The amount of teacher talk, student talk, student group talk, and silence occurring during the course of a lesson.
Use this measure:
More information about purchasing a license or signing up for an individual teacher account can be found on the TeachFX website.
Measurement instrument overview
TeachFX is an app that measures the amount of teacher talk, student talk, student group talk, and silence occurring during the course of a lesson. These metrics can help teachers explore patterns of discourse within their classrooms, their use of questioning strategies and wait time, and how they elicit and build on student contributions. The TeachFX app is used on a phone, tablet, or laptop to record the audio of a class. After the recording is made, TeachFX generates a report breaking down the percentage and patterns of talk. Teachers can click on a point in the lesson to hear a recording and see a transcript of the talk at that particular moment.
TeachFX typically offers licenses to schools and districts; individual teachers have the option of creating a free account.
Connection to student learning
Research indicates that oral participation and student engagement in discourse supports math learningi. Oral participation is especially beneficial for the most vulnerable students, such as English learners, students with disabilities, and students with low-income backgroundsii.
The TeachFX app helps users understand and investigate the extent and nature of students’ oral participation in a class period. The tool provides data points that teachers and coaches can use to examine how teachers are providing opportunities for student engagement and discourse in their classes. These data can help teachers and coaches reflect on how their instructional strategies are supporting student participation, engagement, and discourse.
i Bianchini, J. A. (1997). Where knowledge construction, equity, and context intersect: Student learning of science in small groups. Journal of Research on Science Teaching, 34(10):1039–1066.
Cohen, E. G., Lotan, R. A., and Holthuis, N. I. (1997). Organizing the classroom for learning. In E. Cohen & R. Lotan (Eds.), Working for equity in heterogeneous classrooms. Teachers College Press. (pp. 31–43).
Holthuis, N., Lotan, R., Saltzman, J., Mastrandrea, M., Gray, S., Bofferding, L., & Sullivan, S. (April 2012). The Stanford global climate change education project: Classroom implementation, student achievement, and project evaluation [Paper presentation]. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Michaels, S., Shouse, A. W., & Schweingruber, H. A. (2008). Ready, set, science: Putting research to work in K–8 science classrooms. Board on Science Education, Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. The National Academies Press.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.
ii Hattie, John. (2012).Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Taylor and Francis. ProQuest Ebook Central. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/umkc/detail.action?docID=958163.
What we know about how well this measure works for its intended use
In a Fall 2017 pilot study involving 18 schools and 48 teachers using the TeachFX app, TeachFX observed that over the course of the five-week pilot teacher talk decreased by 41 percent and student participation increased by 88 percent.
Teachers tend to have the most success using the tool with deliberate, focused “bursts.” For example, a teacher might record consistently for two weeks, discuss that data with their coach, identify a targeted area for improvement to work on, then record again a few weeks later and reflect on subsequent changes in student talk time or patterns.
However, because the only effort that goes into generating a report and transcript is pressing “record,” it’s feasible for teachers to record every lesson and quickly review their data after a class.
Measurement routine details
TeachFX can be used as a tool to support observation and coaching, as a focal point for teacher collaborative teams working to increase student engagement, or to support the improvement efforts of individual teachers using the app alone. This overview will focus on how TeachFX can be used as part of a coaching cycle.
After downloading the TeachFX app to their device, the teacher clicks it open as class begins. Afterward, the app emails the teacher an analysis report of talk patterns for the class.
The TeachFX class report:
At its most basic level, the report breaks down the percentage and time of teacher talk, student talk, group talk, and silence:
The report also shows the distribution of talk over the course of the lesson, indicating the type of talk occurring at any point in time:
Teachers can click on a point in the lesson to see a transcript of the talk at that particular moment. The teacher, or another collaborator such as an instructional coach or colleague, can leave comments at specific time points:
Together, a teacher and coach can review the report to understand connections between talk patterns and the teacher’s instruction. In between coaching sessions or concerted data collection, teachers might employ the app for more self-structured and self-driven use. Many teachers find that simply having the app “on” while they’re teaching makes them more cognizant of student participation and engagement.
Data analysis details
The automatically generated report shows the breakdown of talk and the distribution of types of talk throughout the lesson. Teachers may work toward a goal of simply increasing the percentage of student talk over time, but teachers and coaches can also delve deeper into this breakdown to uncover talk patterns that suggest strong instructional practices. Talk patterns might reveal:
A lack of gray “silence” blocks between teacher and student talk may indicate a missed opportunity for wait time:
The gray blocks below show wait time occurring after the teacher’s initial question as well as after student comments:
Short blue blocks indicate students were giving one-word answers after longer periods of teacher talk:
Longer blue blocks indicate a question elicited longer responses from students:
The alternating red and blue blocks show that every time after a student speaks, the teacher speaks:
The longer stretches of repeated blue student talk blocks indicate that students are responding to each other, not just the teacher:
The TeachFX app’s artificial intelligence can also surface some potential areas of interest to explore within a recording. For example, the app will indicate the teacher talking points that were followed by the longest stretches of student talk, which gives teachers the opportunity to review that point in the lesson and hypothesize why that was the case.
While teachers have sole access to their data, school leaders can view aggregated and anonymized data from teachers using TeachFX to understand teacher–student talk ratios across a school or grade level:
Conditions that support use
- Reviewing talk pattern data can better support instructional improvements when paired with professional learning around high-level questioning; student discourse; and the relevant, authentic, and rigorous tasks that support high-quality student talk.
- A school culture in which student voice is explicitly valued can set the groundwork for authentic and reflective engagement with TeachFX data.
- While individual teachers can look at data on their own, incorporating the tool into professional learning communities or using it as a tool to aid coaching conversations will support grade-level or schoolwide improvement.
- TeachFX has seen success in schools that begin using the app with a small, enthusiastic cohort of teachers and then expand to the rest of the school as teachers become comfortable with the app.
- School leaders should take care to communicate that teachers’ individual data are private, and use of the app is voluntary. TeachFX data should never be used for evaluation purposes.
- Teachers should consider introducing TeachFX to students and telling students why they will be recording the class. Teachers have reported that this can have a positive impact on classroom culture and signal that teachers value student voice.
- An increase in the quantity in student talk does not always mean an increase in the quality of student talk. While increased student talk can indicate increased student engagement and learning, it does not necessarily mean this is happening. Efforts to increase student talk should be paired with professional learning to support high-quality math instruction and with a willingness on the part of teachers to look behind the percentages and understand the patterns and quality of student discourse taking place.
- Transcription is not the primary focus of TeachFX, so transcripts may not be 100 percent accurate and are not meant to be an exact record of the class. If it’s important to know exactly what was said, users are able to play back the audio.
Other tools and resources to support use
The TeachFX blog and website includes:
- Tips for getting students more engaged
- Research about the importance of student talk and wait time
- Examples of how other teachers have used TeachFX to improve their pedagogy
- A helpful protocol for teachers or teams to follow when reviewing TeachFX class reports
As a first-year teacher and the only math instructor at a newly launched high school, Daniel Lee knew he needed a way to focus his improvement efforts on classroom discourse. “I could rely in part on feedback from my coach or other teachers who visit my classroom, but I couldn’t do that on a daily basis,” Daniel explained. “I needed to make sure I improved as fast as possible, and there were very few opportunities to do that as a teacher at a brand-new high school where everyone is a bit over capacity.” So, when a teacher he knew introduced him to TeachFX, Daniel took the initiative to try the tool in his own classroom.
For Daniel, the app’s ease of use (just hit record) and automatically generated data reports showing ratios of teacher-to-student talk time made it easy to integrate the tool into his routine. Importantly, Daniel emphasized that the reports were a launching point to reflect more deeply on his practice. The visual displays of talk patterns allowed him to quickly home in on the stretches of his class that were worth digging into. “I really like how you can see where there are interesting blocks [of teacher, student, or group talk time]… from there, you can spend 10 minutes and get a lot of rich insights, without having to dive into the 60-minute long recording and having to find those spots.”
Reviewing TeachFX data became part of Daniel’s weekly routine, and he aimed to record at least two of his three weekly lessons. As he planned for the following week, he made a habit of revisiting the TeachFX data reports to reflect on the success of his questioning strategies. Using the reports to pinpoint areas to investigate, he would push himself to consider, “Am I asking questions that generate discourse? Is there too much unstructured time? Are there productive conversations occurring as a result of group work?” Although TeachFX recordings aren’t meant to pick up individual student conversations during group work itself, Daniel would often focus on the recording immediately following group work, asking, “After we come back from group work, what is that conversation like? Are we taking advantage of those 5 to 10 minutes in the classroom to generate a really good conversation that students can learn from?” When Daniel noticed a long stretch of teacher talk, it pushed him to ask, “What if I’m not asking the right questions?”
Daniel acknowledged that “those insights weren’t as rich as my coach coming into my classroom and giving me objective feedback after observing me for 45 minutes” but noted that because those coaching conversations only happened once a month, TeachFX helped him engage in reflection on a more frequent basis. And when Daniel did work with his coach, TeachFX was a helpful tool. Typically, Daniel and his coach would identify an area of improvement and an instructional strategy for Daniel to focus on throughout the month between their meetings. TheTeachFX data reports and Daniel’s associated reflections gave the coach insight into Daniel’s growth and challenge areas over the past month, and the data reports complemented the coach’s observations and Daniel’s recollection of his classes with a helpful third data point to guide coaching conversations. Daniel also asked to use TeachFX to record the classes of some of his more veteran colleagues from across his school’s network, scanning the data for indicators of high-quality questioning or student exchanges and then listening to the audio to diagnose how his colleagues had supported this engagement.
Acknowledging the inclination that some teachers might have to “focus on the number,” Daniel shared that TeachFX was most powerful when, instead of thinking about success as “how can I increase that number?” he let his TeachFX data push him to ask, “What can I do to make the class more engaging?”
Daniel Lee, former 9th grade math teacher at Summit Public Schools
Jamie Poskin, Founder and Executive Director of TeachFX