A research project to make teaching more engaging

Teacher Olaug Ueland receives feedback on her teaching from a personal coach. The goal is to make interaction with the pupils even better, and for the teaching to be more engaging.

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Olaug Ueland i klasserommet.
Teacher Olaug Ueland at Dalane Upper Secondary School is part of the INTERACT research project.

Olaug Ueland is a teacher at Dalane Upper Secondary School in Egersund. She is also part of the research project called INTERACT, which will study the interaction that takes place between teachers and pupils in the classroom. This school year, she will film the teaching in her classroom, and receive feedback on the teaching situations that arise from her very own, personal coach. This will make interaction with the pupils even better. 

As a teacher in a hectic job with many complex tasks, one can become a little bit blind to oneself. I have already discovered things that I can advantageously make tiny changes to, and achieve a much better effect, she says. 

One of the largest in Europe

The teacher walks up and down between the desks in the classroom, talking and using her hands to emphasise a point. The cameras are on and are filming everything, but it is almost impossible to detect as the screens are completely black so as not to attract unwanted attention from the pupils. 

With the help of these video recordings, and a review of these together with a personal coach, Olaug will become even better at interacting with the pupils. She is part of one of the largest research projects on upper secondary education in Europe, where the goal is to study the interactions that take place between teachers and pupils in the classroom. 

The first time I saw myself on video really opened my eyes. You see yourself and the teaching from a different perspective. I soon discovered that what I was doing reached those sitting at the front, but may not have worked as well for those sitting at the back of the classroom. I have therefore become more aware of how I move about the classroom, she says. 

– I think our teacher is getting better

Pupils Heiley Bendiksen (15) and Sara Mong-Olsen (16) are sitting at the front of the classroom. They think it is exciting that the school is involved in such a large and important research project as INTERACT. They believe that their teacher is getting better by watching herself on video, and from receiving guidance from a coach.

Elever på vgs
Pupils Sara Mong-Olsen and Heiley Bendiksen thinks their teacher will get better by being part of the project.

And the spotlight isn’t on us, but on our teacher and on the teaching, so it doesn’t matter that we are being filmed. I just think it is cool, Heiley says, looking at her fellow student, who nods in agreement. 

At first, it was a little strange that the lessons were going to be filmed, but it didn’t take long before we forgot about it all together. I think it is good that the teacher gets the opportunity to see herself on video. It probably allows you see things in a slightly different way, says Sara.

– The teaching profession is demanding

There are still many pupils in Norway who do not complete their upper secondary school education. Previous research shows that many pupils experience school as boring and not very relevant. In addition, many teachers leave the profession within the first few years, and even more consider quitting their jobs. 

The teaching profession is demanding, and INTERACT is a project that has the potential to provide teachers with support in their teaching practice, and where the wear and tear occurs, explains Grete S. Vaaland, one of the researchers in the INTERACT project. 

Vaaland explains that this, together with previous lessons from a previous research project called CIESL, were important reasons why the researchers saw a need to establish this new research project. 

A big difference in quality

The knowledge developed through the CIESL project showed, among other things, that there is a worryingly large difference in the quality of the educational provision pupils receive depending on which classes they attend. 

In general, Norwegian teachers are among the best in the world in some aspects of classroom management, but the difference in quality is great. Moreover, results from the CIESL project showed considerable potential for improvement in the aspects of classroom management related to learning support, and in particular support for deep learning, problem solving and metacognition. In other words, there is reason to assume that there is much to be gained from giving teachers the opportunity to develop their practice based on their own practice, she explains. 

These were important factors that encouraged the research group at the Centre for Learning Environment, University of Stavanger to start the INTERACT research project. Rogaland County Authority and Møre og Romsdal County Authority have also joined the project. The research project started in 2021 and will continue until 2025. 

Engaged pupils learn more

Classroom interactions of good quality are linked to pupil engagement. If the pupils are engaged and interested, they also learn more. According to Vaaland, increasing the quality of interaction between teachers and pupils could lead to better academic and social learning for the pupils. 

INTERACT is a response to the need for professional development support for teachers who take advantage of opportunities arising from digital skills and resources, says Vaaland. 

If the research project shows that INTERACT actually contributes to increasing quality in the classroom, and that this leads to increased engagement and better academic and social learning for the pupils, then it is possible to provide the same type of development support to teachers anywhere in the country, she explains. 

INTERACT is fully digital, and video recordings, coaching preparation and coaching implementation take place digitally, regardless of where one is geographically located. While development support for teachers is very closely tied to daily teaching activities through video observation in the classroom, it can take place in collaboration between a teacher and a coach regardless of where they are located physically, she says. 

Using ones own classroom practice as a starting point

INTERACT is inspired by ‘My Teaching Partner’ developed and evaluated by researchers at the University of Virginia. However, there are no European studies in upper secondary education of this size and with an equally strong design, where teachers are followed individually based on their own classroom practice. 

The INTERACT project implements a conceptual framework and theory of quality in teaching practice through coaching supported by webinars, workshops for exchange of experience between teachers, and online resources that convey the platform of knowledge for the intervention. 

Coaching is the key tool, but the coaching does not take place ‘randomly’ based on the individual coach’s experiences and opinions. A theoretical foundation that has been well described and thoroughly tested forms the basis for all the elements of the INTERACT intervention, explains Vaaland. 

–  This research is important

In Egersund, Olaug Ueland is about to finish her teaching for the day. She says that she thinks it is exciting and important to participate in the research project. The teacher thinks it is important to conduct more research on upper secondary education, and also thinks the project’s topic is important to research. 

The modern role of the teacher is extremely demanding. A teacher must be a communicator who is able to engage the pupils, reach out to them and explain things in a simple way. In addition, one should have a good relationship with the pupils. It is almost impossible to fill all the roles, and it is becoming more and more important to support and help teachers so we can do our job in the best way possible, she said. 

The teacher adds that she hopes there will be opportunities in the future for more teachers to see themselves in teaching situations, and receive guidance in the same way as she has in the INTERACT project. 

It is very useful, and I hope more people will have the opportunity to experience the same thing. I also hope that INTERACT will be available to all teachers, she said. 

Text and photo: Maria Gilje Strand


- 12 schools and 100 teachers from two regions in the western part of Norway participates in the research project

- This is one of the largest research projects in upper secondary school in Europe

- The goal is to study how digital, video based dialogue can support teachers in their effort to strengthen the quality of interactions between teacher and pupils in the classroom

The teaching profession is demanding, and INTERACT is a project that has the potential to provide teachers with support in their teaching practice, and where the wear and tear occurs.

Grete S. Vaaland , researcher in the project