Transforming teacher education to improve learning outcomes


Teachers are considered to be the most important school-level variable affecting student learning outcomes —but how can students learn if teachers are not adequately prepared to teach?

The IIEP Learning Portal’s e-seminar on Transforming teacher education to improve learning outcomes brought together 1,121 participants from 142 countries to discuss how teacher education systems can be designed to maximize teachers’ abilities, and improve student learning outcomes.

The e-seminar focused on three themes:

  • Insights: What can we learn about the strengths and weaknesses of teacher education from large-scale assessments? 
  • Reform: How, and to what extent, can teacher education systems be reformed to solve problems that are detected through learning assessments?
  • Competencies: What key competencies, necessary for achieving SDG4, are currently not addressed in teacher education programmes?

Four guest presentations guided the discussions:

  • Maria Teresa Tatto, Principal Investigator for the Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M):  Transforming teacher education to improve learning outcomes (Keynote presentation).
  • Michael Ward, Senior Policy Analyst, Development Co-operation Directorate and Directorate for Education and Skills, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): What can we learn about the strengths and weaknesses of teacher education systems from large-scale assessments?
  • Frank Hardman, Professor of Education and Development, University of York, United Kingdom: Placing Pedagogy at the Centre of Teacher Education Reform.
  • Helen Abadzi, retired Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank: Which competencies necessary for achieving SDG4 Remain unaddressed through teacher education programmes?

Key takeaway points from the e-seminar included:

  1. Teacher education matters, and can be improved. Participants remarked that they gained new insight into the importance of the influence of teacher education on students’ learning outcomes, suggesting that teacher education is often seen as part of the landscape, not something that can be analyzed and reformed.
  2. Countries face similar issues and concerns with teacher education. Participants were struck by the universality of many themes addressed in the e-seminar.
  3. Large-scale assessments and studies can provide information about the strengths and weaknesses of teacher education systems. However, many participants remarked that their own contexts lacked sufficient information for such an analysis.
  4. Teachers in many contexts are under-prepared in basic knowledge and skills. Many teachers have significant weaknesses in foundational areas, suggesting that this may require either higher recruitment standards or pre-service and in-service systems that do a better job of assessing and filling these gaps.
  5. Teachers need to know more than just subject content. In addition to strengthening teachers’ subject knowledge, participants remarked on the importance of teachers understanding the science of cognition and learning, and developing pedagogical content knowledge.
  6. Greater attention should be given to in-service teacher education. Participants noted that in-service education should receive equal or greater attention than pre-service training. In-service training should be more systematic, more school-based, tailored to specific needs and contexts, and offered through multiple modalities.
  7. ICT skills should be a crucial element of teacher education systems. Participants remarked that digital literacy is a weak area for teachers, and that improving ICT skills would enable them to update their content and teaching methods, as well as provide them with increased professional development opportunities.
  8. Teachers need to build knowledge and attitudes for inclusive education. Participants argued that teachers will be unable to support the Sustainable Development Goals’ agenda unless they gain a greater understanding of social inequities, discrimination, and the special needs of certain groups of students.
  9. Teachers need to become more reflexive practitioners. Participants stated that teachers need to take charge of their own professional development. This requires the ability to observe the effects of their teaching, as well as use assessment data to evaluate and identify ways to improve their own practice.
  10. Teacher educators need to improve their knowledge and skills. Many weaknesses in teacher education stem from weaknesses in the knowledge and skills of teacher educators. This emerged as an important issue to investigate further.

On the last day, participants discussed their plans for applying what they had learned to their own contexts. These ranged from policy-makers promising to review teacher education within their national education plan, to teacher educators reflecting on how to transform their courses, to teachers pledging to become more engaged in their school’s in-service professional development.