Teaching around the world
Appraisal and Feedback
In recent years, a number of nations have placed more emphasis on teacher appraisal. Nearly all teachers in TALIS jurisdictions (93%) receive some kind of formal appraisal. An exception is Italy, where 70% of teachers indicated they are generally never formally appraised.
Practices, however, range widely. Classroom observations are nearly universal in England, the United States, Malaysia, and Poland, whereas fewer than half of teachers are observed in Finland, Spain, Italy, and Iceland. Teachers receive feedback from multiple sources, including school principals (54%), members of the school management team (49%) and other teachers in the school (42%), but these sources – and their influences-- also differ significantly from one place to the next.
For example, in the United States, where teachers report high levels of feedback from principals (85%) and low levels of feedback from teachers (only 27%), teachers found feedback less useful than in many other countries where peers were more involved. This may be because the feedback that teachers receive from peers is more targeted and relevant for the specific students and curricular content being taught, or because it is aimed at improvement rather than personnel decisions.
The TALIS data show that most teachers feel the feedback they receive influences their work. On average, 62% of teachers indicated that feedback had a moderate or large positive influence on their teaching practice, and just over half of teachers reported positive impacts on their classroom management (56%), knowledge and understanding of subject matter (54%), and use of student assessments to improve learning (59%).
At the same time, about half of teachers agreed that appraisal and feedback are largely done for administrative purposes, and fewer than half agreed that appraisal and feedback were based on a thorough assessment of their teaching. A significant proportion (43%) reported that appraisal and feedback systems in their school have little impact on classroom practice. Teachers’ job satisfaction was lower when teachers felt that appraisal was conducted for largely administrative purposes and higher when teachers felt it was useful for their teaching.
Together these findings suggest that teachers welcome feedback that enhances their teaching capabilities, and is connected to students’ learning. Teacher appraisal systems are more likely to be effective when they lead to high-quality professional learning, and are viewed as providing meaningful feedback to improve student learning. By contrast, systems of appraisal that serve largely administrative purposes or as focused primarily on high-stakes personnel decisions may serve to lower the desirability of teaching, as other research has suggested.
The data in TALIS 2013 provide important insights into the policies that can support and strengthen teaching, and lead to high quality learning for students. Among these policy implications are the following:
- Communicate value for the profession of teaching by recognizing teachers’ professionalism and involving teachers in decision making.
- Ensure adequate and equitable resources to address current shortages of teachers, support personnel, and instructional materials.
- Establish incentives to ensure an adequate supply of teachers for all fields and communities, including special education teachers and teachers in schools serving disadvantaged students.
- Provide comprehensive, high-quality preparation in content, pedagogy, and classroom practice to support active teaching strategies, teacher efficacy, and student achievement.
- Support induction for novices with the funding and support structures that can ensure mentoring, collaborative planning opportunities, and .
- Provide time for collaboration and professional learning so that teachers have opportunities to observe and receive feedback from peers and improve their instructional practices.
- Encourage high-quality professional development relevant to teachers’ needs which can promote collaborative school practices associated with teacher self-efficacy and job satisfaction.
- Identify potential leaders and provide them with training as instructional leaders, so that they can promote improvement in teaching and a climate of mutual respect in schools.
- Encourage distributed leadership and shared decision making which enhances collaborative practices and both principal and teacher job satisfaction.
- Center teacher appraisal and feedback on improving teaching quality and link them to high-quality professional learning in order to enhance teachers’ skills and self-efficacy.
Educating students with the competencies required for the knowledge economies of the 21st century has increased the complexity of teaching. High-performing education systems tend to be those where the teaching profession is valued in society, that are able to attract high-quality individuals into teaching, train them well, and retain them in the profession by putting in place supports that address the working conditions in the schools they work, and support their ongoing professional learning. TALIS tells us that valuing teaching and teacher learning, restructuring the work of teaching to enable greater professional collaboration, and providing meaningful feedback to teachers to support their work can help create a more attractive and efficacious teaching workforce.
Perhaps the strongest set of findings in TALIS were those associated with teacher collaboration, which appeared as an important element of learning, influence on practice, and influence on job satisfaction and self-efficacy, which are in turn related to teacher retention and effectiveness. More than any other policy area, actions that support collaborative learning among teachers appear to hold promise for improving the quality of teaching and the long-term commitment of teachers.
TALIS analyses reinforce the findings of previous research with respect to teachers’ participation in collaborative forms of professional development. Professional collaboration was significantly and positively related to each of the following professional development activities: mentoring and/or peer observation and coaching (31 jurisdictions), individual or collaborative research on a topic of professional interest (30 jurisdictions), and participation in a network of teachers formed specifically for the professional development of teachers (26 jurisdictions).
However, relatively few teachers experienced these kinds of opportunities across jurisdictions. For example, only 31% had participated in a professional development network, which proves to be strongly related to teachers’ practices (see below.)
Collaboration opportunities were also strong related to teacher self-efficacy – teachers’ confidence in their abilities to plan, organize, and carry out activities that allow them to attain their educational goals. Self-efficacy is an attribute of particular interest, as it has been linked in many studies with increased instructional quality, the use of innovative practices, and teacher contributions to student achievement gains. Greater teacher self-efficacy has also been linked with increased teacher job satisfaction and lower rates of burnout.
TALIS data show that frequent engagement in teacher professional collaboration was positively associated with self-efficacy, which was heightened by all of the following:
- engaging in collaborative activities five times a year or more
- team teaching
- observing other teachers’ classes and providing feedback,
- engaging in joint activities across different classes and ages
- participation in collaborative professional learning
The last of these – collaboration in professional learning opportunities – was associated with greater self-efficacy across jurisdictions, and was linked with greater teacher job satisfaction in 21 of these. This suggests that when teachers are engaged in collaborative practices that enhance their individual and collective teaching capabilities, they not only feel more confident in their abilities to teach, to engage students and to manage class behaviour, but also tend to find greater enjoyment in their work.
Given the power of teacher collaboration to transform practice (see below) and improve student learning, as well as to enhance teacher efficacy and satisfaction, collaborative professional learning opportunities like mentoring, peer observation and coaching, collaborative research, and teacher networks should be encouraged. As the official TALIS report noted:
If policy makers want to promote professional collaboration, these types of professional development activities, which are associated with this outcome, could be the focus of future policy efforts. (OECD, 2014b, p. 168)
Collaborative and effective professional learning opportunities were found to be associated with teachers’ practices, especially with respect to those that encourage what are commonly referred to as “21st century skills” -- problem solving, inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration, for example.
The vast majority of teachers indicated that they agree with these goals for instruction: Over 90% agreed that their role is to “facilitate students’ own inquiry”, and over 80% of teachers agreed that thinking and reasoning are more important than content, and that students learn best by finding solutions to problems on their own.
However, a minority of teachers reported that they frequently engage in practices consistent with these goals and views, including what TALIS called ‘active’ teaching practices, such as students working in small groups to come up with a joint solution to a problem or task; undertaking projects that require at least one week to complete; and conducting projects requiring students to work with interactive computer technology.
While the use of such practices can certainly be influenced by national or state curriculum and examination systems, they are also influenced by teachers’ initial preparation and later training. Teachers who reported they were well prepared by their teacher education program in pedagogy were much more likely to use small group problem-solving, for example. Participating in a network of teachers was also related to the increased use of small group work and the use of ICT. Teachers’ engagement in individual or collaborative research, in observation visits to other schools, in mentoring, and in peer observation and coaching was also associated with greater use of active learning practices.
With respect to assessment practices, the TALIS data indicate that teachers employ a wide range of assessment methods to guide their teaching and offer feedback to students, commonly receive feedback both on their assessment methods and student outcomes, and find greater confidence and satisfaction in their teaching when they receive feedback and appraisal linked to evidence of student learning.
Together, these findings suggest that teachers’ opportunities for collaboration and feedback about what they are doing and what students are learning– both pre-service and in-service –can support the greater use of active teaching practices, foster attention to student learning, and enhance teachers’ satisfaction.
School Leadership and Climate
While most teachers agreed that they experienced “a collaborative school culture characterized by mutual support,” there were noticeable differences in the degree to which principals and teachers reported this kind of climate. For example, across TALIS jurisdictions, 95% of principals agreed with this statement (with responses ranging from 83% in France to 100% in Norway). However, the average for teachers was 79%, ranging from 66% of teachers in England to 93% of teachers in Norway.
Teachers were significantly more likely to indicate the existence of a collaborative school culture in jurisdictions where they also reported that staff had opportunities to participate in decision-making, suggesting a positive association between distributed leadership and a collaborative school climate. Teachers’ involvement in school decision making was also linked with self-efficacy in most jurisdictions, and with job satisfaction (with very large effect sizes) in all jurisdictions.
However, teachers and principals differed in the extent to which they perceived opportunities for staff decision-making, and there was no association between principals’ reporting of staff opportunities for decision-making and teachers’ perceptions that they experienced a collaborative culture. More than 90% of principals in each jurisdiction reported that teachers had opportunities to actively participate in school decisions, as compared with 74% of teachers, an average difference of 24 percentage points. The greatest differences were found in England, where the average rate of agreement from teachers was below 60%, and principals’ and teachers’ reports were apart by 32 percentage points.
TALIS data showed that principals’ leadership styles are related to the professional working climate for teachers. Where principals engaged in distributed leadership, teachers were more likely to perceive a school climate of mutual respect. Principals who employed distributed leadership practices were also more likely to report satisfaction with their own jobs. A mutually respectful working climate was related not only to teachers’ job satisfaction, but to also to that of principals’ in a large majority of jurisdictions.
Teachers were also more likely to report a mutually respectful climate when principals reported the use of instructional leadership practices. The data indicate that when principals spend a greater proportion of their time on curriculum and teaching-related tasks, they are more likely to spend more time observing classroom instruction, and to encourage teacher cooperation and professional learning at both the individual and school levels.
In TALIS, instructional leadership was also associated with the use of teacher appraisal to develop staff capabilities. For example, instructional leaders were more likely to create a development plan for each teacher or appoint a teacher mentor to help improve teaching, or both, following formal teacher appraisal. By contrast, instructional leadership was rarely associated with non-renewal of teacher contracts or with changes in teachers’ salaries following appraisal. Instructional leaders seem more focused on using appraisal to support teacher learning than to apply rewards and sanctions.
School leadership research shows that instructional leadership is positively associated with student outcomes, with one study finding that “promoting and participating in teacher learning and development” had at least twice the effect size of other commonly used leadership practices (Robinson, Hohepa, & Lloyd, 2009).
Across TALIS jurisdictions there was a wide variety in the self-reported use of instructional leadership practices among school principals. For example, 98% of principals in Malaysia reported that they “often” or “very often” took action to support cooperation among teachers to develop new teaching practices, compared with just 34% of principals in Japan (OECD, 2014b, p. 296 Table 3.2)
Not all principals have had the opportunity to learn instructional leadership practices. While principals generally bring a great deal of experience as teachers to their role (21 years on average), fewer than half had undertaken principals’ training before taking on the role. Across all jurisdictions, an average of 22% of principals reported having received no instructional leadership training either before or after becoming a principal. Although nearly universal in the United States (98%), and above 90% in eleven jurisdictions, training in instructional leadership was below 60% in four jurisdictions.
Supporting strong preparation before principals take on this important role, and ensuring that pre- and in-service training include support for instructional leadership and distributed leadership are policy moves that could make a big difference in both teachers’ and principals’ learning, practice, self-efficacy, and job satisfaction.
Perhaps in part as a function of recent economic downturns, shortages of personnel and materials are noticeable many countries. On average:
- 38% of teachers work in schools where the principal reports that a shortage of qualified or well-performing teachers hinders the school’s capacity to provide quality instruction. These rates were above 70% in Japan and the Netherlands. Across jurisdictions, reported shortages were particularly acute and widespread with respect to teachers of special needs students.
- 47% of teachers worked in schools in which their principals reported that a shortage of support personnel hinders the school’s capacity to provide quality instruction. This rate was above 50% in 13 of 34 jurisdictions and above 70% in Italy, Japan, and Spain.
- More than a quarter of teachers work in schools in which principals reported that a shortage or inadequacy of instructional materials hinders the school’s capacity to provide quality instruction. These rates were above 50% in Italy and Estonia, and above 75% in the Slovak Republic and Romania.
Equitable teacher distribution is also problematic in some countries. In 13 jurisdictions, experienced teachers were much less likely to work in schools with more disadvantaged students. The disparities were greatest in Alberta, Estonia, Flanders, Romania, and Sweden. In Sweden, for example, experienced teachers were half as likely as their inexperienced colleagues to work in schools with more than 30% of students from socioeconomically disadvantaged homes. By contrast, in just four jurisdictions – Brazil, Latvia, Mexico, and the Netherlands – experienced teachers were more likely to work in more disadvantaged schools.
These differences may be influenced by policy. Recent reforms in Brazil, for example, have helped increase funding and equalize educational spending across states and municipalities; raised teacher salaries, particularly in the poorer section of the country; and enacted teaching standards. All of these strategies help to support teachers and may increase retention in disadvantaged areas.
Class size is one of the teaching conditions that teachers have traditionally reported matters to them in their efforts to meet the needs of their students. Class size varies considerably across jurisdictions, ranging from 17 students per classroom to more than 30, with an average of 24 students per class.
We found a significant relationship between class sizes and teacher shortages across countries. Jurisdictions in which principals reported very few shortages -- such as Finland, Iceland, Denmark, and Poland -- were also those with smaller average class sizes (below 20), whereas nations with high rates of shortages – such as Japan, Mexico, and Chile -- had class sizes well above 30.
One of the most surprising findings from TALIS was that on average, less than a third of teachers (31%) indicated that the teaching profession is valued in their society. Teachers were most likely to report their profession is valued in Malaysia (at 88% of teachers), followed by Singapore, Abu Dhabi, and Korea, where two-thirds of teachers agreed. At the other end of the scale, only 4% of teachers in the Slovak Republic, and 5% in France and Sweden, thought their profession was valued.
Societal value placed on teaching was found to be positively correlated with student achievement on PISA. Societies express this regard in a range of ways. Social value placed on teaching is related to teachers’ salaries relative to other college educated workers and teachers’ involvement in professional decision making within schools. Social value placed on teaching is also related to the amount of time teachers have for collaboration, which in turn is significantly related to teachers’ views that the “advantages outweigh the disadvantages” of teaching – an indicator of job satisfaction.
Time for collaboration varies widely across countries. Around the world, teachers reported working an average of 38 hours a week, ranging from over 50 hours a week in Japan, to less than 30 hours in Chile and Italy. This time is structured very differently in terms of the amount that teachers work directly with students in relation to the time they have for planning, collaborating with their colleagues, grading papers, and meeting one on one with students or parents. On average, teachers taught classes an average of 19 hours per week, but teachers in the United States taught 40% more, at an average of 27 hours a week, while teachers in Finland and Norway taught only about 15 hours per week.
TALIS data show that lack of time proves to be a major barrier to professional learning for many teachers. In addition, TALIS data indicate teacher self-efficacy and job satisfaction are associated with the opportunities they have for collaboration, which vary widely. Part of the reason teacher collaboration is so valued is that it enhances teachers’ knowledge, skills, and efficacy, which in turn, makes teaching less stressful and more satisfying.
While more than 80% of teachers reported having engaged in some form of collaborative professional learning, only 63% had done so more than once in the previous 12 months. In some jurisdictions (e.g. Finland, the Slovak Republic, and Flanders) over 40% of teachers had not engaged in any collaborative learning activities.
Similarly, in some countries, opportunities for collaborative engagement were commonplace. More than 80% of teachers in Japan reported observing other teachers’ classes and providing feedback at least twice a year, and over 50% of teachers in each of Mexico, the Slovak Republic, Denmark, Italy, and Japan reported teaching jointly in the same class at least five times a year.
However, 45% of teachers had never observed another teacher’s class – a proportion that exceeded three-quarters in Brazil, France, Iceland, Flanders, and Spain. Similarly 42% reported never teaching jointly as a team in the same class. This indicates that in many countries, a significant proportion of teachers still teach largely in isolation, and may be missing out on valuable opportunities to collaborate, receive feedback, and learn from their colleagues.
Teacher Preparation and Development
Across TALIS jurisdictions, the proportion of teachers who have completed a teacher education program is very high. On average, 90% of teachers had completed a program. However, the content of teacher education varies noticeably across (and sometimes within) jurisdictions. Many fewer teachers have had training in content, pedagogy, and supervised practice for the areas they teach. About two-thirds of teachers have received training in each of these areas for all the subjects they teach. Only 57% of teachers had received formal teacher training in all of these areas – that is, content, pedagogy, and supervised practice -- for all the subjects they teach. This proportion ranged from over 80% in Poland, Croatia, and Bulgaria, to less than 40% in Alberta, Norway, Spain, and Italy.
Rates of teacher training were associated with higher levels of student achievement at the jurisdiction level. In addition, greater feelings of preparedness were significantly related to teachers’ job satisfaction and feelings of self-efficacy, particularly their ability to use a variety of assessment strategies, provide alternative explanations to students, and to help students think critically.
Not surprisingly, TALIS teachers tended to feel more prepared in terms of the content, pedagogy, and practice of the subjects they teach when they had received formal training in these domains. Other research underscores that teachers tend to feel better prepared and more efficacious when they have had higher quality preparation and induction, and that feelings of self-efficacy are related to teachers’ measured effectiveness in promoting student learning gains.
Despite its well-established benefits, induction for beginning teachers is not routinely available across jurisdictions. About two-thirds of teachers work in schools where principals report access to formal induction programs for teachers new to the profession. This ranges from more than 95% in Singapore, England, Malaysia, and Australia to less than a quarter of teachers in Spain, Poland, and Portugal.
Despite principals’ reports of access to induction, only about half of teachers with less than three years of experience reported having participated in formal programs. Differences of greater than 30 percentage points between access and participation were noted for Finland, France, Japan, Serbia, and the Slovak Republic. This may be because of uneven implementation across schools, especially if specific funding and structures are not available to ensure that mentors have been selected and given time to support beginners, or that other aspects of the program (seminars, joint planning time) are made available in a school. Other school pressures, heavy teaching workloads, scheduling conflicts, or the absence of resources can all act as potential barriers to participation. This discrepancy deserves further exploration, given the importance of induction to teacher retention and effectiveness.
Participation in induction programs can also be influenced by teachers’ status as full- or part-time, or their contract status. In some jurisdictions, many teachers – especially beginners – are on short-term contracts. In some cases, these teachers are not eligible for formal induction programs that are made available to longer-term employees.
Access to different forms of professional development is also uneven. Although 88% of teachers indicated that they had taken part in some kind of professional development during the past twelve months, usually in the form of workshops or courses, there was wide variation in the amount of professional development teachers could access, and the conditions under which they did so.
About two-thirds of teachers did not pay for the professional development they undertook during the previous 12 months, but this ranged from 93% of teachers in England, to just 25% in Korea. Similarly, the proportion of teachers who received scheduled time for professional development activities during working hours ranged from 88% in Malaysia to 15% in Portugal, with an average of 55% across countries. Time was a key variable: The most commonly reported barrier to participation in professional development was conflict with teachers working schedules, reported by just over half of teachers. Participation rates tended to be higher where there scheduled time for professional learning activities during regular work hours.
A significant proportion of teachers (39%) also reported that their participation was inhibited by a lack of relevant professional development offered. At the same time, TALIS identified a number of areas in which teachers’ expressed a desire for more professional development opportunities. The most prominent area was in teaching students with special needs, which was cited by 22% of teachers across jurisdictions. Other data suggested that relatively few teachers had had access to such learning opportunities. Teachers who had completed a teacher training program were much less likely to say that they felt a need for professional development in this area, suggesting that this need could be met either by ensuring greater access to more comprehensive pre-service preparation, or by organizing more in-service training.
Teachers in TALIS generally reported that professional development activities impacted their teaching. In each of the 14 content areas surveyed in TALIS, an average of at least ¾ of teachers who participated in specific kinds of professional development reported that it had a moderate or large impact on their teaching. In each case, a plurality of teachers designated the impact as “moderate,” rather than “large.”
These data do not reveal, however, whether the impact of professional development varied based on how it was designed and conducted. Other research shows that professional development is most effective in improving teachers’ instructional practice and contributing to student learning when it is continuous and sustained, is closely connected to the work of teachers in the classroom, fosters teacher professional collaboration, and coherently relates to broader school reform efforts.