How do teachers respond to diverse classrooms?

By Aakriti Kalra
Consultant, Directorate for Education and Skills

Demographic change and large-scale migration have raised important challenges for education systems today, as teachers and school leaders work to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body. Research shows that students’ cultural and ethnic backgrounds, native languages and immigrant status are strongly linked to inequalities in educational achievement. But a better understanding of how teachers, schools and education systems respond to diversity could help close the gap.

This is why classroom diversity is a major area of focus in the upcoming OECD Teaching and Learning Survey (TALIS). Slated for release in June 2019, the third cycle of TALIS is based on questionnaires that were circulated across 200 schools and 4,000 teachers in nearly 50 countries. The questionnaires collect information on various aspects of teachers’ work and learning environments, including their experience in diverse classrooms.

Our survey looks at three dimensions of school diversity: the cultural composition of classrooms and schools; diversity-related teaching practices and school policies; and the attitudes of teachers who work in diverse schools. This will help us determine whether schools have become more culturally diverse over time, the practices that teachers use to teach students from different backgrounds, and whether teachers feel prepared to teach in multicultural classrooms.

An example of a diversity-related question on TALIS 2018

The answers that teachers and school leaders provide could also shed light on the diversity-related challenges they face, and their efforts to overcome them. For example, knowing whether teachers feel prepared to teach in highly diverse classrooms could help shape policies to support them through professional development opportunities and other resources.

When it first launched ten years ago, TALIS was envisioned as a “voice of teachers” – a way to make sure that their opinions and concerns are accounted for in policy making. The insights gained from TALIS have helped us to understand the role of educators in shaping student learning across the world. These insights will only become more important as classrooms continue to diversify and as teachers’ jobs become even more complex.

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