Highly qualified and competent teachers are the key for excellent education systems. This has been a constant message resulting from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) work on education through programmes such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). In a knowledge society, teachers are also increasingly seen as knowledge professionals, working at the frontline of one of society’s most important knowledge creation and transfer systems: education. But what does that mean when we qualify teachers as knowledge professionals? This has been the fundamental question for the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) to embark on the Innovative Teaching for Effective Learning (ITEL) project.

Teachers are expected to process and evaluate new knowledge relevant to their core professional practice and to regularly update their profession’s knowledge base. This challenge is situated in a rapidly changing educational system, which is expected to deliver on “21st century skills” in increasingly more diverse classrooms, and conditioned by expanding research-based scientific knowledge base on teaching and learning. This process of continuous renewal of teachers’ professional knowledge is an important part, maybe the most important, of teachers’ professionalisation. These new demands and opportunities might require teachers to update their teaching methods, employ innovative teaching practices and mobilise various sources of knowledge. For some countries, this might entail a re-skilling of the current teaching workforce and upgrading of the profession’s knowledge base within teacher education institutions and through professional communities. Understanding what the current knowledge base looks like will help determine whether and to what extent upgrading teachers’ skills is required.

The idea for this book came about as a result of a symposium held in June 2014 that was organised by the CERI in collaboration with the Flemish Department of Education and Training. The purpose of the symposium was to bring together a group of leading experts to support the conceptual development of the ITEL project. Its purpose is to better understand the pedagogical core of the teaching profession, namely, teachers’ pedagogical knowledge, and how it relates to teachers’ professional competences and student learning.

In order to contextualise the current landscape in the field, the symposium entitled “Teachers as Learning Specialists – Implications for Teachers’ Pedagogical Knowledge and Professionalism” was developed to explore the pedagogical knowledge base of the teaching profession and investigate to what extent that knowledge is up-to-date. In particular, the Symposium aimed to provide insight into conceptual and empirical research regarding the following questions:

  1. What is the nature of the pedagogical knowledge base of the teaching profession?

    • How is teachers’ general pedagogical knowledge conceptualised? Is it multi-dimensional, and if so, what are the various cognitive dimensions and can these be measured?

    • How do teachers’ motivations and beliefs about teaching relate to their pedagogical knowledge and how can these relationships be measured?

    • How does teachers’ pedagogical knowledge impact student learning outcomes?

    • What is the relationship between pedagogical knowledge and teachers’ overall professional competence, and how can it be measured?

  2. Is the pedagogical knowledge of the teaching profession up-to-date?

    • Does the knowledge base of teachers sufficiently incorporate the latest scientific research on learning? Can scientific research inform teachers about how to create effective teaching-learning environments?

    • Does the current state of teachers’ pedagogical knowledge meet the expectations for teaching and learning “21st century skills”?

This publication is the first of two volumes produced as part of the ITEL project. The objective is to frame the conceptual basis for the development of an instrument to assess teachers’ pedagogical knowledge. The second volume will summarise the results of a pilot study in which the instrument was developed and show its analytical potential in exploring teachers’ professional competence, in particular, their general pedagogical knowledge.

This publication was edited by Sonia Guerriero of the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI). Within the OECD Secretariat Francesca Gottschalk, Emily Heppner, Matthew Gill, Rachel Linden and Nóra Révai provided valuable editorial support.

Dirk Van Damme

Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress Division

Directorate for Education and Skills