Quality first teaching: A teacher's guide

Paul Main

Revisiting the quality first teaching concept and the national strategy teaching methods: the classroom legacy lives on.

What is Quality First Teaching?

Quality First Teaching (QFT) is a whole-class teaching concept that focuses on inclusive and high-quality teaching for every pupil in a classroom. QFT depends on a wide range of learning methods to be effective, like using Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) resources and differentiated learning. In short, Quality First Teaching is an instructional approach that focuses on the need for personalised teaching and facilitates the effective inclusion of children with SEND needs.

Many educators gave preference to inclusive teaching in the past, but in 2010 the need for inclusivity led to the introduction of QFT in each educational setting.

QFT ensures that each student must receive teaching according to the student's preferred learning styles. For instance, if a student finds it difficult to grasp a concept through visualization, the teacher must use alternative ways such as verbal and auditory teaching to explain the same concept. In QFT, the most effective teachers personalise their style of teaching to suit their students' needs. Learning styles have been heavily criticised in recent years largely to do with the way it was implemented. It has broadly been agreed that labelling pupils by a perceived style of learning is unhelpful and sometimes damaging. Using visual methods such as dual coding has been shown to benefit all types of pupils. At Structural Learning, we have also developed a framework for teachers that leads to more effective (and inclusive) lesson planning.

What were The National Strategies Interventions?

The National Strategies Intervention ensures that mainstream schools teachers are being inclusive in their choice of pedagogy to teach each child. These teachers must support all the children, irrespective of circumstances, to learn to the best of their ability. This program was dropped by the UK's department for education and skills in 2010 but its legacy lives and can be accessed via the .gov archive. 

We need to first understand the three ‘waves’ of intervention, to benefit from The National Strategies Intervention QFT, which was designed to be strategically introduced by schools to reduce underachievement in every student.

Wave 1. Quality First Teaching (Universal): The first step encourages teachers to carefully plan each lesson so that the learning objectives must be clear. The teachers must use worksheets, exercises and other learning resources to the learning outcomes. The reasoning behind the first wave of quality first teaching was a useful planning of manageable and well-sequenced classwork and lessons, alongside effective pedagogical choices, and robust assessment – to modify teaching so each student could achieve –  was the first step towards minimising underachievement.

Wave 2. Additional Interventions (Targeted): Wave 2 can be used with Wave 1 to offer additional support to the students who do not seem to meet age-related expectations. Wave 2 involves the identification of these students and taking the desired initiatives to provide them with high-quality everyday personalized teaching and help them get back to their learning journey. Extra support can be offered during regular learning in class. The corrective instruction is mostly provided during whole-class teaching in small groups. This would help the students meet age-related expectations.

Wave 3. Specialist Interventions: This step is designed for those students who need more support than provided in Wave 2. Wave 3 depicts targeted educational provision for a minority of young learners where it is crucial to provide highly personalised specialist interventions to stimulate progress or to allow children to accomplish their potential. It is suggested to use provision mapping to capture specialist and targeted interventions that will be ‘different from’ or ‘additional to’ the regular differentiated curriculum for students. Wave 3 may even include additional SEND provision and support learners to progress at the desired rate.

Scaffold the learning process with graphic organisers
Scaffold the learning process with graphic organisers

How does a school ensure that all learners are receiving the right level of individual support?

The main objective of QFT is to ensure that each student must be provided with high-quality individual support to facilitate their progress in learning.

An effective way to make sure that all children are learning at their age-related expectations is to perform a regular review of the quality of teaching. It will provide Student learning targets (SLTs) a chance to find ways to improve the overall quality of teaching. Then the teachers must be provided with the necessary support to make sure that they can fulfil every child's individual needs for curricular learning.

One of the most significant learning objectives of Quality First Teaching strategies is to make sure that the school must provide an inclusive learning environment to each student. This means that the school leaders must promote inclusive teaching within the school by creating inclusive workplace culture, and by communicating inclusion goals with the class teacher and specialist teacher of other subjects. Also, teachers can ensure the inclusion of pupils by celebrating the differences between the students.

Quality first teaching should meet the needs of every student
Quality first teaching should meet the needs of every student

What QFT Strategies can be used alongside the three waves of National Strategies Intervention?

Following quality teaching strategies must be used alongside the three waves of National Strategies Intervention:

  1. Classroom must have a lot of clearly written direct instructions, symbol labels and designated places providing learning opportunities for pupils. Displaying pictures, posters and other visual resources are great for explaining abstract concepts and reminding previous learning the students.
  2. An effective lesson planning will help to integrate differentiation and make the lesson accessible for each learner.
  3. Clear explanations of teaching points through direct teaching will provide an effective teaching strategy for the independent learning of individual pupils.
  4. High-quality teaching will demand pupil involvement by providing realistic challenges in a supportive environment for learning.
  5. Break lessons and instruction from class teachers into small, manageable chunks will help ensure the learning of students of varying levels of study skills.
  6. Regular opportunities for assessment for learning will help provide checks for understanding of difficult concepts and identify where the class is at with a concept.
  7. Key to success is to incorporate additional teaching strategies and use a lot of examples to pupils with learning difficulties.
  8. Appraisal process must involve positive feedback. If negative feedback is necessary, it must be provided constructively.
  9. Lesson Design must focus on pupil participation, self-regulated learning and development of pupil knowledge through applying the most effective teaching strategies in the classroom.
  10. Explicit teaching strategies will involve a combination of visual, tactic and kinaesthetic learning opportunities. It is recommended to take regular breaks from auditory learning to improve basic literacy skills in the students.

Design inclusive lessons that all pupils can access
Design inclusive lessons that all pupils can access


Final thoughts on Quality First Teaching

The term 'Quality First Teaching' is frequently used within the education sector for bringing a difference to classroom learning. According to the DfE Code of Practice, high-quality teaching that is personalised and differentiated will the individual needs of each child and young learner in a classroom. Quality first teaching educates the children to help them become active and productive members of society. Key features of QFT include:

  • Lesson design is highly focused with sharp objectives;
  • Higher levels of interaction for all students;
  • Higher demands of pupil engagement and involvement with learning;
  • Regular use of authentic praise and encouragement to motivate students;
  • Regular opportunities to dialogue individually or in groups;
  • Appropriate use of teacher explaining, modelling and questioning;
  • Expectation from the students to work independently and accept responsibility for the learning.