Complexity and scale in teaching effectiveness research: Reflections from the MET Study


  • Bryant Jensen Brigham Young University
  • Tanner LeBaron Wallace University of Pittsburgh
  • Matthew P. Steinberg University of Pennsylvania
  • Rachael E. Gabriel University of Connecticut
  • Leslie Dietiker Boston University
  • Dennis S. Davis North Carolina State University
  • Benjamin Kelcey University of Cincinnati
  • Elizabeth Covay Minor National Louis University
  • Peter Halpin University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Ning Rui Westat, Inc.



teaching effectiveness, teaching quality, study design, secondary analysis


Researchers and policymakers in the US and beyond increasingly seek to identify teaching qualities that are associated with academic achievement gains for K-12 students through effectiveness studies. Yet teaching quality varies with academic content and social contexts, involves multiple participants, and requires a range of skills, knowledge, and dispositions. In this essay, we address the inescapable tension between complexity and scale in research on teaching effectiveness. We provide five recommendations to study designers and analysts to manage this tension to enhance effectiveness research, drawing on our recent experiences as the first external analysts of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study. Our recommendations address conceptual framing, the measurement of teaching (e.g., observation protocols, student surveys), sampling, classroom videoing, and the use and interpretation of value-added models.


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Author Biographies

Bryant Jensen, Brigham Young University

Bryant Jensen is an associate professor of teacher education at Brigham Young University. His research addresses equity in teaching and learning for children from minoritized communities, especially Latino children from immigrant families. 

Tanner LeBaron Wallace, University of Pittsburgh

Tanner LeBaron Wallace is an associate professor of applied developmental psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research addresses race consciousness among white teachers, and how interpersonal connections form social contexts for motivation. 

Matthew P. Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania

Matthew P. Steinberg is an assistant professor of education policy at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on teacher evaluation and human capital, school discipline and safety, urban school reform, and school finance.

Rachael E. Gabriel, University of Connecticut

Rachael Gabriel is an associate professor of literacy education at the University of Connecticut. Her research is focused on literacy instruction, supports for adolescent literacy, state literacy policies, and teacher evaluation systems. 

Leslie Dietiker, Boston University

Leslie Dietiker is an assistant professor of mathematics education at the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development at Boston University. Her research addresses how the aesthetic dimensions of mathematics curriculum can impact student mathematical experiences.

Dennis S. Davis, North Carolina State University

Dennis Davis is an associate professor of literacy education at NC State University. His research focuses on reading comprehension and practices for supporting readers who have difficulties with literacy in school.

Benjamin Kelcey, University of Cincinnati

Benjamin Kelcey is an associate professor of quantitative reasoning at the University of Cincinnati. His research focuses on causal inference and measurement methods within the context of multilevel and multidimensional settings such as classrooms and schools. 

Elizabeth Covay Minor, National Louis University

Elizabeth Covay Minor is an assistant professor of educational leadership at National Louis University. Her research focuses on inequality in student opportunities to learn.

Peter Halpin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Peter Halpin is an associate professor of quantitative methods in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research focuses on psychometrics (e.g., confirmatory factor analysis, item response theory, latent class analysis) and technology-enhanced assessments in education.

Ning Rui, Westat, Inc.

Ning Rui is a researcher at Westat, Inc. His research addresses quantitative methods, educational reform, and, in particular, value-added models.




How to Cite

Jensen, B., LeBaron Wallace, T., Steinberg, M. P., Gabriel, R. E., Dietiker, L., Davis, D. S., Kelcey, B., Covay Minor, E., Halpin, P., & Rui, N. (2019). Complexity and scale in teaching effectiveness research: Reflections from the MET Study. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 7.