Photo of a teacher being coached by another member of staff

New teacher professional development research on decomposition and recomposition

May 8, 2024

Ambition Institute has published new original research examining whether breaking down and rebuilding knowledge on teaching practices improves the performance of trainee teachers.

Breaking down sequences of teaching into constituent practices is thought to make learning to teach more manageable for new teachers. However, it risks leaving teachers unsure about when and in which situation to use these specific practices. Putting these practices into new, meaningful sequences may help teachers learn when to use a certain technique.

Ambition Institute’s latest research ‘Decomposition and recomposition: effects on novice teachers’ enactment and transfer of behaviour management practices’ provides the first causal evidence that this approach works.

The study involved 144 trainees, from Ark Teacher Training and other Initial Teacher Training providers and was conducted using a classroom simulator. The trainees taught three short sections of a lesson and received feedback (including modelling and practice) on their behaviour management from a teacher educator. For half of the trainees this feedback was decomposed (broken down) and then recomposed (techniques put back together in a different order). The other half received feedback which was not broken down.

The research found that the trainees who received decomposition followed by recomposition were better able to apply their knowledge in a new situation. The findings have implications for the design of early career teacher development.

Evidence is at the heart of what we do at Ambition Institute. Through our research we want to push forward our collective knowledge of effective professional development and share what works, to turn evidence into action. We aim to answer important questions faced by the sector, help teachers and leaders to address disadvantage, and show the impact of evidence-informed teaching.

More information about the research including downloads of the full report and a summary for educators can be read on our research page.