Enhancing Upper Secondary Students’ Engagement and Learning through Video-based Professional Development on Teaching Interactions

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Location: Rogaland and Møre og Romsdal, Norway 

Sample: 100 teachers and 2000 students in 100 upper secondary school classes 

Timeline: 2021 to 2025 

Target group: Teachers and students in upper secondary school 

Outcome of interest: Teacher-student interaction, students’ engagement social and academic learning.  

Intervention: Professional development for teachers on teacher-student interaction quality. 

AEA RCT Registration Number: To be registered 

Data: Video recorded classroom observations. Survey measures on teachers’ perceptions of classroom interactions, well-being, and organisational factors. Survey measures on students’ perception of classroom interaction, engagement, well-being, and school non-attendance. School administrative records on school achievement. Registry data from Statistics Norway on family background and school achievement. Data on implementation and process measures through web-applications and interviews. 

Principal Investigators: Sigrun K. Ertesvåg and Grete Sørensen Vaaland 

Investigators and project team: Sigrun K. Ertesvåg, Grete Sørensen Vaaland, Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen, Hilde Meringdal, Elise Breivik, Randi Myklebust Sølvik, Maren Stahl Lerang, Ella Bjerga Pettersen, Frank Rafaelsen, Maren Stabel Tvedt, Kari Stamland Gusfre, Bridget Hamre, Pamela Sammons, Eilja Pakarinen, Tuomo Virtanen, Thormod Idsøe, Kirsti Klette + two PhD-students (TBH) 

Funders: The Research Council of Norway, University of Stavanger, Møre og Romsdal County Council, Rogaland County Council. 

Policy Issue 

Schools fundamentally rise or fall based on the success of what occurs within their classrooms. Despite long-term policy priority, upper secondary school non-completion rates in Norway have been stable and higher compared to those from other OECD countries (OECD, 2018). Recent national statistics indicate that only 64% of students graduate with standard study progression, and 78% graduate within five years (Statistics Norway, 2020). Student engagement is a key contributor to school success, yet upper secondary students consistently and increasingly describe themselves as disengaged and bored (Bakken, 2019). Boys report lower levels of some aspects of engagement compared to girls (Havik & Westergård, 2020). 

A substantial body of evidence exists on the importance of high-quality teacher-student-interactions (TSI) in promoting student engagement and social and academic learning also at secondary level (Hamre et al., 2013; Praetorius et al., 2018; Quin, 2017; Roorda et al., 2017). However, less is known about the role of teacher professional development (PD) in teachers’ TSI skills. 


The participants in the study are Norwegian teachers and students in the Rogaland and the Møre og Romsdal Counties. In Norway students start upper secondary school at age 16 after ten years of compulsory schooling (primary and lower secondary). A student can apply to any upper secondary school in their county. A student may choose whether to enrol into a vocational educational program or into an academic program. Students are accepted based on students’ GPA from lower secondary school. Teachers and students in the study are recruited both from vocational and academic programs. Teachers in the study teach various subjects. Typically, Norwegian teachers in upper secondary school teach the same subject to multiple grade levels. Accordingly, they often teach in the same classroom for more than one academic year. 


The Interact study will investigate how online video-based dialog can support teacher work on supportive classroom interaction that may increase student engagement and learning. 

The INTERACT professional development intervention contains an online introductory module, which will introduce the intervention and core components of the Teaching through Interaction (TTI) framework. Additionally, seven times throughout the academic year, teachers will video-record one of their lessons. The teacher, as an expert on the classroom, and a dialog partner, an expert on TSI, will then select short video clips from this footage for discussion in their online conferences. The dialogs will focus on teachers’ support of students’ engagement and learning and support the implementation of key aspects in the new Norwegian curriculum such as problem solving, metacognition and deeper content understanding. At the same time the dialogs will focus on interactions that support teachers’ emotional support and classroom organization. The intervention is piloted in lower and in upper secondary school. Based on the results of the two pilot studies, we will revise the Interact intervention with teachers, experts, and school leaders the academic year 2021-2022. 

Experimental Design 

Interact will be evaluated in a randomized controlled trial (RCT), with at least 100 teachers and a classroom they are teaching (n = 2,000 students, aged 16–19) in which teachers in treated classrooms (50) will participate in INTERACT the 2022–2023 school year and additional booster sessions in the 2023–2024 school year. Teachers assigned to the control condition (50) will serve as a business as usual comparison group. They will participate in Interact in the 2024-2025 school year.  

We will assess the teachers and students prior to intervention in August 2022 (T1), at post-intervention in May 2023 (T2), and at a one-year follow-up in May 2024 (T3).  During the intervention implementation, the teachers in the control group will continue teaching as usual but film their lessons every 2–3 weeks. Extensive measures will be taken to reduce contamination from intervention to control classrooms.  

Additionally, our process evaluation will investigate the association between the implementation quality and context of the intervention and main trial outcomes. The IPE will focus on the three domains of TSI: instructional support, emotional support, and classroom organization. We will investigate these three domains as guided by a) the eight dimensions of the IPE framework (fidelity, dosage, quality, reach, responsiveness, program differentiation, adaptation, and usual practice; Humphrey et al., 2016), b) the context in which INTERACT is implemented, and c) the main intervention outcomes (effects). 

Results and Policy Implications 

First publication is expected in 2022. 

About Synapse Lab

UiS Synapse Lab develops and investigates interventions for promoting motivation and learning in education and work life. The fields of the most active researchers in the Lab are education, economics of education, labor economics, psychology and public health. In most of our research projects, we work across disciplines.