Executive Summary

In order for teachers to deliver high-quality instruction and help all students reach their full potential, countries need to establish and sustain a coherent system of initial teacher preparation that can serve as the foundations for a process of continued development throughout the full duration of a teacher’s career.

Although evidence on effective teacher education is growing, it is far from being clear-cut and conclusive, which makes it challenging for governments to make evidence-informed decisions about policy reform in this field. Drawing upon resources produced by the OECD Initial Teacher Preparation (ITP) study, this report aims to support stakeholders in designing and sustaining initial teacher preparation systems.

The ITP study consisted of policy reviews in seven countries: Australia, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, the United States and Wales (United Kingdom). The report describes some key challenges identified by the reviews and proposes strategies for different levels of the system – policy, teacher education institutions and schools – based on both international evidence and practices identified in the study. Below are key messages of the report’s six chapters:

The initial teacher preparation system

Initial teacher preparation is the first step in the continuum of teacher learning and should be understood as a system of multiple actors and artefacts.

Initial teacher preparation should mark the beginning, not the end, of the process of professional development. This means looking at teacher education as one continuous process, starting with attracting and selecting candidates, equipping them with the necessary competences through quality training, certification and registration, and then supporting their early development in schools. Initial teacher preparation should be seen as a complex system that evolves according to the interactions of the various stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, teacher educators, teachers, candidates) and material artefacts involved (e.g. accreditation criteria, professional standards).

The role of evidence in designing ITP systems

Supporting the production, dissemination and utilisation of knowledge about ITP policies and practices is fundamental for creating an evidence-informed ITP system.

Despite a growing need for robust evidence on teacher preparation, there are to-date few large-scale research studies, and little research on policy implementation in ITP. A coherent research strategy is a key component for the effective production, dissemination and utilisation of knowledge on ITP. Supporting the collection and use of ITP programme data across the system is part of such a strategy. Accreditation and quality assurance mechanisms can contribute to cultivating evidence-informed and self-improving ITP systems, as long as they encourage processes that lead to continuous improvement, instead of focusing only on outcome measures and achieving minimum benchmarks.

A balanced teacher workforce

Establishing a high-quality teaching workforce involves using diversified ITP data to forecast workforce needs, as well as raising the status of teaching and teacher education.

The link between ITP and a balanced teacher supply and demand makes it necessary to use diversified longitudinal ITP data for workforce forecasting. A robust methodological approach and the involvement of every level of the ITP system – i.e. national, regional, teacher education institutions, and schools – is needed for a strategic and comprehensive collection and analysis of data. While diversified ITP pathways, such as alternative routes into teaching, can temporarily resolve supply-demand issues, they also carry the risk of diminishing the value of teacher education, and can work against sustainable solutions. For a high-quality teaching workforce, entry, selection, certification and hiring criteria need to take into account the multiple dimensions of professional competence, including motivational and affective competences such as professional responsibility and career values.

Equipping teachers with updated knowledge and competences

Ensuring a comprehensive, coherent, relevant and continuously updated initial teacher education requires engaging in collective reflections on teachers’ knowledge.

A coherent and comprehensive initial teacher education curriculum covers both content and pedagogical knowledge, and develops practical skills linked to theoretical knowledge. Ensuring that emerging evidence and new models of teaching and learning are regularly integrated in initial teacher education requires a continuous collective reflection on teachers’ knowledge. Strong partnerships between schools and teacher education institutions can facilitate this reflection and support the alignment of teacher education content and the school context. Since they both play a central role in developing teachers, university- and school-based teacher educators should be provided with opportunities to extend their knowledge and participate in communities of collaborative enquiry.

An integrated early professional development for new teachers

Early professional development involves research-based reflections on teaching and learning, and should be embedded in a continuous professional learning culture.

In addition to opportunities to refine teaching skills, beginning teachers also need to engage in creative processes of reflection and evaluation of teaching and learning models. Critical reflections should draw on research evidence and student data in order for teacher learning to be ‘grounded in practice’. Mentoring programmes can be drivers of quality induction if they build on good practices. However, evidence on effective mentoring, and how to build the capacity of experienced teachers to become mentors is not yet robust enough. When induction and support programmes are integrated in a professional learning culture, schools are able to engage new teachers in innovation and continuous school improvement.

Towards a coherent, evidence-informed, sustainable and self-improving ITP system

Effectively governing an ITP system requires a shared vision of teacher learning as a continuum, strategic governance of knowledge around ITP, and capacity building at all levels.

Placing the idea that teacher learning is a continuum at the centre of a shared vision for ITP can help systems focus on ensuring a sustainable teaching workforce while also improving its quality. It can serve as the basis for designing coherent learning experiences for all teachers through equally coherent policies. Strategic knowledge governance involves identifying evidence gaps, coordinating and systematising existing evidence, and building new evidence. Collective ownership and the co-construction of evidence by different actors – teacher candidates, teachers and researchers – can strengthen the evidence base at the system level. This requires capacity at the individual, organisational and system levels. A coherent ITP system needs to establish cross-institutional and multilevel partnerships to engage stakeholders who belong to different contexts in a whole-of-system perspective.

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