Do new teachers feel prepared for teaching?

by Yoon Young Lee
Consultant, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Feelings of preparedness of new vs experienced teachers
Percentage of new and experienced teachers reporting preparedness in content, pedagogy, and classroom practice of the subject(s) they teach

“Don’t smile in March.”

As a new, enthusiastic and slightly nervous secondary school teacher in the Republic of Korea, I was perplexed to receive this advice from other, more experienced teachers. I took it to mean that as a new teacher, I should be strict and impersonal with my students, showing them that “I mean business”, particularly during the first month. I was even more surprised to find that variations of this adage – for example, “Don’t smile until Christmas” – exist in other countries.

The fact that  this advice was given, even given half in jest, shows how challenging teaching can be for first-time teachers.

One of the greatest challenge for new teachers, does not come from not knowing what to teach, but from not knowing how to teach what they know and how to manage a classroom in all its strange and exciting complexity. Some days, students are not willing to participate in discussion. Other days, new teachers struggle to manage unruly classroom behaviour. Even if teachers apply state-of-the-art teaching methods, students are not always as interested as new teachers expect them to be. These are common challenges for new inexperienced teachers.

The latest Teaching in Focus brief, “Do new teachers feel prepared for teaching?”, analyses the perceived preparedness of new teachers by domain using data from the TALIS 2013 dataset. Figure 1 shows the preparedness of new teachers – defined here as those with a maximum of three years’ experience – in the following three domains: content of the subject field(s), pedagogy of the subject field(s), and classroom practice in the subject field(s) they teach.

The results of the analysis reveal that new teachers are generally less likely to feel prepared in the pedagogy and practice of their subject field(s) than in content knowledge.

More than 90% of new teachers reported that they feel either “well” or “very well” prepared in the content of their subject field(s), with more than 51% of new teachers specifically responding “very well”. Compare this to the level of preparedness claimed for pedagogy and classroom practice of the subject field(s) and only slightly over 80% of new teachers claim to feel either “well” or “very well” prepared, with only 32 (for pedagogy) and 34 % (for classroom practice) of teachers saying that they feel “very well” prepared in these two domains.

As expected, the preparedness of new teachers is lower than that of their experienced peers. When comparing the proportion of new versus experienced teachers who feel “very well” prepared, the difference is even more pronounced in the domains of pedagogy and classroom practice of the subject field(s).

Results of the analysis suggest that teacher education institutions in many countries and economies may have been overemphasising content knowledge, to the detriment of other types of teacher knowledge. Through quality pre-service education and continuous professional learning, teachers can be well prepared in the pedagogy and practice of their subject area, as well as in the content. Then maybe one day, more new teachers may be able to smile, regardless of the season.

This research feeds into the OECD Initial Teacher Preparation study that examines initial teacher preparation systems in eight countries: Australia, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Wales (United Kingdom).

Teaching in Focus No. 17: “Do new teachers feel prepared for teaching?”
OECD Initial Teacher Preparation study
TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning
For more on the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS):

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Chart source: OECD (2013), Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS): 2013 complete database,

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