ type questions (75 %+). In order to overcome this, the teacher needs to plan specific types of questions that will be asked, perhaps using the hierarchical Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives as a guide.” For a useful explanation of this kind of problematic view of Bloom’s Taxonomy, read this blog from the Teach Like a Champion Team. 

Young Kurt lost marks on his educational theory course, not for writing songs but for neglecting an apostrophe s.

So, I hope my cautionary tale and five reasons lead you away from TEEP. If not, good luck with that.

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