Highlights from Education at a Glance 2009
branch Special Section: TALIS
What is TALIS?
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  • TALIS is the first survey providing internationally comparative perspective on conditions of teaching and learning.
  • A total of 75 000 teachers took part, and the findings cover 23 countries.
  • TALIS reveals some major challenges facing teaching, including a shortage of well-trained teachers and a failure to provide teachers with sufficient opportunities for the professional development they need.


TALIS, which is the OECD's Teaching and Learning International Survey, provides the first internationally comparative perspective on conditions of teaching and learning. The survey's findings, which cover 16 OECD and 7 partner countries, provide insights into some of the factors that lie behind the differences in learning outcomes revealed by the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Overall, the aim of TALIS is to help countries review and develop policies to make the teaching profession more attractive and more effective. With a focus on lower secondary education in both the public and private sectors, TALIS examines important aspects of a number of key issues in teaching today:

  • Professional development;
  • teachers' beliefs, attitudes and practices;
  • teacher appraisal and feedback ; and
  • school leadership.

Major conclusions

Some of the findings from TALIS are discussed in a little more detail in the rest of this section, but some overall conclusions are worth examining first.

A profession facing major challenges: Results from TALIS have revealed major challenges for policy makers and for the teaching profession. More than one teacher in three works in a school whose principal thinks that the school suffers from a shortage of qualified teachers. Principals report lack of adequate equipment and instructional support and, in some countries, negative teacher behaviour such as absenteeism or lack of pedagogical preparation.

Teachers themselves don't always feel that they are getting enough help with professional development to meet the demands of their profession (see below). For teachers, major challenges include trying to teach increasingly heterogeneous groups of pupils, learning to make effective use of information and communication tools and managing student behaviour. These problems are underlined by the fact that one in four teachers report losing at least 30% of learning time because of disruptive student behaviour or administrative tasks.

A key role for professional development: TALIS highlights better and more targeted professional development as one avenue towards improvement. It shows that teachers participate least in the activities they believe to be the most effective, and are also more likely to pay towards the cost of such activities and invest more time in them. This suggests a need to review the amount of time and money made available to teachers for such professional development opportunities.

Although the great majority of teachers received some professional development over the previous 18 months, 55% on average reported that they would have liked more. More than two-fifths of teachers say there is no suitable professional development on offer, which indicates that a sound assessment of provision and support against development needs should be a priority in many countries. A sizeable proportion of teachers are underwriting the full cost for their professional development, which is evidence that many teachers are willing to contribute their share to advancing their career and profession. TALIS also shows that there is generally much greater scope for teachers to learn from other teachers.

But challenges can be met: TALIS also provides many encouraging insights. Not only do the positive outcomes in some countries signal that the challenges can be addressed, but there are patterns that suggest that teachers are embracing the challenges and actively seeking to advance their profession.

Intensifying challenges: The challenges for education systems are likely to intensify. Addressing them will require the creation of evidence-based education systems, in which school leaders and teachers act as a professional community and have the authority to act, the necessary information to do so wisely, and access to effective support systems to assist them in implementing change. However, the results from TALIS suggest that, in many countries, education is still far from becoming a knowledge industry - its own practices are still not being transformed by a real knowledge-based understanding of what works and what doesn't.

Feedback and evaluation: The generally positive reception by teachers of appraisal and feedback on their work shows it is possible to overcome concerns over such practices. The fact that the more feedback teachers receive on their work, the more they trust in their abilities to address teaching challenges suggests this is another approach to raising learning outcomes.

Points to remember

Three features of the TALIS survey need to be taken into account when interpreting the results:

Subjectivity: Responses from teachers and principals offer important insights, but they are subjective reports. Great care was taken in the design and instrumentation of the survey to ensure that the data are reliable and valid across countries and cultures. However, they need to be interpreted in the context of the perspectives of other stakeholders.

No cause and effect: TALIS identifies associations between various characteristics of teachers and schools, but cannot establish cause and effect.

Cultural influences: Cross-country comparisons must always take account of cultural influences on the meaning of responses. The TALIS results are discussed with these considerations in mind.

How TALIS was carried out

Around 200 schools were randomly selected in each country participating in the survey. In each school, one questionnaire was filled in by the school principal and another by 20 randomly selected teachers. The questionnaires each took about 45 minutes to complete and could be filled in on paper or on-line. In total, TALIS sampled around 75 000 teachers representing more than 2 million teachers in 23 participating countries. (TALIS was also conducted in the Netherlands, but the findings have been excluded because the required sampling standards were not met.)


All data in this section are from the first OECD-TALIS Survey and refer to the school year 2007-08. TALIS collected data from school principals and teachers. The focus of TALIS was lower secondary education as defined by level 2 of the International Standard Classification for Education (ISCED). References to "countries" refer only to the 23 countries whose results are reported in the TALIS survey.

Going further

To find out more about TALIS, visit www.oecd.org/edu/talis.


Further reading from OECD

Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First Results from TALIS (2009).

Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

gS-0. A map of TALIS countries
A map of TALIS countries

Visit the OECD web site