copy the linklink copied!Chapter 3. Promoting and supporting good teaching

This chapter looks at how Serbia evaluates teaching practice and supports teachers’ improvement through its teacher appraisal system. While Serbia has a merit-based career structure for teachers, the use of appraisal to inform promotion and other teacher policies remains underdeveloped. Revising teacher standards and ensuring those who appraise teachers are well-trained professionals can help enhance the formative function of teacher appraisal. Moreover, offering a competitive and progressive salary that recognises professional growth can help incentivise teachers to develop and take on new responsibilities. Finally, Serbia should improve the selection and initial preparation of new teachers to help promote and support good teaching.

    

copy the linklink copied!Introduction

Teacher appraisal can be an important lever for improving teaching practice. A well-balanced appraisal system will encourage teachers to continuously develop and grow as professionals by providing regular feedback that connects teacher development goals with relevant training and support. By serving as a selection tool for career advancement, it can also motivate teachers to develop new skills and take on new responsibilities. It can also help accelerate system-wide improvement by directing experienced teachers towards mentorship and leadership roles. While Serbia has taken important steps in recent years to professionalise the teaching workforce, notably through the introduction of a merit-based career structure, the use of teacher appraisal to inform promotion and other teacher policies remains underdeveloped compared to OECD and neighbouring countries. Schools receive no guidance on how to use teacher appraisal to encourage professional development and the merit-based career structure does not bring gains in terms of salary and professional recognition, weakening its potential to incentivise teachers to develop and take on new roles.

This chapter examines how Serbia can make fuller use of appraisal to strengthen the teaching profession and improve teaching quality. It argues that the country should focus on ensuring that teachers are provided with the right incentives to develop their practice and seek higher levels of professional responsibility as a priority. This can be done by revising Serbia’s teacher standards to clarify different teacher roles and by ensuring those who appraise teachers for promotion are well-trained professionals with the right skills, adequate time and independence. This chapter also looks at ways to enhance the formative function of appraisal. It highlights the need to provide school principals, pedagogues and psychologists with much more support on how to meaningfully evaluate teaching practice and give feedback, in conjunction with more investment in school-based professional learning activities. Finally, ways to enhance the selection and initial preparation of new teachers are examined, both with a view to attracting more talented young people into the profession and to addressing existing misalignments between initial teacher preparation and classroom needs.

Several structural issues related to the teaching profession will need to be tackled if this vision for teacher development and professional empowerment is to take effect. Importantly, teachers need to be offered a competitive and progressive salary that recognises growth in competencies and responsibilities. Serbia also needs to consider options to reduce the number of teachers with part-time positions or working across multiple schools while at the same time creating more space for recruiting young talent into the profession. Given current fiscal constraints, this will require measures both to reduce the size of the teaching workforce and to make more strategic use of resources, such as scholarships, to bridge gaps in supply and demand. Serbia will not be able to make the most of a well-designed teacher appraisal system if these structural issues are not addressed.

copy the linklink copied!Key features of an effective appraisal system

Teacher appraisal refers to how teachers are assessed and given feedback on their performance and competencies. An effective appraisal system focuses on how well teachers are supporting the learning of all students. It provides teachers with support and incentives to continually develop their teaching competencies and assume roles that contribute to the development of the teaching profession overall. When used in this way, appraisal can positively influence teachers’ attitudes, motivation and classroom practices and, through this, help to improve students’ learning outcomes (OECD, 2013[1]). Countries combine different types of appraisal at different moments of a teacher’s career to inform ongoing learning, professional development and career progression (see Figure 3.1).

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Figure 3.1. Types of teacher appraisal
Figure 3.1. Types of teacher appraisal

Note: ITP: Initial Training Programme

Teacher standards

Standards provide a common reference point for teacher policies, including appraisal

A growing number of OECD countries have developed teacher standards to inform teacher policy and practices. Teacher standards describe what “good” teaching is and how it is demonstrated. They are used to align key teacher policies such as initial teacher education, certification and recertification, career progression, professional development and teacher appraisal. Teacher standards are an essential part of an effective teacher appraisal system as they provide a common reference point for both teachers and evaluators that establish clear expectations, encourage consistent judgement and focus appraisal on the key aspects of teaching that matter for learning (Santiago et al., 2013[2]).

Teacher standards typically include a general profile setting out expected teacher competencies. Some also include specialised profiles for particular types of teachers such as for more experienced teachers as part of a differentiated career path, or for teachers of different educational levels or subjects (Santiago et al., 2013[2]). Effective teacher standards are aligned with national education priorities, learning standards and curricula to ensure that teachers develop teaching competencies that will support national learning goals (Louden, 2000[3]). They are developed through broad consultation and grounded in national and international evidence of the teaching approaches shown to have the greatest impact on student learning.

Initial teacher preparation

Select candidates with strong academic skills and motivation to teach

Selecting teacher candidate with strong academic skills and the motivation to teach is key to ensure quality learning and teaching in schools. This influences how teachers are recruited both into initial teacher education programmes and into the teaching profession. A recognised feature of the world’s highest-performing education systems is setting a high bar for entry into initial teacher education, with places accorded only to the most able school graduates (Barber and Mourshed, 2007[4]). One way to support this is by setting a minimum threshold on the national school graduation or tertiary entry examinations.

Set a rigorous certification process at the end of teacher education to ensure the selection of qualified new teachers

Initial certification at the end of teacher education serves as a gatekeeper to ensure those who enter the profession have acquired the basic competencies required for good teaching. In most OECD countries, initial certification requires successful completion of teacher education programmes which provide at least a bachelor’s level qualification and increasingly a qualification at master’s level. However, many OECD countries require in addition that prospective teachers pass an external qualification or licensing examination, which can help to ensure fairness and consistency for selection and guarantee basic standards (OECD, 2014[5]). This is particularly important in countries where teaching is a “career-based” public service and lifetime employment is largely guaranteed, and where quality assurance in the tertiary sector is weak. Since an examination cannot recognise all the attributes that are important for teaching, countries with examinations often complement them with other forms of assessment such as interviews, which can capture motivation and socio-emotional skills. Finally, in most countries, full certification as a teacher depends on successfully passing a probation appraisal, where teachers can better demonstrate the attitudinal dimensions of good teaching.

Types of teacher appraisal

A probation period and appraisal provide new teachers with essential support in their first year(s) on the job

The first years of teaching are critical to building the foundations of good teaching practices. Most OECD countries set probation periods combining mentorship, classroom observations and formative feedback to ensure that new teachers are provided with support to develop their teaching practice (OECD, 2014[5]). Regular appraisal and feedback to teachers are key components of the probation period. In countries where the latter are not part of the probation period, retention rates of new teachers are often lower (OECD, 2017[6]).

In about half of OECD countries, successfully passing an appraisal at the end of the probation period is a requirement to become a fully certified teacher (see Figure 3.2 Probation appraisals help to ensure that decisions on full certification are based on an evaluation of all the key competencies for teaching. Appraisal by the school leadership team, the school board or the teacher’s mentor is the most common approach to full certification. These in-school actors can observe a trainee teacher’s practice throughout the year, providing a fuller picture of their readiness to enter the profession. In some countries, the probation appraisal also includes an external evaluator (OECD, 2013[1]). An external dimension for the probation appraisal is particularly important in education systems where the school leadership might lack capacity to make a valid and objective judgement about a teacher’s competencies.

Regularly appraising teachers provides meaningful feedback and informs classroom practices

Regularly appraising teachers to provide feedback on their professional practices is a common component of teacher appraisal in the majority of OECD countries (see Figure 3.2). Regular appraisal is primarily developmental, identifying a teacher’s strengths and their learning needs. It draws on information from classroom observations to provide specific feedback to support teachers’ continued professional growth (OECD, 2013[1]). Some OECD countries also use teachers’ self-evaluation and their teaching portfolio as part of regular appraisal, as they encourage self-reflection and provide a range of evidence on a teacher’s practices and needs for professional development (OECD, 2015[7]).

In most OECD countries, the regular appraisal of teachers is led by the school leadership team because they can develop a more accurate understanding of a teacher’s practice, based on multiple observations throughout the year. Since the leadership team is familiar to the teacher, this is also likely to create a more informal setting for appraisal to encourage open and honest feedback (OECD, 2013[1]).

The formative value of regular appraisal is strengthened when the findings are used to inform decisions on teachers’ professional development. In many countries, the school leader or leadership team is expected to work with teachers to establish individualised development plans, which define the type of activities a teacher will undertake to improve specific areas of practice. Such plans are most effective when they connect individual goals with school priorities for teacher development, as this helps to encourage teacher collaboration and peer-learning (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[8]).

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Figure 3.2. Types of teacher appraisals in OECD countries, 2015
General programmes, lower secondary education
Figure 3.2. Types of teacher appraisals in OECD countries, 2015

Source: OECD (2015[7]), Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2015-en.

Appraisal for promotion informs teachers’ career progression and rewards performance

An increasing number of OECD countries are setting merit-based career structures to reward and encourage teachers to develop higher levels of competency and take on differentiated teaching roles. External appraisal is often used in countries that introduced a merit-based career structure to inform teacher career advancement. This appraisal is often voluntary, at the request of a teacher, and is led by an evaluator external to the school to ensure integrity and transparency. This type of appraisal evaluates teachers’ capacity to take on further responsibilities and rewards effective teaching (OECD, 2013[1]). Recognising and rewarding good teaching is important to ensure a motivated teaching profession. It also helps to make the best use of teachers’ talent, by providing opportunities for career growth and retaining talented teachers (OECD, 2014[9]).

Some education systems require teachers to go through an appraisal process to be re-certified as a teacher every couple of years. This recertification process helps make sure that teachers are periodically appraised by an external appraising body even if they are not applying for promotion (Kitchen et al., 2017[10]).

copy the linklink copied!The teaching profession in Serbia

Over the past 15 years, Serbia has introduced several reforms intended to increase the attractiveness of the teaching profession and encourage teachers to develop their competencies. Flagship policies include the roll-out in 2004 of a merit-based career structure, the adoption of teacher standards in 2011, and in 2013, the master’s in education programme for teachers in lower and upper secondary schools. However, these reforms have yet to catalyse real change in teaching practice or teachers’ professional growth. Many of the barriers to reform are structural. Teachers have no financial incentives to apply for higher teaching roles and teachers’ salaries overall are low when compared with teacher pay internationally or other professions nationally. Relatively low pay is one factor limiting Serbia’s ability to attract and retain talented young people in the teaching profession, as is the high-level of teacher unemployment and the increasing number of teachers working only part-time.

The teaching workforce

The teaching workforce in Serbia is relatively old and mostly female

As is the case in most OECD and European countries, Serbia has an ageing teaching workforce. Over a third of teachers are above 50 years old in Serbia, compared to 40% on average across the OECD. Mid-career teachers in their forties with still many years of service ahead represent a third of the teaching workforce (OECD, 2018[11]; Skočajić, 2017[12]). While older teachers are perceived to have relatively good content knowledge, their pedagogical approaches have been slow to change and are seen to be out-of-synch with modern student-centred practices. The feminisation of the teaching workforce is also pronounced in Serbia, where women represent two-thirds of the workforce in both basic education and upper secondary (UIS, 2019[13]). The OECD average in 2016 was of 83% of female teachers in primary education, 69% in lower secondary education and 60% in upper secondary (see Figure 3.3) (OECD, 2019[14]).

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Figure 3.3. Female teachers as percentage of all teachers by education level
Figure 3.3. Female teachers as percentage of all teachers by education level

Sources: OECD (2019[14])OECD Statisticshttps://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=EAG_PERS_SHARE_AGE (accessed on 23 May 2019); Eurostat (2019[15]), Education and Training (database), https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database (accessed on 2 September 2019).

The size of the teaching workforce has remained stable despite a declining student population

Over the past decade, the number of teachers in Serbian public schools increased by 9% in basic schools and by 8% in secondary schools, while the number of students decreased by a similar proportion. However, the increasing number of teachers now only working part-time means that the overall student-teacher ratio has remained relatively stable (Figure 3.4).

While Serbia introduced in 2009 a rule indexing school funding to class size and reviewed the network of upper secondary schools, these measures have not decreased the number of teachers on the payroll. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development (hereby, the ministry) is currently working with the municipalities to come up with a proposal for reorganising the network of basic education schools but it is unclear if this proposal will lead to a decrease in the number of teachers on the payroll.

Teacher unions and the ministry have agreed to give priority hire to unemployed teachers when posts become available, limiting the space for newly graduated teachers to enter the workforce. A recent freeze in hiring public servants as part of the restructuring programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has further reduced the openings available.

While there are many teachers unemployed or in part-time employment, shortages persist in some subjects. In particular, the education system is facing difficulties attracting and retaining teachers in some science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, such as mathematics and physics, and in foreign languages, partly because salaries are more attractive in the private sector (FREN, n.d.[16]).

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Figure 3.4. Trends in numbers of students, teachers and schools in Serbia, 2010-17
2010=100
Figure 3.4. Trends in numbers of students, teachers and schools in Serbia, 2010-17

FTE: Full-time equivalent.

Source: UIS (2019[13]), UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://data.uis.unesco.org/ (accessed on 1 February 2018); Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia (2018[17]), Statistics on Education, www.stat.gov.rs/en-us/oblasti/obrazovanje/, (accessed on 1 February 2018).

The teacher council plays an important role in school management

The teacher council, which includes all teachers, pedagogues and psychologists in a school, plays a significant role in school management and instruction. The council’s mandate includes, among other things, collegially agreeing on the annual school professional development plan and timetable and adopting annual reports on student outcomes and the school self-evaluation. The council also reviews a teacher’s request for promotion and needs to validate the request for it to move forward to the next phase of appraisal. This latter practice is very uncommon among OECD countries as it is difficult to make sure that such practice is un-biased (OECD, 2013[1]).

Teacher salaries and career progression

Teacher salaries are relatively low and flat compared to international and national benchmarks

Teachers’ salaries in Serbia are relatively low compared to other Western Balkan countries. For example, a teacher’s maximum annual basic gross statutory salary in Serbia in 2014 was 149.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in primary education compared to 225.3% in North Macedonia and 193.8% in Montenegro in 2015 (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2016[18]). Comparing pay nationally, teachers’ salaries are slightly below the average salary of public servants. Teachers’ average net monthly earning is EUR 439 while the average monthly net salary in the public sector is EUR 467 in Serbia (Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 2018[19]). In 2017, the government increased all public servants’ salaries by up to 10%, including those of teachers and teachers’ salaries were again increased in 2019 by 9% (USPRV, 2017[20]; Danas, 2018[21]). Notwithstanding these increases, teacher salaries continue to be lower than those of other tertiary-educated workers.

Salary progression is relatively flat in Serbia compared to other European countries, which may further limit the attractiveness of the profession. Salary increases by 0.4% every year, as is the case for all public service positions. Teachers can also receive salary supplements ranging from 3% to 10% of the statutory salary if they have a doctorate degree, teach in remote areas or multi-grade classes, or work in special educational needs (SEN) schools. However, there is no additional increase related to teacher performance and responsibilities; salary increases are based solely on years of experience. This results in a 16% increase between the minimum and maximum salary on average for primary and upper secondary teachers and also for those at the lower secondary level, one of the smallest increases among European countries. On average across European countries, salary increases by 62% in primary education, 64% in lower secondary and 66% in upper secondary (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2018[22]). Moreover, it takes 40 years for a male teacher and 35 years for a female teacher in Serbia to reach the top of the salary scale, one of the longest durations in Europe and OECD countries. In comparison, it takes on average 28 years for teachers in Europe to achieve the maximum salary (see Figure 3.5) (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2018[22]).

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Figure 3.5. Percentage change between minimum and maximum statutory salaries in Europe and the required years of service necessary to reach the maximum salary, 2017
Lower secondary education
Figure 3.5. Percentage change between minimum and maximum statutory salaries in Europe and the required years of service necessary to reach the maximum salary, 2017

Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2018[22]), Education and Training Teachers' and School Heads' Salaries and Allowances 2016/17, https://doi.org/10.2797/24212.

Serbia has a merit-based career ladder but teachers lack incentives to move up

In 2004, Serbia introduced a merit-based career structure, which includes five career levels marked by increasing pedagogical leadership responsibility (see Table 3.1). Progress to the next level is based on an initial referral by the school’s teacher council and an appraisal of the teacher by an education advisor from the Regional School Authority (RSA). These reforms have helped bring Serbia closer to best practice in European Union (EU) and OECD countries, where the establishment of a performance-based career path with clear growth opportunities has been central to efforts to develop teaching as a high-skilled, high-status profession (OECD, 2019[23]).

However, so far, the career structure appears to have had limited impact on teachers and teaching in Serbia. The lack of financial incentives and the complexity of the promotion process discourages many teachers from applying to higher career levels. In 2018, there were only 450 pedagogical advisors, 55 independent pedagogical advisors, 10 higher pedagogical advisors and 1 senior pedagogical advisors out of a workforce of 75 000 teachers (Danas, 2018[24]). The original plan when the new structure was introduced was to have a progressive salary scale linked to a teacher’s career level, but this proposal was never implemented. Another impediment is the heavy process for applying for promotion, which requires teachers to keep track of every professional development training, external curriculum activity or project they have undertaken and submit all these documents to the advisor for review. Teachers met by the review team reported this administrative burden deters many from applying to a higher teaching position.

Teachers who have moved up express concerns that the roles and responsibilities of each level are not clearly defined. While the career structure lists roles that teachers at advanced levels can play in their school and across the education system, it is ultimately left to the school principal to define a teacher’s role. Pedagogical advisors met by the review reported observing no evolution in their responsibilities after reaching at this level.

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Table 3.1. Teacher career structure in Serbia

Responsibilities

Novice teacher

Responsibilities are not defined in the career structure.

Teacher

Responsibilities are not defined in the career structure.

Pedagogical advisor

Advises colleagues on how to improve their teaching; participates in preparation of the school development plan and other programmes; contributes to school self-evaluation; monitors teaching and learning in the school.

Independent pedagogical advisor

Mentors novice teachers and students from teaching faculties during their practical stage; co-ordinates the teacher team in charge of presenting and sharing best practices and innovation with teachers in the school; participates in regular teacher appraisal, works with local self-government to ensure that the planned continuing professional development (CPD) meets the needs of teachers.

Higher pedagogical advisor

Collaborates with school administration to define the CPD programme for the school; does research on issues related to the field of education; works with Institute for Improvement of Education (IIE) and Institute for Education Quality and Evaluation (IEQE) teams to evaluate the quality of education.

Senior pedagogical advisor

Trains contractors and programme implementers; elaborates and conducts national and regional training; provides advisory support to the ministry in developing reforms.

Source: MoESTD (2019[25]), OECD Review of Evaluation and Assessment: Country Background Report for Serbia, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Belgrade.

Initial teacher education and continuous professional development

There is no selection for entry into initial teacher education

Criteria for entry into initial teacher education in Serbia are not selective; almost all applicants to teacher faculties are admitted. According to the latest available national data, 86% of candidates were accepted in faculties of education in 2011 compared to 17% in Singapore which has one of the most selective initial teacher education models (World Bank, 2012[26]). Acceptance rates in some teacher faculties in Serbia are almost 100% and many universities still struggle to fill available places. For example, in 2017, only 82% of the seats at the University of Belgrade faculty of education were filled (University of Belgrade, 2017[27]). Tuition fees deter many students from applying. In some faculties, only the scholarship-funded spots are filled. Moreover, the recent hiring freeze of new teachers in public education means that the majority of graduates are not able to find a position. Some of those who do find employment are hired on short-term contracts to help with remedial classes. This uncertainty of employment may discourage talented and motivated students to choose the teaching profession.

Improving the quality of initial teacher education is a priority for the Ministry of Education

Serbia offers different initial teacher education programmes, depending on whether the student is preparing to teach Grades 1 to 4 (classroom teachers) or Grades 5 to 12 (subject teachers). However, both classroom and subject teachers must have a master’s degree. Initial education for prospective classroom teachers is provided by the faculties of education at one of the six state-funded universities (University of Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Nis and Novi Pazar) in the form of a four-year Bachelor of Education programme and a one year Master’s programme. While the content of training varies somewhat between faculties, it often includes mandatory modules on pedagogy and school management as well as a practicum. The duration and organisation of this practicum vary between faculties.

Most subject teachers follow a concurrent bachelor’s programme (a bachelor’s degree in the subject field or a teaching degree, e.g. Teacher of Serbian Language), which requires taking 30 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits in psychology and pedagogy in addition to courses in their subject area. They must also take a six ECTS credit school practicum. Since 2013, the University of Belgrade has also offered a master’s in education for students wanting to pursue a teaching career after having gained a bachelor’s in a different domain (consecutive model). The main target group has thus far been teachers of vocational education and training (VET) subjects who have not had any pedagogy, psychology and didactics subjects at bachelor’s level. This master’s programme was funded by the European Union to improve the quality of the initial training of subject teachers. Another master’s programme for subject teachers has since been opened by the University of Kragujevac. However, the majority of subject teachers continue to graduate from concurrent programmes.

The ministry considers improving the quality of initial teacher education a priority, in particular for prospective subject teachers. There are indeed serious concerns about the quality of existing programmes (Kovacs Cerovic, Radišić and Stankovic, 2015[28]). One relates to the tertiary accreditation system in Serbia, which uses similar criteria for all programmes and thus does not serve to control the specific quality requirements of initial teacher education. While Serbia has teacher standards, they do not set specific requirements for teacher graduates nor do they appear to be used as a reference for the design or quality assurance of an initial teacher programme (European Commission, 2016[29]). The Commission for Accreditation and Quality Assurance also has limited resources to organise follow-up accreditations (OECD, 2012[30]). As a result of this limited guidance and oversight, the quality of the 36 ECTS teacher-training electives varies significantly between faculties. For example, it was reported to the OECD review team that in some faculties, courses in clinical psychology are offered as part of the 36 ECTS electives instead of developmental psychology. Moreover, the length and content of the school practicum vary markedly between faculties and some do not offer one at all, leaving some teacher graduates without any practical training (Kovacs Cerovic, Radišić and Stankovic, 2015[28]). The Ministry of Education is considering a reform of the tertiary accreditation system to improve quality control. This will include a review of current policies to accredit faculties that provide courses in teaching.

Continuous professional development is primarily provided through seminars outside of the school

The Institute for Improvement of Education (IIE) is responsible for selecting and accrediting professional development providers based on government priorities, the teacher standards and the training needs expressed by teachers in the self-assessment surveys. The IIE establishes an independent accreditation commission for this purpose, which is charged with reviewing and accrediting training programmes over a period of three years. Teachers in Serbia are required to complete 100 credit points of professional development over 5 years (1h of training = 1 point). At least 30 credits need to be in the priority policy areas for training, which the ministry defines every 3 years. For 2017-20, these priority areas are individualised teaching, student assessment, use of textbooks and didactic materials, promoting a non-violent learning environment, and safety training. Schools are required to set a continuous professional development plan and organise 44 hours of training for teachers in the institution each year; however, many schools do not comply with this requirement (MoESTD, 2019[25]).

Continuous professional development programmes are financed either by the ministry for the priority areas, or local authorities and the school for other activities. Teachers also have some out-of-pocket spending to cover the costs of training and transportation when these are not covered by the school or the ministry. Serbia has a higher percentage (47%) of teachers reporting having paid for at least some of their professional development activities in 2013 in the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) than the OECD average (34%) (OECD, 2014[9]).

Despite this legal requirement, the take-up of professional development programmes remains low. In 2017, less than half of teachers had achieved 80 credit points over the past 5 years (Politika, 2016[31]). The main reason reported by teachers for not completing the 100-credit requirement is the lack of financial support. The lack of satisfaction with the professional development offer is also a key reason for the low take-up rate (see Figure 3.6). While the main form of professional development in Serbia is seminars provided outside of schools, an internal study by the IIE showed that, as in other countries, teachers value programmes based on in-school peer-learning and research more than seminars organised externally (IIE, 2017[32]).

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Figure 3.6. Percentage of mandatory training completed
Share of surveyed teachers reporting not having completed a percentage of the mandatory 100 credit points of professional development, by reasons for non-completion
Figure 3.6. Percentage of mandatory training completed

Source: IIE (2017[32]), Izveštaj: Ispitivanje Potreba za Stručnim Usavršavnjem [Report: Examining the Needs for Professional Improvement], Institute for Improvement of Education.

copy the linklink copied!Teacher appraisal in Serbia

Teacher appraisal in Serbia is relatively underdeveloped compared to OECD and other Western Balkan countries. School principals and pedagogues are required to carry out regular appraisals of teachers but there is no national guidance to ensure the quality of this process and encourage meaningful feedback. Moreover, while Serbia has an official external appraisal process for teacher promotion as part of the merit-based career structure, this is rarely carried out in practice as few teachers apply for promotion. External appraisers (the school advisors) also do not have adequate time or training to evaluate teachers effectively.

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Table 3.2. Types of teacher appraisal in Serbia

Types of appraisal

Reference standards

Body responsible

Guideline documents

Process

Frequency

Use

Initial certification

Teacher standards

Universities

Law on foundations of the education system

Students need to show successful completion of a master’s degree (300 ECTS credits plus 36 ECTS pedagogical and classroom practice credits)

End of university studies

Qualify to become trainee teacher in a school

Probation appraisal

The school commission

Rulebook on licensing of teachers and professional associates

Trainee teachers present their teaching portfolio and teach a model class in front of the commission

End of the probation period

Allows registration for the certification examination

The certification examination commission

Rulebook on licensing of teachers and professional associates

Candidates prepare a written class plan, teach a class in front of the commission, present how they would resolve a pedagogical situation and answer questions about the education system legal framework

End of the probation period

Successful candidates become fully registered teachers

Regular appraisal

School principal, school pedagogue and psychologist

There are no national guidelines

Schools develop their own classroom observation plan, which often includes details on the frequency, goals and how observation plans and feedback from external evaluation are used

Left to the discretion of schools

Classroom observation is supposed to provide feedback to teachers on the quality of their practice

Appraisal for promotion

School subject council and teacher council, advisor

Rulebook on continuing professional development and advancement of teachers and professional associates

Subject and teacher councils review a teacher’s request for promotion. If both councils agree, a request is sent to the Regional School Authority to conduct an unannounced appraisal by an advisor

At the request of the teacher

Gain a new title within the teacher career structure. Very few teachers apply in practice

Appraisal for reward

No system of appraisal for reward in place

Source: MoESTD (2019[25]), OECD Review of Evaluation and Assessment: Country Background Report for Serbia, Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Belgrade.

Standards of teacher competencies inform professional development

The introduction in 2011 of teacher standards marked an important step in the further professionalisation of teaching in Serbia. These standards are used as a reference for teacher appraisal and for accrediting training programmes, helping to provide more focus and consistency to teacher professional development. The standards cover key competencies that are related to four domains: i) subject knowledge; ii) teaching and learning; iii) student development and support; and iv) communication and co-operation.

However, there are some notable challenges with Serbia’s standards of teacher competencies as currently designed. Importantly, these are not used to accredit initial teacher education. In addition, contrary to practices in OECD countries, the standards do not differentiate competencies expected at the different stages of a teachers’ career. This lack of precision limits the extent to which the standards can be used effectively to steer teacher policies and practices. The standards also focus almost exclusively on classroom practices, while responsibilities at the school level (i.e. involvement in school planning, collaboration with other teachers, mentorship, etc.) are not covered.

Quality of initial certification varies between faculties

As is the case in most OECD countries, universities in Serbia are responsible for the initial certification of teachers at the end of their initial teacher education. However, as mentioned above, weak quality assurance processes mean there are limited mechanisms to ensure that novice teachers have acquired the necessary competencies to teach. Teachers need to have completed 300 ECTS credits (master’s level or equivalent) to be certified but there are no common criteria specifying the type and content of assessments to be used to determine whether teachers meet basic teaching requirements (European Commission, 2016[29]). This is in part because of the lack of specific expected competencies for a novice teacher. These are absent from the teacher standards and there are no other national guidelines on certification requirements.

Teachers must complete a probation period and pass an examination to be fully certified

The probation period in Serbia lasts between one to two years at the end of which the novice teacher takes the confirmation examination to become a licensed teacher. During the probation period, the novice teacher is supposed to receive guidance and feedback from a mentor appointed by the school principal. Teacher-mentors are required by law to have at least five years of teaching experience and have a higher teacher position in the merit-based career structure. Novice teachers and mentors are required to observe 12 hours of each other’s classes. Throughout the probation period, mentors are supposed to provide recommendations for improving teaching and classroom management. Written feedback is included in the novice teacher’s portfolio alongside his or her self-evaluation and records of classroom observations. While this mentorship system compares positively in many respects to probation periods in most OECD countries, it is not always implemented and the quality of mentorship varies between schools. Less than half of novice teachers in Serbia perceived that the mentorship was useful to improve their teaching competencies (Rajović and Radulović, 2012[33]; Rajović and Radulović, 2010[34]). In some cases, teachers are not informed of the mentorship programme or the name of their assigned mentor (Rajović and Radulović, 2012[33]; Rajović and Radulović, 2010[34]).

Probation appraisal in Serbia includes two steps. At the end of the probation period, a school commission, including the school principal, the pedagogue, the psychologist and a teacher from the same subject field as the novice teacher, reviews the teacher’s portfolio. The teacher is also asked to teach a class in front of the school commission. Teachers who receive a positive opinion from the school commission are invited to take the examination which includes: providing a written plan to address a teaching problem; teaching a class in front of the commission; a discussion about the class that the candidate delivered; and sufficient knowledge about the legal framework of the education system. The examination commission is appointed by the minister and includes professors of didactics from the faculties of education, school advisors and legal experts from the ministry.

Quality of regular appraisal varies between schools

According to the school quality standards, school principals in Serbia are responsible for overseeing the quality of teaching and learning in their school. Most school principals include a classroom observation plan in their school plan, detailing the frequency and criteria for observing learning and teaching practices. All the schools visited by the OECD review team had established a classroom observation plan. In most schools visited, the pedagogue (and sometimes the school psychologist) was in charge of setting this observation plan and observing classroom practices to provide feedback to teachers. Classroom observations by principals appear rare. The sample of classroom observation plans looked at by the review team included grids with indicators to appraise the teacher against the teacher standards. These indicators differed between schools. In some plans, the time of the visits was pre-established but not in all. None of the plans included guidelines about providing feedback to teachers or follow-up support.

School principals and pedagogues receive little guidance and support on how to conduct a meaningful teacher appraisal. There are no national guidelines defining the purpose and process of teacher appraisal and no common tools such as descriptors that appraisers can use as a reference point. School principals do not currently receive any training in instructional leadership, such as observing teaching and learning practices and providing feedback to teachers. While a new training programme is being introduced to prepare school principals to take the re-licensing examination, the limited duration of this training (from 2 to 13 days depending on work experience and qualification level, plus 9 additional days of online training) makes it insufficient to cover the practical aspects of appraisal. Moreover, there is no requirement for school principals and pedagogues to undertake training and the professional development offer is very limited.

The regular appraisal of teachers is supposed to inform their individual professional development plan and also feed into discussions on the school professional development plan. However, teachers interviewed by the review team reported that professional development is decided collegially by the teacher council. There is also no feedback loop between the results of regular appraisal in schools and the professional development programmes offered by the IIE.

Promotion appraisal by advisors is not based on teacher standards

To be promoted to one of the four higher levels of teaching, a candidate must submit a formal request to the school. This request is first reviewed by the teacher council, which needs to issue a positive opinion for the application to move forward. An educational advisor from the Regional School Authority (RSA) then conducts two days of appraisal based primarily on classroom observations and a review of the candidate’s documents such as lesson plans, teacher portfolio, documented examples of extracurricular activities, research papers written by the teacher, etc. If the application receives a positive opinion from the teacher council and the advisor, the school principal approves the application.

The limited number of advisors and lack of training and guidelines hinder the quality of this process of external appraisal for promotion. There are about 100 advisors serving 2 000 schools across Serbia. Advisors are responsible for external school evaluation and school supervision, in addition to the appraisal of teachers for promotion. Over the past five years, advisors have focused primarily on external school evaluation leaving aside their other responsibilities. Moreover, advisors do not receive adequate training or guidelines on how to carry out classroom observation as part of a promotion appraisal. While a grid for classroom observation has been developed for school external evaluation, it is unclear if it is also used for external appraisal. As no reference document defines the competencies of different teacher titles, there are no common criteria to assess whether a teacher has the skills and knowledge for the position to which they are applying.

Appraisal for reward

Schools can choose to provide small rewards and bonuses to teachers from their own budget. There are however no national guidelines on the criteria to be considered for these rewards. Some municipalities also provide grants to teachers whose students qualify for the Olympiads academic competitions.

copy the linklink copied!Policy issues

Serbia has introduced major reforms over the past decade aimed at shifting the culture of teaching and learning in schools to be more learner-centred. These reforms, which included the introduction of new learning standards and a competency-based curriculum, require an important and sustained investment in improving teachers’ competencies. To achieve this goal, Serbia needs to revise the teacher career structure to make sure that teachers’ performance is adequately rewarded and that they are provided with incentives and opportunities to improve their competencies throughout their career. This will require making better use of appraisal to inform decisions about selection into the profession and promotion and to identify adequate professional development opportunities.

copy the linklink copied!Policy issue 3.1. Providing teachers with stronger encouragement and incentives to develop their practices and seek higher responsibilities

Serbia was one of the first countries in the Western Balkans to set up a merit-based career structure. However, some important gaps in the design still limit its potential to effectively reward performance and provide teachers with incentives to update their skills, knowledge and practice. Teachers receive no guidance on the type of competencies they need to demonstrate in order to advance in their career and teachers’ salary increases are based mainly on years of experience and not performance or level of responsibility. Thus, more than a decade since the introduction of the merit-based career structure, very few teachers have applied for promotions. Serbia needs to revise the promotion process to make sure it adequately rewards good teaching practices and encourages teachers to develop professionally throughout their career. This will help improve teacher motivation and teaching quality in the education system and, as a result, student learning.

Recommendation 3.1.1. Make sure that expectations and responsibilities at each level in the career structure are well defined and clear for teachers

Contrary to practices in an increasing number of OECD countries, the teacher standards in Serbia do not define specific competencies required in each level of the career structure (Santiago et al., 2013[2]). Such differentiated competencies are necessary to set expectations for how teachers develop their teaching practices and guide a fair and transparent promotion process. Moreover, the role and responsibilities defined by the career structure seem to contradict current practices in most schools. For instance, subject teachers within a school decide on professional development instead of the independent pedagogical advisors as suggested by the career structure. Principals continue to appoint mentors among teachers of the same subject regardless of title. Clarifying expectations and making sure there is strong ownership among teachers and other school practitioners will be key for effectively implementing the career structure.

Revise teacher standards and define competencies needed to move up levels

The standards need to be revised to define the competencies teachers need to acquire and demonstrate to move up the career path. In their current form, the standards do not set an expectation of continuous development and improvement throughout a teacher’s career. They define general competencies expected from all teachers regardless of teacher position with no mention of the career structure. For example, while teachers are expected to play an increasingly important role in shaping teaching and learning practices in their school and region as they move up the career ladder, competencies related to co-ordinating and supporting the work of other teachers are not mentioned. The career structure defines the roles but not the skills, behaviour and knowledge that a teacher needs to demonstrate to be granted higher responsibilities. Serbia can learn from the recent experience of neighbouring North Macedonia in developing differentiated competencies by level in the teaching career. The Ministry of Education in North Macedonia developed teacher standards detailing the competencies expected at different levels, including descriptors and illustrations of competencies by teaching practices (see Box 3.1).

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Box 3.1. Differentiated teacher competencies in the North Macedonian teacher standards

In 2016, the Bureau for Development of Education of the Republic of North Macedonia (BDE), with technical and financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), developed a proposal for a merit-based career structure with different career levels and based on clearly defined teacher standards. It aimed to encourage and reward increasing levels of teaching competency with opportunities to take on new roles and responsibilities. The plans for a 2016 merit-based career structure are a major step towards creating a profession supported and incentivised to grow professionally. However, this proposal is yet to be implemented.

The 2016 teacher standards differentiate between a set values and core professional competencies expected from all teachers and competencies expected from teachers at different levels in the career structure such as teacher-mentors and teacher-advisors. The professional values include: lifelong learning; professional integrity and commitment to the teaching profession; co-operation; equality, inclusion and social justice among others. As for the core competencies expected from all teachers, they refer to the following main areas (each containing subareas):

  1. 1. knowledge of the subject and the educational system

  2. 2. teaching and learning

  3. 3. creating a stimulating learning environment

  4. 4. social and educational inclusion

  5. 5. communication and co-operation with the family and community.

Teacher-mentor competencies build on core competencies and place a stronger emphasis on those related to the promotion of education in the school as a whole. The teacher-mentor, for example, should have skills and abilities directed at increasing the effectiveness of the work of the school and the achievement of its objectives.

Teacher-advisor competencies build on both core professional teacher competencies and those of teacher-mentors. The teacher-advisor should demonstrate leadership aptitudes both in classroom practices but also as a key agent in the promotion of quality educational work at the school and regional levels.

To become teacher-mentors or advisors, teachers need to demonstrate that they have the competencies required for these positions and go through an appraisal process (see table below).

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Teacher-mentor

Teacher-advisor

Responsibilities

Provides guidance and assistance to novice teachers and helps them prepare for the teacher confirmation examination.

Also provides support to other teachers.

Appraises the novice teacher regularly and provides feedback.

Co-ordinates teacher networks.

Monitors and appraises students from teacher education programme during their practicum.

Contributes to school self-evaluation and school planning.

Requirement to reach this career level

External appraisal by BDE advisor or VETC advisor.

External appraisal by BDE advisor or VETC advisor.

VETC = vocational education and training centre.

Source: MCEC (2016[35]), Teacher Core Professional Competences and Standards, Macedonian Civic Education Center.

Identify opportunities for teachers to develop the competencies needed to advance in their career

Once the competencies by level are defined in the standards, it will be important to make sure that teachers are given adequate opportunities to develop these through professional development. Teachers and school principals need to be provided with clear guidance about how different training programmes can help them to deepen their knowledge and skills in a given area. At present, the professional development list prepared by the IIE does not specify the competencies targeted by each accredited programme. To better direct teachers towards professional development opportunities that will help them advance their careers, the IIE should consider:

  • Clearly identifying the competency targeted by each accredited professional development programme based on the revised standards. The accreditation commission should use the revised teacher standards as the main reference document in accrediting programmes. The online catalogue of programmes needs to specify clearly the targeted competency from the revised standard and the teaching level this applies to.

  • Providing school principals, pedagogues and psychologists with clear guidelines on how to help teachers set personal development plans so that training is oriented towards helping teachers acquire the competencies needed to achieve their career goals. This is, for example, the direction Estonia took to encourage better alignment between professional development and their new career structure and improve ownership of the latter among teachers and schools (Ministry of Education and Research, 2015[36]).

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Box 3.2. Competency-based career structure and professional development in Estonia

In 2013, Estonia introduced a new system of teacher professional development requirements in association with a new career structure. Its main aim is to serve as a reference for teachers’ competency development. There are four career grades, which reflect different levels of professional competency and experience: teacher (pre-primary); teacher (primary and secondary); senior teacher; and master teacher.

The career structure is associated with a set of teacher professional standards, which define the competencies for each career stage. Teachers can apply to any of the levels twice a year (April and November). The certification procedure involves two stages: i) an evaluation of a set of documents submitted by the candidate; and ii) an interview. The certification procedure is undertaken by a three-member committee.

The requirement for teachers to undertake professional development (160 hours every 5 years), which was established in 2000, has been discontinued. The objective is to move to a system whereby teachers have the incentive to undertake professional development to gain the competencies needed to access higher stages of the teaching career and perform new roles at schools.

While teachers ultimately choose the professional development activities they undertake, school directors guide this choice and validate those professional development activities which are partially or fully publicly funded. The teacher establishes a professional development plan which, in part, takes into account the school development plan.

Information about available professional development programmes is typically provided by municipalities and school management. Schools and teachers can select professional development from central programmes provided free of charge and from other providers, using individual budgets for professional development.

Source: Santiago, P. et al. (2016[37]), OECD Reviews of School Resources: Estonia 2016, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264251731-en.

Involve teachers and the school community in these revisions and make sure that all teachers are aware of the new standards

The ministry should take active steps to build ownership of the revised standards among the teaching profession and make sure that they are well accepted as the guiding document of teacher policies and practices. Similarly to what was done when the learning standards and the new curriculum were developed, the ministry should continue to consult with teachers, school principals and parents through their representatives in working groups and the National Education Council. There are also many experiences internationally from which the ministry might learn. Australia offers an informative example of how one country sought to solicit extensive teacher input and feedback from teachers in developing teacher standards. In addition to consulting teachers nationwide, the ministry might involve a team of teachers directly in drafting the revised standards, to further build ownership and enhance their practical value. The Mexican experience, where a small group comprising teachers, principals and researchers was created to draft the standards, provides an example of how experts and practitioners with different profiles might be combined in a multi-disciplinary team (see Box 3.3).

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Box 3.3. Consulting and involving teachers in developing teacher standards

Many countries use extensive consultations with teachers, subnational governments and academics to build teachers’ support for new standards. In Australia, teachers have been consulted numerous times on their teacher standards. The consultation process for the 2009 update of the standards involved the participation of federal, state and territorial government experts, regulatory authorities, teachers’ unions, schools and teachers. More than 120 proposals were received and considered in the process of drafting the new standards. The draft standards were piloted across all Australian states, with around 6 000 teachers and principals from hundreds of schools.

Some countries also involve teachers directly in drafting the standards to help gain teacher support and to ensure that the standards reflect teaching practice. Mexico developed draft standards using a 16-member team from 9 states. There were four in-service teachers, two experts in pedagogical technology, two senior officials from local Teacher Resource Centres (Centros de Maestros), one primary school principal, three experts with a background in lifelong learning activities at the state level, one academic specialised in teacher education and three staff members from the education ministry’s General Directorate for Continuous In-service Teacher Training.

Source: Centre of Study for Policies and Practices in Education (CEPPE), Chile (2013[38]), “Learning Standards, Teaching Standards and Standards for School Principals: A Comparative Study”, https://doi.org/10.1787/5k3tsjqtp90v-en.

Recommendation 3.1.2. Revise the appraisal for promotion procedure to ensure fairness and independence

The teacher appraisal for promotion procedure in Serbia does not allow for a more consistent and transparent assessment of teachers’ competencies. Advisors’ lack of training in appraisal and the absence of common tools to appraise teachers are significant gaps in the promotion process. Moreover, professional bodies such as the teacher council play an important role in teacher promotion without having a mandate for teacher appraisal.

Develop guidelines and tools for external appraisal by education advisors

As the ministry revises the teacher standards, it will also need to provide advisors with more tools and guidelines on how to assess teacher performance against these. At the moment, advisors do not receive detailed guidelines on how to conduct an appraisal for promotion. Such guidance is necessary to ensure the fairness of the promotion process by making sure that all teachers are appraised against similar criteria. The ministry needs to develop clear guidelines on how to conduct classroom observations and the interview with the appraised teacher. Such guidelines should provide advisors with a detailed description of how to conduct classroom observations and interview the appraised teacher.

Moreover, developing tools such as indicators and descriptors is necessary to make the appraisal for promotion operational and ensure that judgements are valid and reliable. Many OECD countries have drawn on the four-point performance scale in the Danielson’s Framework for Teaching to develop such instruments (Danielson, 2007[39]). For example, Chile set out in its Good Teaching Framework indicators (criteria teachers need to be evaluated against) and descriptors of good practices in relation to four levels of performance (outstanding, competent, basic and unsatisfactory) (see Box 3.4). The development of such descriptors in Serbia would not only help advisors make a sound professional judgement about teachers’ competencies but also help teachers reflect more meaningfully on their own performance (see Policy issue 3.2).

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Box 3.4. Performance levels and criteria in Chile’s Good Teaching Framework

The Good Teaching Framework that guides appraisal in Chile set out four domains of teacher responsibilities: preparation for teaching; creation of an environment favouring the learning process; teaching that allows the learning process of all students; and professional responsibilities. Each domain is linked to a specific set of criteria that teachers should meet and descriptors that provide examples of how teachers can demonstrate their abilities in a given area:

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Domains

Criteria (the teacher should be prepared to:)

Examples of descriptors

A- Preparation for teaching

A.1. Master the subjects taught and the national curricular framework.

A.2. Know the characteristics, knowledge and experiences of his/her students.

A.3. Master the didactics of the subjects or disciplines taught by him/her

A.4. Organise objectives and content that are consistent with the curricular framework and the characteristics of particular students.

A.5. Use assessment strategies that are consistent with the learning objectives, the subject taught and the national curricular framework and that will allow all students to show what they have learnt.

Descriptors for criterion A1. The teacher:

- knows and understands the core principles and concepts involved in the subject(s) or discipline(s) taught by him/her.

- knows the different perspectives and new developments in the subject(s) or discipline(s) taught by him/her.

- understands the relationship between the contents taught by him/her and the contents taught in other subject(s) or discipline(s).

- masters the principles of the curricular framework and the focus of the subsector taught by him/her.

Four levels are used to describe teacher performance against the standards – outstanding, proficient, basic and poor. Examples of performance at each level are provided for each descriptor. The table below sets out the performance levels for Descriptor A.1.1. – “The teacher knows and understands the core principles and concepts involved in the subject(s) or discipline(s) taught by him/her”:

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Outstanding

The teacher shows a wide knowledge of the contents taught by him/her and establishes connections between such contents and the different aspects of his/her subject or discipline and reality, showing a permanent updating of such knowledge.

Competent

The teacher shows a strong knowledge of the contents taught by him/her and established connections between such contents and the different aspects of his/her subject by relating them to reality.

Basic

The teacher shows a basic knowledge of the contents taught by him/her, but is unable to establish connections with other aspects, or relate them to reality.

Unsatisfactory

The teacher makes mistakes regarding the contents of the subject taught by him/her, and/or is unable to be aware of the mistakes made by the students.

Source: Santiago, P. et al. (2013[2]), Teacher Evaluation in Chile 2013, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264172616-en.

Make external appraisal for promotion the central duty of advisors and ensure that they have the capacity to carry it out

As more teachers are encouraged to apply for promotion as a result of the changes to the career structure and promotion process recommended by this review, the ministry will need to make sure that advisors have the time and skills to visit teachers and conduct an effective appraisal. Currently, this would not be possible as advisors’ time is mostly taken up with external school evaluations. Many teachers met by the review team had never received an external appraisal by an advisor. As further discussed in Chapter 4, the role of advisors in external school evaluation should be revised and reduced to avoid conflict of interest between the evaluation and support role. Their main functions should instead be to conduct the external appraisal of teachers seeking promotion. To ensure fairness, this role should be carried out by advisors from a different RSA than the one attached to the teacher’s school in order to avoid conflict of interest. Advisors from the school’s RSA would focus on providing follow-up support to low-performing schools (see Chapter 4).

This will require improving the advisors’ capacity to make a fair and reliable judgement about teachers’ competencies. Advisors should receive additional training on how to conduct teacher appraisal and in particular how to assess teaching and learning practices in the classroom. Advisors in Serbia currently receive training from the Institute for Education Quality and Education (IEQE) to conduct external school evaluation, which covers classroom observations of teaching and learning practices. However, this is not sufficient in term of scope and depth. Advisors require training specific to teacher appraisal for promotion. This training should cover not only how to conduct the appraisal process and form a judgement about teachers’ competency but also how to provide feedback to teachers and to school principals on how to help teachers improve.

Revise the roles of the school principal and teacher council in the promotion process

The teacher council plays a disproportionate role in the appraisal process compared to most other OECD and European countries. While peer evaluators may be involved in the regular appraisal of their colleagues in some OECD countries, it is very unusual that they provide an opinion on the promotion of a colleague (OECD, 2013[1]). This is because of the difficulty of ensuring the objectivity and fairness of such practice, which is critical to maintaining a high-stakes decision. It may indeed lead to rewarding loyalty to the teacher council instead of competency.

The ministry should consider replacing the role of the teacher council with input from the school principal and the pedagogue. School principals and pedagogues are responsible in Serbia for classroom observation and regular teacher appraisal and are therefore best positioned to provide a professional judgement about a teacher’s readiness to take on a new role. As discussed in Policy issue 3.2, both school principals, pedagogues and psychologists would benefit from improved training and additional support to ensure that regular appraisal provides more meaningful information about teachers’ competencies.

Recommendation 3.1.3. Strengthen the link between teacher performance and reward

The lack of financial incentives limits the number of teachers applying for higher positions in Serbia. Keeping salary progression purely based on years of experience signals that quality of teaching and good performance are not rewarded (OECD, 2005[40]). Serbia needs to make sure that there is a decent salary increase between levels of the teaching career structure. The ministry might also explore additional ways to make sure that good teaching performance is recognised and valued. Such policies will encourage teachers to develop as professionals and progressively contribute to increasing teachers’ motivation and job satisfaction (OECD, 2005[40]).

Link the career structure to the pay scale

Contrary to most OECD countries where salary increase is an integral part of the merit-based career structure, teachers’ salaries in Serbia increase based only on years of experience. This partly explains the low numbers of teachers seeking promotion. The ministry is aware of this issue and has announced that it will align salary increases with the career structure for teachers as part of a broader reform of the salary structure in the public service. However, the teacher unions are opposing this reform, as they believe that the salary increase is minimal and well below that provided to other public servants, in particular in the health sector. The ministry should make sure that the salary is progressive enough to reward performance and that the starting salary is sufficient to attract and retain talented teachers. Many OECD countries have also faced a similar trade-off between increasing the base salary and allowing for greater salary progression. Countries with a demographic decline such as Serbia tend to focus more on salary progression to reward and incentivise teachers already in the profession (OECD, 2019[23]). However, given the very low average salary in Serbia, the ministry might need to consider an increase to the base salary as well in order to compete with the private sector.

Develop other forms of recognition

Beyond salary increase, other forms of external recognition can help motivate teachers to improve their practices and provide a signal as to what the Serbian education system expects of its teachers. For instance, the ministry and the IIE can consider:

  • Publicly recognising exceptional teachers who have demonstrated outstanding ability to inspire and engage their students and improve their learning. For example, many OECD countries such as Ireland or the United States give a “teacher of the year” award every year to celebrate talented and dedicated teachers. The National Teacher Awards in Ireland celebrates outstanding contributions by teachers who go “beyond the classroom to establish a lasting impact in their students’ lives”. Such awards can have different prize categories based on the national teacher standards and the priorities outlined in the National Education Strategy. For example, it can include an award for “most promising new teachers” for novice teachers who demonstrate exceptional competencies during their probation period. To give more visibility to the ministry’s priority of improving classroom assessment practices, a teacher award might also be given to teachers who show “outstanding commitment to inclusive and student-led assessment practices”.

  • Giving schools a small grant they can distribute to teachers as a reward for good performance. While school principals can be given some discretion on how these funds are allocated, they also need to be provided with guidelines on the criteria that might be used. This is important to ensure bonus schemes reinforce the teaching practices Serbia values. For example, the “encourage more teacher co-operation” criteria might include teachers who contribute to improving teaching and learning at the school level either through their involvement in subject groups, the school self-evaluation team or other peer-learning groups. The guidelines should also clarify how teacher success in improving student learning might be measured. At present, some municipalities award teachers bonuses on the basis of student success in Olympiads. This sends the wrong message to the teaching profession by encouraging a narrow focus on a few high performing advantaged students rather than the learning of all students. Alternative criteria might include progress in raising outcomes for disadvantaged students or improving school performance as a whole in national examinations.

copy the linklink copied!Policy issue 3.2. Improving the developmental value of regular in-school appraisal

Schools in Serbia are given a lot of flexibility in how they organise and use the results of teacher regular appraisal. Each school sets up a classroom observation plan as part of its annual plan and a school professional development plan. However, as there is no national framework for teacher regular appraisal defining the desired purpose and good practices, the quality of regular appraisal varies significantly between schools. School principals and pedagogues’ limited training on appraisal also contributes to the lack of consistency in the quality of regular appraisal across schools. The IIE needs to provide schools with clearer directions on how to meaningfully implement and use regular teacher appraisal. It should also provide more opportunities for training in this area.

Recommendation 3.2.1. Develop clear guidelines and tools for in-school appraisal

There is currently no national framework defining the purpose of in-school appraisal and guiding practices across schools. In the absence of such a framework, schools develop their own appraisal processes and tools, often without a clear sense of purpose or suitable methods. As a result, plans vary significantly between schools in terms of quality. For instance, in most of the classroom observation plans seen by the review team, no mention is made of teacher professional development or feedback to teachers. Developing national guidelines and tools is necessary to help schools put in place reliable and valid teacher appraisal processes and help build the professional capacity to take greater ownership and leadership of teacher development in the future.

Clearly articulate the purpose of in-school regular appraisal

The IIE needs to develop national guidelines for in-school appraisal that clearly define the purpose of the practice. In many OECD countries, in-school teacher appraisal by the school principal or peers is used to identify individual teachers’ professional development goals and needs, and to feed into school planning for external and in-school teacher (OECD, 2013[1]). Establishing a close connection between in-school teacher appraisal and professional development is important, both because regular, informal observations provide a valuable source of information about teachers’ development needs, and because it ensures appraisal has an active function rather than serving as just a formal obligation (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[8]). While teachers in Serbia are expected to have an individual professional development plan and schools are expected to set a school professional development plan, there are no national guidelines on how to use appraisal to inform these two plans. Moreover, school staff provide an opinion about teachers’ career promotion that is not informed by evidence from the in-school appraisal process. The in-school appraisal process in Serbia could be improved by specifying three main purposes:

  • Set up individual teacher professional development plans. The regular appraisal should identify teachers’ level of competencies against the revised teacher standards suggested by this review. Based on the results of the regular appraisal, and with the help of the school pedagogue and school principal, the appraised teacher would define a professional development plan identifying the key areas for improvement and opportunities to develop competencies. This development plan should be perceived as a continuous process and updated regularly based on appraisal results and evolving teacher and school goals (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[8]).

  • Develop a school-wide development plan. Regular teacher appraisal results should feed into the overall school self-evaluation process to identify priority areas for school-wide professional development. Establishing school-wide plans is important both to foster a culture of collaboration and peer learning among teachers and to generate a sense of shared commitment to the school and its values and goals.

  • Inform school principals’ decision to validate a promotion appraisal. That school principals contribute to decisions on promotion is a positive feature of appraisal for promotion in Serbia. The school principal’s opinion is indeed an important part of the external evaluation process as it provides a more complete view of the appraised teacher’s performance over time. In OECD countries that have developed a strong professional corps of school leaders, appraisal for promotion is almost exclusively carried out by school principals (OECD, 2013[1]). While Serbia is still far from able to adopt fully a similar model, school principals’ opinion about the teachers’ readiness to move up the career ladder needs to be based on sound evidence about their competencies. It thus needs to reference results of regular appraisals explicitly.

Develop clear guidelines on how to undertake in-school appraisals

While it is important to give schools some flexibility to design a regular appraisal process that responds to the needs of their teachers, it is also important to provide them with clear direction as to what good appraisal is and how to make sure that it helps teacher develop and grow as professionals. To do so, the IIE should provide schools with detailed guidelines that describe the following:

  • The frequency and steps to follow: Appraisal should be built around a series of meaningful, simple steps that need to be clear for teachers, school principals and pedagogues. Ideally, this would start with the teacher’s self-assessment of his/her performance and goals, and be built around ongoing, relatively informal review of and feedback on a teacher’s teaching practices throughout the year by the principal, pedagogue or higher pedagogical advisor. A final discussion with the teacher at the end of the year provides an opportunity to jointly take stock of achievements and challenges, and develop development goals for the following year.

  • The sources of evidence to be used: While most schools in Serbia organise classroom observations by the pedagogue and the school principal, they do not seem to use other sources of evidence about teachers’ competencies, such as surveys, teacher self-assessment and teacher portfolios. Triangulating different sources of evidence is essential to have a complete picture of a teacher’s strengths and development needs (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[8]). Each source provides different information as detailed in Table 3.3.

  • National classroom observation guidelines: The IEQE should provide schools with clear direction on how to conduct a classroom observation that generates meaningful information about teaching and learning. Classroom observation is indeed the only direct measure of teaching practices and is, therefore, a key source to identify how teachers can improve their practices (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[8]). Effective classroom observation focuses primarily on observing how teachers interact with students in the classroom as part of the teaching and learning process (OECD, 2013[41]).

  • Discussion guidelines: The IIE should provide school principals and pedagogues with guidelines on how to conduct the discussion with teachers and provide them with meaningful feedback. The discussion should help orient teachers towards adequate professional development opportunities and provide them with concrete examples of how to improve their practices (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[8]).

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Table 3.3. The different sources of evidence to be used in regular appraisal

Classroom observation

Classroom observation is used to gather direct evidence of teacher-student interaction, and the learning environment. Other factors of quality teaching and learning can be observed indirectly through checking documents such as the lesson plan and samples of student work.

Effective classroom observation needs to have systematic processes of data collection and analysis to ensure comparability of results.

Students and parents’ surveys

Surveys provide information regarding students and parents perception of teachers’ practice. These surveys allow for these two groups to share their vision on a teacher’s quality based on their interaction with them.

Moreover, research shows that surveys of students and parents on their views of the quality of teaching provide valuable information about some aspects of teaching such as a teacher’s capacity to provide instructional and emotional support to students.

Teacher portfolio

The use of portfolios allows teachers to provide meaningful information related to what they believe best represents their practice. Portfolios require teachers to reflect on various aspects of their practice, and that reflection can be used for both teacher learning and appraisal.

An effective teacher portfolio should include examples of instructional data about student learning, teaching challenges and reflections on practice, in order to enable teachers to have meaningful conversations with school principals, coaches and mentors about specific needs in professional development.

Teacher self-assessment

Teacher self-appraisal allows teachers to express their own views about their performance, and reflect on different factors (personal, organisational and institutional) that had an impact on their teaching.

Discussion between appraiser and teacher

It is through discussing and reflecting on appraisal results that appraisal supports professional learning. The discussion between the appraiser and the appraised teacher should be intentionally focused on how to improve teaching and offer recommendations for change in practice. It should also orient the appraised teacher towards adequate professional learning opportunities.

Sources: Goe, L., K. Biggers and A. Croft (2012[8]), Linking Teacher Evaluation to Professional Development: Focusing on Improving Teaching and Learning, https://gtlcenter.org/sites/default/files/docs/LinkingTeacherEval.pdf (accessed on 21 October 2019); OECD (2013[1]); Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264190658-en; UKEssays (2016[42]), Definition and Overview of Classroom Observation, www.ukessays.com/essays/education/definition-and-overview-of-classroom-observation-education-essay.php (accessed on 24 May 2019).

Provide tools to schools to make a reliable judgement about teachers’ competencies and identify opportunities for development

School principals and pedagogues also need to have reliable tools to evaluate teachers’ competencies and provide meaningful feedback to teachers about how they can improve their practices. Such standard tools are particularly important in Serbia where in-school capacity for appraisal remains low. The IIE should consider providing schools with:

  • Clear qualitative descriptors of what good teaching looks like: Descriptors provide concrete examples of how a teacher might demonstrate the competencies included in teacher standards (OECD, 2013[1]). This helps teachers better understand expectations and guides school principals and pedagogues in forming a judgement about teachers’ competencies. An increasing number of countries also provide videos that illustrate different competencies and how they relate to effective teaching and learning. In Australia for example, short videos of classroom practices illustrate the key competencies included in the teacher standards (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2017[43])

  • Teacher appraisal grids: The IIE could also develop a grid to help school principals and pedagogues make an informed judgement. The grid would include qualitative scores for each indicator from the teacher standards, such as “fully achieved”, “in process of achievement”, “not at all achieved”. The grid should include space for the evaluator to describe why a score is given, using the teacher standards and descriptors as a reference point.

  • Appraisal feedback templates: Besides providing feedback face-to-face during a structured discussion, teachers should also be given written feedback. This feedback should clearly identify strengths and areas where further development is needed, as well as suggesting ways to improve. The IIE should develop a feedback template with clear headings and prompts. This will help school principals and pedagogues provide meaningful comments to teachers. Written feedback is important as it can be used as a reference by teachers and schools to track progress. It can also inform a decision on a teacher’s promotion.

  • Tools to identify opportunities for professional development that correspond to the needs of teachers: In the short term, the IIE should clearly label the competencies targeted by each approved training programme and encourage school principals and pedagogues to use the catalogue of professional development programmes in their feedback to teachers. Over the medium term, the IIE can invest in tools that automatically suggest possible professional development opportunities based on appraisal results. Some education systems are for instance experimenting with an electronic feedback template, linked to the professional development platform, to suggest to appraisers professional development tools and programmes for their teachers. Learning Sciences International, a United States-based firm, developed the iObservation tool which directly links appraisal scores with professional development resources such as books or curriculum materials (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[8]).

Recommendation 3.2.2. Invest in developing in-school capacity for appraisal

In-school capacity for reviewing teaching practices and providing feedback for development is relatively limited in Serbia. School principals and pedagogues receive little to no training on how to appraise teachers and provide constructive feedback on teaching practices. There was no initial training for new principals until very recently and the new programme is limited in scope and length. Pedagogues’ initial training is almost exclusively theoretical and based largely on outdated views of pedagogy and education. There is no mandatory continuous professional development for school principals and pedagogues. This lack of training undermines the legitimacy and value of the appraisal process. Teachers sometimes perceive classroom observation by the school principal as a control mechanism instead of a formative process.

Moreover, teachers themselves may struggle to reflect critically on their practices and identify their own development needs. This is particularly apparent when comparing the areas for improvement identified by the external school evaluation with those identified by teachers in a survey carried out by the IIE in 2017. The external school evaluation identifies teaching and learning as the area of school practice where most schools struggle. Indeed, the latest national report on school external evaluation shows that teachers in a majority of Serbian basic education schools are unable to adapt their teaching to the needs of students. The external evaluation also finds that teachers’ capacity to use assessment for learning is weak in almost half of the evaluated schools (IEQE, 2017[44]). However, teachers surveyed by the IIE prioritise other areas for development and ranked student assessment as low in the areas where they need urgent training (IIE, 2017[32]).

Develop school principals’ and pedagogues’ capacity for regular appraisal and feedback

In the immediate term, Serbia should invest in improving the appraisal capacity of pedagogues and school principals already in service. Including appraisal and feedback as competencies reviewed by the school principal appraisal process can be an effective way to encourage school principals to improve in these key components of their school instructional leadership role. School principals and pedagogues also need to be given opportunities to develop their appraisal competencies. Such opportunities could include:

  • A practical training programme as part of the licensing process: Candidates for the position of school principal should be required to take a course on how to appraise teachers. This course should cover the practical questions of appraisal such as how to conduct a classroom observation and provide meaningful feedback to teachers.

  • Peer learning and coaching opportunities: School advisors can pair up school principals struggling with teacher appraisal with more experienced ones in their region to promote peer learning. Advisors can target this type of support at principals in schools that did not meet the school quality indicator “6.2: The school shall have a functioning system in place for monitoring and evaluating the quality of performance” during the external school evaluation.

  • Exchanging good practices and materials on an online platform: As recommended in Chapter 4 of this report, the ministry should create an online platform for school improvement where schools can access among other things examples of good classroom observation plans and download templates for teacher appraisal.

Over the medium term, Serbia should introduce an initial training programme for school principals and revise that of pedagogues to focus more on the instructional leadership competencies that are part of their role (see Chapter 4). This would require stronger oversight over university programmes and developing standards for both professions of school principals and pedagogues. Once the revised teacher standards are introduced, the ministry should consider opening training opportunities and coaching to higher pedagogical advisors and involve them more actively in regular appraisal.

Develop teachers’ capacity to reflect critically on their training needs

The IIE has developed a self-appraisal tool that teachers can use to reflect on their practices and identify their training needs. However, this tool is not systematically used. Self-appraisal allows teachers to play a more active role in their professional development by reflecting on their teaching practice, the personal organisational and institutional factors that may influence this practice, as well as their competencies and those they would like to develop. Self-appraisal can also encourage teachers to set their own professional development goals and objectives for their teaching (OECD, 2013[1]). To encourage better use of the self-appraisal tool, the IIE should consider:

  • Encouraging school principals and pedagogues to use the self-appraisal tool as a basis for discussions with teachers. In the appraisal discussion guidelines recommended by this chapter, the IIE should include clear prompts for in-school appraisers to reference self-appraisal in their discussion with teachers. Effective self-appraisal gives a perspective of a teacher’s practice that is complementary to classroom observation and helps to ensure feedback addresses teacher perceptions and other important subjective elements.

  • Providing training to teachers on how to reflect on their own competencies. The IIE could also provide a training module on self-appraisal for teachers. This training would explain to teachers why self-appraisal matters and how it can be helpful in developing their teaching practices and sense of self-efficacy.

copy the linklink copied!Policy issue 3.3. Making sure that professional development opportunities meet the needs of teachers

Improving the teacher appraisal system needs to go hand in hand with improving the quality of continuous professional development. Without a link to adequate professional development opportunities, the regular appraisal process is not sufficient to enhance teaching performance and risks being perceived as a meaningless exercise by teachers (Danielson, 2007[39]). In Serbia, take-up of professional development is very limited compared to OECD countries (OECD, 2014[9]). This is in part because teachers and schools lack financial resources to access training, and also the result of some dissatisfaction with the current offer of training programmes. Professional development is mainly provided outside of schools in seminars or workshops which are known to have limited impact on the improvement of teaching and learning (OECD, 2014[9]; Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[8]). The professional development offered to teachers does not seem to focus on some key skills gaps, such as the use of learning standards. A study of teachers’ views in Serbia has indeed shown that teachers consider the introduction of learning standards as meaningless and ignore these standards in their daily practice (IIE, 2017[32]). To make sure that teachers are provided with authentic opportunities to learn and develop their competencies, the IIE needs to improve the content of training provided by linking it more systematically to teacher appraisal results. It also needs to improve the way this training is delivered by focusing more on in-school training and peer learning.

Recommendation 3.3.1. Use information from appraisal to identify teacher development needs

Teachers’ continuous professional development in Serbia tends to be only loosely linked to the results of regular teacher appraisal. As there are no national guidelines, results of in-school appraisal are not always used to determine teachers’ professional development needs. For example, teachers met by the review team reported that choice of professional development programmes is mostly decided collegially by the teacher council. There is also no expectation that teachers address the gaps in skills and knowledge identified by the appraisal process through professional development. In addition, the supply of professional development programmes does not systematically reflect the needs in training identified by the appraisal process. The IIE commission in charge of accrediting training programmes does not use results of appraisal as a source of information to determine focus areas. The IIE needs to make better use of information from the teacher appraisal system to improve the quality of the professional development programmes that it offers and ensure that serious weaknesses in teaching practice do not go unaddressed. Including clearer professional development requirements in individual teacher plans as recommended above would help to ensure that teachers make the most of training programmes available.

Systematically collect information about teachers’ development needs

To make sure that the supply of professional development opportunities meets teachers’ training needs, the IIE should develop a systematic process to collect information about the major gaps in knowledge and skills across schools. The agency surveyed 3 499 teachers and 217 principals in 2017 to better understand their professional development needs and get their feedback on the quality of training provided. However, the IIE is not planning to use such surveys regularly due to limited funding. The IIE needs to be provided with the funds to develop systematic ways to collect information about teachers’ professional development needs:

  • Asking advisors, school principals, psychologists and pedagogues to regularly fill in a simple questionnaire about training priorities identified in their schools: As the main people responsible for appraisal in Serbia, advisors, school principals, psychologists and pedagogues are best positioned to understand the recurring needs in training at a school level (principals and pedagogues) or a region level (advisors). The IIE should make the most of this knowledge by requiring that they fill in a simple annual questionnaire identifying the gaps in teachers’ competencies they encountered. This questionnaire should map the needs against the teacher standards and national priorities. Such practice would also improve school principals and pedagogues’ capacity to reflect in a systematic manner and develop a common understanding of the training needs in their school.

  • Triangulating results of appraisals with evidence from national assessments and external school evaluation: The IIE should make use of the depth of information included in the national report on external school evaluation to identify the priority areas for training. The external school evaluation report developed by the IEQE for the 2015-17 cycle of evaluation provides information about the areas of teaching and learning most in need of improvement. For example, teachers in almost half of the schools evaluated in 2017 had difficulties adapting teaching to students’ needs and using formative assessment. This information should be used to decide what topic should be a priority for training. In the medium term, the IIE should also use the national student assessment currently developed to identify the gaps in student learning and make sure that teachers are provided with opportunities to improve their teaching in these areas.

Make sure that major gaps in competencies are effectively addressed

It is important that major gaps in teachers’ competencies that directly affect student learning be systematically addressed through mandatory training. To do so, school principals should be given the authority to require teachers who do not meet the satisfactory benchmark in some key indicators undertake training in these areas. In Chile, for example, teachers who obtain a “basic” or “poor” rating in appraisal are required to set and follow a professional development plan to improve their competencies (Santiago et al., 2013[2]). For such a system to work, it is primordial that schools are provided with standardised tools and guidelines to appraise teachers. It is also recommended that training in those key competency areas be free of charge for both the school and teachers so that schools in poor areas are not disadvantaged.

Recommendation 3.3.2. Develop in-school professional development opportunities and peer learning

In-school professional development, in particular when collaborative and based on peer-leaning, is recognised as more effective than out-of-school training such as seminars. In-school training relates more closely to teachers’ actual classroom environment and can thus better target the needs of a particular school. Peer-learning activities among teachers of the same school or a broader network are especially helpful, both in terms of encouraging continuous learning and in terms of developing teacher confidence and agency (Schleicher, 2016[45]; OECD, 2013[1]). In Serbia, there is an emerging culture of in-school collaboration and peer learning between teachers. For example, recent studies have shown that teachers strongly value collaboration and peer learning with other teachers in the school and feel that they contribute better to their professional development than out-of-school seminars (IIE, 2017[32]). All schools have teacher councils and subject groups that play an important role in defining the school professional development plan. The joint United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and IEQE SHARE project, which promotes classroom observation by peers, is also a good example of this developing culture of collaboration and peer learning (UNICEF, n.d.[46]). However, several hurdles limit the transformation of this emerging practice into a lever for systemic change. Lack of funding for in-school professional development and limited national guidance for schools on how to organise such training are some of the main constraints.

Secure resources for in-school professional development

Providing schools with grants to organise in-school professional development activities is necessary to encourage collaborative learning between teachers. Most Serbian schools currently lack such resources. Local governments are responsible for funding continuous professional development; however, the resources available are relatively limited and vary across localities (MoESTD, 2019[25]). Many schools have to fundraise or find other means to fund professional development activities, which creates inequity between those in rich and poor areas. As part of the national school improvement strategy recommended by this report (see Chapter 4), the ministry should allocate funds directly to schools to organise professional development activities. In return, the external school evaluation should check that professional development programmes and peer-learning activities are effectively organised and that they respond to the needs of teachers (see Chapter 4).

Develop schools’ capacity for collaborative professional learning

In order to promote collaboration and peer learning in and between schools, it will be important that the IIE provides guidance and training to schools on the type of activities to implement. The IIE should build on the strong presence of teacher councils and subject groups in schools to develop a culture of meaningful collaborative learning. To do so the IIE should consider:

  • Using a train-the-trainer model: The IIE should consider training one teacher per subject group in each school in how to conduct classroom observations, provide feedback and work collectively to improve lesson plans. The trained teachers would then be responsible for co-ordinating peer-learning activities in their subject group. The IIE could also follow the example of Georgia and focus first on some priority subjects such as mathematics. The Ministry of Education in Georgia trained facilitators in primary schools between 2011 and 2017 to co-ordinate the work of teacher learning circles in their schools (OECD, 2019[47]). As the experience of Georgia shows, such models are most effective when trainers are carefully selected and receive sustained technical support. In Georgia, selected facilitators received training as well as guidelines and templates to use for peer-learning activities.

  • Encouraging the use of peer learning: Schools would also benefit from receiving guidelines about the most effective methods of training such as content-based collaborative inquiry, resources to put such training in place, as well as a list of programme providers that can help schools set up this training (Kedzior and Fifield, 2004[48]).

  • Expanding the SHARE programme: The IIE should expand the SHARE project, piloted by UNICEF and the IEQE in 20 schools, and make it available for all schools. As in the pilot programme, results of school evaluation should be used to determine schools not meeting minimum quality standards and match them with schools that demonstrate good teaching and learning practices. In the medium term, such peer learning between schools could also be offered to schools performing at the mid-level that want to improve their practices.

Develop online tools to foster peer learning and collaboration between schools

With the help of UNICEF, the IIE is starting to develop an e-learning platform for teachers as part of ongoing training for the new curriculum reform. This e-learning platform contains training material and aims to provide a depository of lesson plans prepared by training instructors and teachers. This positive initiative could be developed further by allowing teachers to upload and share lesson plans and assessment examples. It also needs to be sustained beyond the context of the current curriculum reform. To do so, the IIE should secure long-term funding for the maintenance and development of the platform over time. It will also need to think of options to ensure that the material shared on the platform meet minimum quality requirements. For example, this can be done by encouraging peer-reviewing of materials uploaded to the platform. In Moscow, Russian Federation, for example, teachers upload their lesson plans to a municipal platform and these materials are reviewed by moderators before being made visible on the platform (Mos.ru, 2016[49]).

copy the linklink copied!Policy issue 3.4. Preparing and selecting a new generation of teachers

The ministry needs to make sure that it is hiring talented new teachers who are prepared in new teaching approaches that align with the curriculum (i.e. learner-centred, competency-based and inclusive education). Countries with strong education systems invest significantly in making sure they attract and select talented and motivated candidates into the teaching profession and provide them with adequate training to develop the competencies required to be effective teachers (Schleicher, 2015[50]). Serbia is still far from having a quality initial teacher preparation model that trains, selects and supports new teachers meaningfully. While the quality of initial teacher education in universities is good at developing subject knowledge and traditional teaching practices, there are deficiencies in terms of developing modern pedagogical skills. Once in school, novice teachers do not always have access to adequate feedback and opportunities to develop their practices. The limited posts available for new graduates is also holding back efforts to renew teaching practices. The education system is currently not hiring new teachers, which both limits the renewal of ideas and methods and creates a risk of shortages in the future as the teaching workforce ages.

Recommendation 3.4.1. Select and provide in-school support to motivated and talented new teachers

The Ministry of Education is aware that it needs to address the quality of initial teacher education and select into the profession candidates that have met minimum standards of competencies. It is indeed common knowledge in Serbia that many subject teachers enter the classroom without having had any training in pedagogy or having been in a classroom as part of a teaching practicum. The content taught in the faculties of education is often outdated and not aligned with the student-centred approach of the new curriculum (European Commission, 2016[29]). The lack of quality standards in teacher education content and certification also creates heterogeneity between programmes and universities. The ministry needs to improve the quality assurance of teacher education programmes and ensure that selection into the teaching profession is fair and based on teachers’ competencies.

Significantly strengthen quality assurance for initial teacher preparation programmes

Quality assurance in initial teacher education programmes in Serbia is relatively less rigorous than in most OECD and EU countries. Accreditation criteria are not specific to the teacher education programme and thus cannot serve as guidelines for making sure that teacher education programmes meet minimum quality. The only requirement specific to initial teacher education programme is that of providing an in-school practicum. The accreditation commission also lacks the resources to organise follow-ups and check that essential requirements, such as a high-quality, well-integrated practicum, are in place. If new graduates are to drive improvements in schooling, then teacher education will need to become more selective and of higher quality. Steps that Serbia might take include:

  • Setting programme-specific accreditation criteria: The ministry should consider setting accreditation criteria specific to initial teacher education programmes and similar to models Australia and some states in the United States, with accreditation criteria specific to initial teacher education programmes, in addition to the general criteria applicable to all tertiary programmes (OECD, 2019[51]). These should be developed in line with the revised teacher standards and expectations for novice teachers.

  • Developing guidelines that set out the requirements for different programme types, including the design and duration of the practicum. Research shows that a good practicum focuses on the active participation of the trainee teacher in both classroom teaching and broader school practices including observing peers’ classes and participating in school self-evaluation (OECD, 2019[51]).

  • Limiting the number of state-funded places available in initial teacher programmes. The ministry needs to make sure that the number of scholarships available for teacher education reflects more closely projections of needs in the teaching profession for the coming years. This is particularly important in Serbia given the demographic decline and the need to reduce the overall supply of teachers, alongside evidence of growing shortages of teachers in some subjects.

  • Setting minimum entry requirements. As the ministry is introducing a centralised selection system into higher education using the new State Matura, it can set minimum scores in Serbian language and mathematics for entry into teacher education programmes. Such practice in place in some high-performing education systems such as Finland and Korea helps make sure that candidates attained basic level of competencies before entering initial teacher education programmes. This is particularly important given that most students entering teacher education programme were among the low performers in upper secondary education.

This review recommends that Serbia undertakes an in-depth review of initial teacher programmes to examine the feasibility of these and other options.

Introduce a certification and selection examination at the end of initial teacher education

These reforms to initial teacher preparation will take time. In the immediate term, the ministry should consider introducing a national qualification examination at the end of initial teacher education to ensure that candidates have met the minimum requirements to become a teacher. In OECD countries with similar practices, qualification examinations include an assessment of teachers’ subject knowledge, pedagogy and basic numeracy and literacy skills (Hobson et al., 2010[52]). For example, prospective teachers in Germany have to pass the Second State Examination after initial teacher education (see Box 3.5). The content of this national qualification examination should be informed by the competencies expected of a novice teacher in the revised teacher standards recommended by this review. Moreover, as Serbia is facing an oversupply of teachers, the ministry should consider introducing quotas by subjects so that the threshold to pass the exam would vary depending on available openings.

Introducing a national qualification examination will also put pressure on universities to adapt their programmes to meet the standards of the qualification examination. For example, faculties training subject teachers must make sure that the courses in pedagogy and psychology they provide prepare their students adequately to take the qualification examination. Making universities’ pass rates in the national examination public will also help inform the choices of students and further incentivise universities to invest in the quality of their training.

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Box 3.5. The Second State Examination in Germany

Following the completion of initial teacher education (a consecutive three-year bachelor’s and two-year masters’ degree, concluded by the First State Examination) and of the preparatory service (that consists of teaching practicum and attending teachers’ seminars), prospective teachers must pass the Second State Examination (Staatsexamination). The Second State Examination has to be taken before a state examination board or a state examination commission.

Although the content varies across Länder, the Second State Examination usually consists of four parts (some states only have three components to the examination). The first part consists of the majority of Länder submitting a major written paper relating to educational theory, pedagogic psychology or the didactics of one of the subjects studied. Second, prospective teachers have to pass an oral practical teaching examination involving demonstration lessons in the chosen subjects. The third part consists of an examination on basic questions of educational theory, educational and civil service legislation and school administration, and occasionally on sociological aspects of school education. The fourth part consists of an examination on didactic and methodological issues in the subjects studied. It generally includes a written thesis, an oral assessment and a demonstration/evaluation of teaching skills. Nearly all teachers pass this examination. The weighting of each component of the Second State Examination varies across the Länder. The second Staatsexamination is a prerequisite for but not a guarantee of permanent employment in the state school sector.

For alternative routes into teaching, candidates must have a master’s degree, which must include “at least two teaching-related subjects”, and complete the preparatory service and Second State Examination or a state-approved equivalent.

Sources: NCEE (2019[53]), Germany: Teacher and Principal Quality, http://ncee.org/what-we-do/center-on-international-education-benchmarking/top-performing-countries/germany-overview/germany-teacher-and-principal-quality-2/ (accessed on 17 October 2019); Eurodyce (2019[54]), Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/initial-education-teachers-working-early-childhood-and-school-education-30_en (accessed on 24 May 2019); Krueger, M. (2017[55]), Teacher Education in Germany, http://entep.unibuc.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/NAT_REPORTS_KRUEGER.pdf (accessed on 17 October 2019).

Develop the mentorship programme of novice teachers

Mentorship programmes are an effective way to help new teachers develop their classroom practices, build their confidence and learn from their more experienced peers (OECD, 2010[56]). They are particularly important in countries like Serbia where the quality of initial teacher education varies a lot between faculties and where opportunities for practical training are limited. Serbia has a mentorship programme targeting novice teachers, which is positive. However, mentors in charge of providing support to teachers receive no training on how to observe classroom practice and provide feedback to mentees. The guidelines for mentorship have also not been updated since 2007 and are thus not aligned with more recent reforms such as the introduction of teacher standards. In the immediate term, the IIE should consider:

  • Introducing mandatory training for all appointed mentors on how to conduct classroom observation, provide feedback, help teachers develop a professional development plan and form an informed judgement about the novice teacher’s readiness to apply for full certification.

  • Updating the mentoring manual: Once Serbia introduces teacher standards for novice teachers, it will be important to make sure that mentors are provided with clear guidelines on how to help mentees move from novice to confirmed teachers by updating the 2007 manual. The new manual should include classroom observation descriptors and templates as well as guidelines on how to provide constructive feedback to teachers.

  • Creating a network of teacher-mentors that work with several schools. Giving the demographic changes in Serbia, there will not be a need for teacher-mentors in every school. Mentors can thus be assigned across several schools and work in a network to exchange ideas and practices. The RSAs can co-ordinate this as part of their role in ensuring quality in schools.

  • Checking that schools are effectively offering quality mentorship to novice teachers: The external school evaluation should check if schools are providing novice teachers with adequate support (i.e. availability of a mentor and quality of the mentorship provided). Issues related to mentorship should trigger follow-up from the RSA.

Over the medium term, and in order to further professionalise this key function, only teachers qualified as pedagogical advisors should be appointed as mentors. School principals and pedagogues should review the quality of mentorship provided as part of the regular appraisal process.

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Box 3.6. Mentorship programmes in OECD countries

In Finland, a pilot induction programme called Osaava Verme (Expert Peer Group Mentoring) was launched in 2008. This programme consists of monthly meetings for teams of new teachers facilitated by experienced and trained teachers and supported by the expertise of eight teacher preparation institutions.

In Queensland (Australia), the Mentoring Beginning Teachers (MBT) programme aims to support beginning teachers with mentorship and their schools with increased funding. Beginning teachers are selected for the programme according to the following criteria:

  • be provisionally registered with the Queensland College of Teachers

  • have worked for less than 200 days

  • be employed permanently or on a term-long temporary contract in a Queensland state school.

Principals are given the flexibility to decide the mentoring arrangements of beginning teachers according to their school contexts. Annual evaluations of the programme are conducted to ensure schools are properly supporting their beginning teachers.

In Ireland, mentoring is an important part of the National Induction Programme for Teachers. In the framework of this programme, trained Professional Support Teams (PST) and mentors provide personal, professional and pedagogical support to newly qualified teachers during their first year. PSTs are fully certified teachers with a minimum of five years of teaching experience that are nominated by the schools.

In New Zealand, mentoring is part of the induction programme for provisionally certified teachers and aims to provide them with the guidance of an experienced, fully certificated colleague who has received training to give constructive feedback. Although induction and mentoring programmes may differ from one setting to another, essential components must be developed and these are explained in a set of guidelines.

Sources: Driskell, N. (2015[57]), Global Perspectives: Mentoring and Support for New Teachers in Ontario and Finland, http://ncee.org/2015/09/global-perspectives-mentoring-and-support-for-new-teachers-in-ontario-and-finland/ (accessed on 26 August 2019); Queensland Government (2019[58]), Mentoring Beginning Teachers, https://education.qld.gov.au/about-us/budgets-funding-grants/grants/state-schools/core-funding/mentoring-beginning-teachers (accessed on 26 July 2019); NIPT (2019[59]), About NIPT, http://teacherinduction.ie/en/about/about-nipt (accessed on 26 July 2019); The Teaching Council of New Zealand (2019[60]), Induction and Mentoring, https://teachingcouncil.nz/content/induction-and-mentoring (accessed on 26 July 2019).

Further improve the probation appraisal process

The probation appraisal process in Serbia seems, in theory, effective at reviewing teacher competencies. It can, however, be improved to focus more in practice on teachers’ development throughout the probation year and their aptitudes to become fully certified teachers. It currently includes both an in-school appraisal by a commission, including both school leadership and peers, and an oral examination and interview with a national commission. The in-school component is very much aligned with practices in OECD countries. School commissions are expected to review teachers’ competencies by looking at their work throughout the probation year and should technically rely on the mentors’ report. However, it was reported to the review team that this is not done systematically as some teachers do not have mentors. As recommended above, creating a network of teacher-mentors would help increase coverage and provide every novice teacher with the support needed. In addition, novice teachers should not be appointed to schools that cannot secure a mentor.

The external appraisal process should be revisited to focus more on reviewing teachers’ interactions with students and their capacity to deliver quality teaching and learning. Similar to other steps in the teacher career structure and given the high stakes that probation appraisal carries for a teacher’s career, consideration should be given to involving advisors in the probation decision to ensure a fair external judgement of teachers’ practices in the classroom. As discussed above, this will need to be accompanied by a reinforcement of the advisors’ capacity to carry appraisals (see Recommendation 3.1.2).

In the medium term, once the mentorship model is fully implemented and advisors’ capacity to carry probation appraisal is improved, Serbia should consider replacing the oral examination by a simple validation of the school commission and advisors’ reports by the national commission. In fact, regular appraisal and an appraisal visit by an advisor are more reliable processes to review a novice teacher’s readiness to be fully certified. The final decision for full certification would be made by the advisor considering input from the teacher’s mentor, school principal and pedagogue.

Recommendation 3.4.2. Revise the allocation of human resources to make sure that new teachers are hired

As Serbia faces the problem of general oversupply of teachers, the country has almost completely stopped recruiting new teachers. Recruiting young new teachers helps renew ideas and practices in education systems (OECD, 2019[23]). In Serbia, recruiting new teachers is necessary to increase the qualification levels of the teaching workforce. Teachers recruited before 2009 in Serbia, which constitute the majority of teachers currently in schools, have only completed a three-year teacher education programme. The lack of young people entering the profession may also lead to future shortages of teachers (OECD, 2019[23]). The freeze in public service hires has exacerbated the issue even further. The ministry prioritises recruitment of licensed teachers without a posting over new teachers. The ministry needs to set up a strategy to address the oversupply of teachers and allow the recruitment of new teachers. Appraisal can be used within such a strategy to manage the numbers of new teachers licensed, orient experienced teachers towards other positions and help inform the scheme for early retirement Serbia should consider introducing.

Help teachers transition to other positions or early retirement

Serbia needs to reduce the number of teachers already employed to leave space for new teachers to enter the workforce. Most OECD countries facing an acute student decline would set up strategies to make sure that teachers can transition out of the teaching profession in addition to reducing hiring of new teachers (Shewbridge et al., 2016[61]). For example, the ministry could consider the following strategies:

  • Incentivising teachers’ early retirement: It is a common practice in education systems with an oversupply of teachers to provide teachers with the possibility of retiring early with some form of financial compensation (OECD, 2019[23]). Planning for such a scheme requires a careful projection of human resource needs over several years to avoid future shortages. In Serbia, special attention will need to be given to managing supply in subjects where there are already shortages, such as mathematics and foreign language, and to retaining experienced teachers who have demonstrated the motivation and skills to reach senior and higher pedagogical advisor level. There are experiences from other countries, such as Lithuania and the United States, that Serbia might look to when considering an early retirement scheme.

  • Encouraging teachers to take on other positions in the education system: While Serbia has an oversupply of teachers, it does not have enough support staff to help address learning and teaching needs at the school level. Pedagogical support personnel represent only 3.6% of overall school staff personnel at the lower secondary level. This is well below levels in other European and OECD countries such as Poland (7.5%) or Estonia (9.2%) (OECD, 2014[9]). The ministry should create opportunities for teachers to retrain to become pedagogues. An external appraisal process led by advisors should be set up to assess whether a teacher has met the requirement to become a pedagogue. Such policy would help bring more people with practical teaching experience into the pedagogue profession, which tends to have many staff members with little or no teaching experience.

  • Providing re-qualification and internship opportunities: The ministry could also fund opportunities for teachers to learn new skills and acquire qualifications in other professions. A pilot internship programme in Lithuania has shown positive results in teachers’ motivation and re-orientation (see Box 3.7).

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Box 3.7. Teachers internship programmes and re-qualification funds in Lithuania

As in many OECD countries, Lithuania faces an oversupply of teachers due to the demography decline in the student population. Lithuanian authorities have recognised the need to facilitate the transition of teachers out of the profession and training and attracting new young teacher as a priority to reduce teacher surplus while ensuring that there are no future shortages.

Lithuania set up a policy to incentivise teachers to transition to other jobs. The Ministry of Education and Science is piloting an internship programme for teachers, allowing them to undertake an internship outside the school sector once every eight years. The pilot experimented with different internship durations, from three months to one year. Some participants returned to their schools re-invigorated and with new ideas, while others left the teaching profession following the internship, which was seen as a positive result in the context of teacher oversupply.

The Ministry of Education and Science is also currently developing a re-qualification fund to help teachers transfer to other employment sectors using EU structural funds. The work to develop the allocation mechanism for this fund is underway.

Source: Shewbridge, C. et al. (2016[62]), OECD Reviews of School Resources: Lithuania 2016, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264252547-en.

Use scholarships and other incentives to attract more teachers to specific subject areas

While Serbia has an oversupply of teachers overall, shortages continue in some subjects such as foreign languages, mathematics and physics, and where private-sector jobs requiring skills in these areas tend to be more attractive financially and professionally. The ministry can use different types of incentives to attract and retain teachers in specific subjects, including:

  • Using scholarship funded seats to better control supply and anticipate needs: The ministry should make sure that more scholarships are available for students in these subjects compared to others. These scholarships should be tied to the condition that students enter the teaching profession for a minimum number of years.

  • Developing a fast track in the teaching career structure or alternative pathways into the profession: The ministry can also explore introducing some flexibility and career incentives to retain talented teachers of foreign languages, mathematics and physics. It can, for instance, set up a competitive fast track to access higher levels in the career structure – and the added remuneration and benefits associated with them – more quickly than in the regular promotion model. The ministry can also create alternative entry points for talented mid-career professionals from the private sector to become independent or higher pedagogical advisors in subjects where there are shortages. External appraisal by advisors is important for these alternative career structures to select the right candidates and ensure they receive adequate training.

copy the linklink copied!Table of recommendations

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Policy issue

Recommendations

Actions

3.1. Providing teachers with stronger encouragement and incentives to develop their practices and seek higher responsibilities

3.1.1. Make sure that expectations and responsibilities at each level in the career structure are well defined and clear for teachers

Revise teacher standards and define competencies needed to move up levels

Identify opportunities for teachers to develop the competencies needed to advance in their career

Involve teachers and the school community in these revisions and make sure that all teachers are aware of the new standards

3.1.2. Revise the appraisal procedure for promotion to ensure fairness and independence

Develop guidelines and tools for external appraisal by education advisors

Make external appraisal for promotion the central duty of advisors and ensure that they have the capacity to carry it out

Revise the roles of the school principal and teacher council in the promotion process

3.1.3. Strengthen the link between teacher performance and reward

Link the career structure to the pay scale

Develop other forms of recognition

3.2. Improving the developmental value of regular in-school appraisal

3.2.1. Develop clear guidelines and tools for in-school appraisal

Clearly articulate the purpose of in-school regular appraisal

Develop clear guidelines on how to undertake in-school appraisals

Provide tools to schools to make a reliable judgement about teachers’ competencies and identify opportunities for development

3.2.2. Invest in developing in-school capacity for appraisal

Develop school principals’ and pedagogues’ capacity for regular appraisal and feedback

Develop teachers’ capacity to reflect critically on their training needs

3.3. Making sure that professional development opportunities meet the needs of teachers

3.3.1. Use information from appraisal to identify teacher development needs

Systematically collect information about teachers’ development needs

Make sure that major gaps in competencies are effectively addressed

3.3.2. Develop in-school professional development opportunities and peer learning

Secure resources for in-school professional development

Develop schools’ capacity for collaborative professional learning

Develop online tools to foster peer learning and collaboration between schools

3.4. Preparing and selecting a new generation of teachers

3.4.1. Select and provide in-school support to motivated and talented new teachers

Significantly strengthen quality assurance for initial teacher preparation programmes

Introduce a certification and selection examination at the end of initial teacher education

Develop the mentorship programme of novice teachers

Further improve the probation appraisal process

3.4.2. Revise the allocation of human resources to make sure that new teachers are hired

Help teachers transition to other positions or early retirement

Use scholarships and other incentives to attract more teachers to specific subject areas

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