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Teaching Excellence through Professional Learning and Policy Reform: Lessons from Around the World

Teaching Excellence through Professional Learning and Policy Reform - Cover

Teaching Excellence through Professional Learning and Policy Reform - Cover

Teaching Excellence through Professional Learning and Policy Reform: Lessons from Around the World

What knowledge, skills, and character qualities do successful teachers require? What policies can help teachers acquire the knowledge and skills they need? And what can governments do to design and implement teacher professionalization policies effectively? A 2016 report, Teaching Excellence through Professional Learning and Policy Reform: Lessons from Around the World, answers these questions using data from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS).

 

Produced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a background document for the sixth International Summit on the Teaching Profession, the 2016 report Teaching Excellence through Professional Learning and Policy Reform: Lessons from Around the World emphasizes the importance of helping teachers develop as professionals who are knowledgeable, who have autonomy to make decisions within the classroom and school context, and who are part of peer networks that foster learning and exchange.
 

What knowledge, skills, and character qualities do successful teachers require?

The report defines the successful teacher as one who prepares students for a world in which simply being able to recall content knowledge is less important than being able to use that knowledge in rapidly changing social and economic conditions. Students need to “be creative, think critically, solve problems and make decisions”, be able to “communicate and collaborate”, “recognize and exploit the potential of new technologies”, and possess the “character qualities that help people to live and work together” (p. 13). To develop these capabilities in students, teachers need to have a wide range of abilities, including:
 

  • subject-specific knowledge and knowledge of effective pedagogical strategies,
  • subject-specific knowledge and knowledge of effective pedagogical strategies,
  • initiating and managing active student learning processes,
  • responding to the learning needs of individual learners,
  • fostering cohesion and social integration among students with diverse abilities and backgrounds,
  • emphasizing cross-curricular studies,
  • integrating formative and summative assessments,
  • evaluating and planning for improvement,
  • using information and communication technologies (ICT),
  • participating in teacher teams and in school management, and
  • building partnerships for learning with parents and the broader community.
     

While “there is not a single set of teacher attributes and behaviours that is universally effective”, the report emphasizes that “one consistent finding is that effective teachers are intellectually capable people who are articulate and knowledgeable, and are able to think, communicate, and plan systematically” (p. 26).

 

What policies can help teachers acquire the knowledge and skills they need?

In most high-performing education systems (such as Australia, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, the Netherlands, and Sweden), teachers are given significant autonomy to make decisions about how to meet the needs of their students. But teacher autonomy needs to be matched by other efforts to professionalize the teaching force, so that teachers’ decisions are well-informed.

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) study defines teacher professionalism along three dimensions: the strength of teachers’ knowledge base, the level of autonomy they have in making independent decisions within the classroom and school, and their involvement in peer learning networks. The dimensions of professionalism measured in TALIS could help education planners around the world evaluate the professional conditions of their own teaching force (see the “rapid evaluation tool” provided below, adapted from the teacher professionalism index on p. 37 and from other information in the report).


Download the document - PDF

 

Preliminary analysis suggests that some of the most important aspects of teacher professionalism include: receiving training in both content and pedagogy, including in assessment methods; having a period of classroom practice before becoming independently responsible for a class; engaging in in-service professional development activities that are ongoing, collaborative, and embedded within the school environment (rather than external and short-term opportunities such as conferences and workshops); and evaluating the impact of new teaching practices on student learning to allow for continual cycles of refinement. Similarly, teacher appraisal is most effective when it is linked to a coherent professional development system that gives teachers specific opportunities to improve where they have weaknesses.
 

What can governments do to design and implement teacher professionalization policies effectively?

Several key approaches can help to ensure that efforts to promote teacher professionalization are successful: communicating the rationale for reform, acknowledging divergent views and interests, fostering consensus, engaging stakeholders—including teachers and education unions—in designing and implementing policies, ensuring there is sufficient capacity and resources, and carefully timing the implementation of the reform. “Teachers need reassurance,” the report concludes, “that they will be given the tools to change, and recognition of their professional motivation to improve their students’ outcomes” (p. 93).

 

What is the source of information for this report?

Much of the data used in this report comes from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) conducted by the OECD to gain insight into teaching conditions and the learning environment in schools. In 2013, TALIS questionnaires were administered to teachers in 34 middle- to high-income countries. The report also makes use of data from the OECD Programme for the International assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) and from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

 

Schleicher, A. (2016), Teaching Excellence through Professional Learning and Policy Reform: Lessons from Around the World, International Summit on the Teaching Profession, OECD Publishing, Paris. Click here to read the publication.