The latest results from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) were released last week in countries around the globe. TALIS 2013 surveyed 107,000 lower secondary teachers in 34 participating countries to represent teachers worldwide. The OECD survey sought to understand who teachers are and how they work. Areas from how teachers’ daily work is recognised, appraised and rewarded to their attitudes towards teaching and their own experiences as lifelong learners were also examined. The TALIS results show us that we all can learn from what these teachers have to say.
The good news is that teachers are very satisfied being teachers. On average across TALIS-participating countries, nine out of ten teachers said that they are satisfied with their jobs. And nearly eight in ten teachers reported that they would still choose the teaching profession if they were faced with the choice again. TALIS shows that constructive and fair teacher appraisals and feedback have a positive effect on teachers’ job satisfaction and on their confidence in their abilities as teachers. On average, 88% of teachers said that they receive feedback in their school.
TALIS also shows, however, that there is room for improvement. Given these positive results in teacher satisfaction, it is surprising to learn that teachers do not feel valued. Although the majority of teachers would still choose teaching over other professions, more than two in three teachers across participating countries do not feel that their profession is valued by society. The statistics on teacher appraisal and feedback may reveal one reason why teachers feel that way: only one in three teachers feels that the feedback they receive will lead to any kind of career advancement, including higher pay or additional responsibilities; and many teachers feel that appraisals are only performed to fulfil administrative requirements. And yet, more than six in ten teachers report that appraisals are helpful and can lead to positive changes in their teaching practices.
The TALIS results confirm the importance of collaboration among teachers. No matter how good teachers’ initial teacher education was, there will always be new challenges in the classroom for which teachers have not been prepared. TALIS shows that induction and mentoring programmes can provide teachers new to a school or new to teaching with invaluable assistance; and participating in professional development activities throughout a career hones teachers’ skills even further. These activities do not have to be costly or involve external experts. For example, mentoring systems can be based on collaboration with other teachers in school. Teachers can also form, or join already established, collaborative research groups and teacher networks, and/or simply observe their colleagues as they teach.
UNESCO’s 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report warned that without attracting and adequately training enough teachers, the learning crisis in many parts of the world will continue for several generations, hitting disadvantaged students the hardest. There has been an alarming decrease in aid to education since 2010, threatening the ability of school systems and, consequently, teachers, to fulfil their roles adequately. The report stresses the need for a renewed focus on recruitment, training and policies that ensure that the best teachers reach the learners who need them the most.
If we want today’s teaching and school systems to produce skilled and engaged citizens for tomorrow, we must improve the teaching profession for teachers at work today and the attractiveness of the profession for future teachers. We must also provide the resources necessary for schools and teachers to work effectively. To do this, we can learn from what teachers told us through TALIS. We can build on the positive attributes of the teaching profession and work to improve teaching conditions to attract the best possible candidates. If formal collaborative activities are lacking, teachers should take the initiative to create them. Teachers should take advantage of professional development opportunities, especially if they are provided in the school and involve colleagues. They should engage in more collaborative learning, as it has proven to give greater job satisfaction and confidence. For the rest of us, the cliché “treat others the way you would want to be treated” has never rung truer. We must all come together to value and treat our teachers like the professionals they are, because it is to our – and our children’s – benefit but, more important, it is to their benefit, too.