Do students learn more when teachers have an incentive?

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Pay-based incentive programs raise a very interesting question in the education system

Getting the best out of students and teachers is a difficult task, but a new study explores how teacher incentive programs could positively affect students’ learning outcomes. 

According to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Riverside, teacher incentive programs can benefit both students and teachers if they are carefully planned and prepared. 

Finding the right system

Teacher incentive programs have been under scrutiny in recent years, as the method hasn’t always yielded the best results; in some cases, they have cost schools more than what they’ve put into them. 

However, researcher Ozkan Eren chose to evaluate the TAP (Teacher Advancement Program) method used by schools in Louisiana between 2005 and 2011 to see how effective it was at promoting better educational outcomes.

Eren looked at 40 area schools to understand the potential benefits of TAP, which essentially pairs teachers up for mentorships. The idea is that the extra motivation and support from a fellow teacher can help improve student outcomes. Teachers also have the opportunity to make more money based on certain student learning outcomes or practices they employ in their classrooms. 

The best way to determine the success of TAP was to look at students’ test scores over the course of the study. Though nothing of note occurred right off the bat, Eren noticed that the longer teachers used TAP, the better the learning outcomes. 

Eren noted that many teachers reported being more adaptable in the classroom following the implementation of TAP. As a result, students excelled in both math and history, while scores in English and science stayed relatively the same. 

Ultimately, Eren believes that programs like TAP -- and others -- can be effective for promoting better student learning outcomes, as teachers feel more motivated to switch up their habits in the classroom and approach things from new angles when they have a tangible incentive that can make a difference. 

Keeping teachers motivated

Many researchers have used teachers as their subject of study as of late, as the profession has recently had employees leaving in droves.

One such study found that many teachers plan to leave the job after just 10 years because the workload and pressure for students to succeed has become too stressful. 

In an effort to try to boost teachers’ moods -- especially when school is in session, researchers found that taking one lesson outdoors for one hour per week can be effective for teachers’ mental health and also help kids perform better when they get back in the classroom. 

“Initially, some teachers had reservations about transferring the classroom outdoors but once outdoor learning was embedded within the curriculum, they spoke of improved job satisfaction and personal wellbeing,” said researcher Emily Marchant, PhD. “This is a really important finding given the current concerns around teacher retention rates.”

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