Executive summary

The skillset required to be an effective teacher is expansive and complex. On top of being knowledgeable about their subject and how to teach it, teachers are also expected to be experts in child development, classroom management, administration, and even psychology, and to update their knowledge base throughout their career. It is for these reasons that teaching is referred to as a “profession” rather than simply a “job”. Likewise, the expectations for school leaders have gone beyond their traditional role as administrators, and now include team leadership, instruction, networking and effective communication with parents and other stakeholders. But the “professionalism” of teachers and principals varies in its forms across countries and contexts, and can be influenced both by policy and the behaviour of teachers and school leaders themselves.

The extent to which teachers and school leaders live up to this status of professionals in the 48 countries surveyed is the main focus of the 2018 cycle of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS).

TALIS aims to give teachers and school leaders a voice on this issue by asking them about their working life in school, covering everything from the characteristics of their school environment and how they interact with colleagues, to teaching practices and participation in continuous professional development.

Teacher professionalism is analysed in TALIS 2018 by looking at five pillars: the knowledge and skills required to teach; career opportunities and working regulations; the collaborative culture among teachers; the responsibility and autonomy afforded to teachers; and the status and standing of the profession. This second volume, Teachers and School Leaders as Valued Professionals, addresses the final four pillars: prestige, career opportunities, collaboration and autonomy.

Whether a career is seen as prestigious or not can have an impact on both the kinds of candidates that enter the profession and the job satisfaction of those already in it. The majority of teachers in OECD countries and economies in TALIS (90%) are satisfied with their job, and most of them (91%) do not regret becoming a teacher.

Despite this, an average of only 26% of teachers in OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS think that the work they do is valued by society. Longer-serving teachers are also more likely than their younger colleagues to say that the profession is undervalued, suggesting a degree of professional disillusionment as teachers progress along the career path. Furthermore, 14% of teachers aged 50 years or less express a desire to leave teaching within the next five years, i.e. well before they reach retirement age.

Acute stress at work is also strongly associated with teachers’ job satisfaction and their intention to continue teaching: 18% of teachers report experiencing a lot of stress in their work, and 49% report that having too much administrative work is one of the main sources of stress.

The majority of teachers in OECD countries and economies in TALIS are employed on permanent contracts, with only 18% reporting that their employment contract is temporary. But this figure jumps to 48% for teachers under the age of 30. While temporary contracts offer some flexibility, teachers working under contracts of less than one year also report feeling less confident in their ability to teach in roughly one third of the countries surveyed.

In terms of salaries, 39% of teachers and 47% of principals are satisfied with the pay they receive, on average across OECD countries and economies in TALIS. It is not particularly common for appraisal processes to be tied to career progression in the form of pay increases or a bonus, with an average of only 41% of teachers reporting that this happens in their school. However, the proportion of teachers working in schools where this does happen has increased significantly since the last cycle of TALIS in over half the participating countries and economies. It should also be noted that this practice is more likely to occur when the school management team has some authority over teachers’ salaries.

Teachers who report that their school provides staff with opportunities to actively participate in school decisions and supports their professional development are also more likely to say that they are satisfied with the conditions of their employment contract (apart from salaries).

Central to many professions is a core network of practitioners who collaborate regularly. In teaching, such professional collaboration takes the form of team teaching, providing feedback after classroom observations, engaging in joint activities across different classes, and participating in collaboration-based professional development. Teachers in OECD countries and economies in TALIS are quite likely to employ basic collaborative practices like discussing the development of specific students with colleagues (61% of teachers on average do this) and, to a lesser extent, exchanging teaching materials with colleagues (47%). However, far fewer teachers engage in the deeper forms of professional collaboration, which involve more interdependence between teachers, with only 9% of teachers saying they provide observation-based feedback to colleagues, and 21% engaging in collaborative professional learning at least once a month.

Such low instances of professional collaboration may be worrisome, considering the impact collaboration can have on promoting 21st century teaching: teachers who regularly collaborate with peers in this way also tend to report using cognitive activation practices more frequently in class). Professional collaboration is also associated with higher job satisfaction and teacher self-efficacy. Feedback from peers is a unique form of collaboration that puts teachers at the centre as experts of their own practice. On average across OECD countries and economies in TALIS, 71% of teachers who received feedback from colleagues found it useful for their teaching. Feedback appears to be most effective for teachers when it is delivered in a variety of ways, rather just one repeated method.

The practice of teaching in class remains at the teacher’s discretion: over 90% of teachers say that it is up to them to select teaching methods, assess students’ learning, discipline students and set the amount of homework to assign. Determining the overall course content, however, appears slightly less commonly within the teacher’s purview, with only 84% of teachers reporting that they have some control over this.

More efforts should be made to involve teachers in the decision-making processes of their schools. On average across OECD countries and economies in TALIS, only 56% of principals report that teachers have a role in the school management team. In addition, only 42% of principals report that their teachers have a significant responsibility over a large share of tasks related to school policies, curriculum and instruction. Teachers also have little responsibility over staffing and budgets; but budget allocation appears to still be within the school’s control, with 68% of principals reporting that schools have significant responsibility in this area.


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