The Future of the Teaching Profession

by Kristen Weatherby
Senior Analyst, Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)

Teachers are the focus of media attention in many countries these days. Governments want to see increases in the achievement levels of their students, so naturally the discussion turns to the quality of the teaching and learning in schools and with that, the effectiveness of teachers.

What does all of this focused attention–and the accompanying reforms to teacher qualifications, evaluations, and often their pay structure–mean for today’s teachers and for the future of the teaching profession? Last Thursday and Friday, I attended a conference at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom to discuss those questions and others. The conference was organised by Leadership for Learning in the Faculty of Education at Cambridge, together with Education International (the global federation of teacher organisations, the OECD, and the Open Society Foundations. It included representatives from government, academia, unions and schools from 28 countries.

The seminar was divided into three themes: 
  • Opportunities and threats to the teaching profession, which included coming up with a shared definition of teaching as a profession;
  • Getting a measure of teaching, which included a discussion of what international policy says about teacher evaluation; 
  • And looking toward a professional future for teachers.
There were few presentations, and much guided discussion at tables and with the entire group. I was fortunate enough to be one of the presenters, on the subject of getting a measure of teaching. I spoke about what the teachers surveyed in TALIS 2008 said about the evaluation and feedback they received. 
What struck me most about this seminar was not the quality of the discussions, the depth of the presentations or the intellectual horsepower of the attendees (although these were all very impressive). It was that the attendees were comprised of four groups – school leaders, union leaders, government policymakers and academics – who are often portrayed as being at odds with one another. Yet this group of people were part of a “consensus narrative” as one speaker said, all working toward the same objectives for the same reason: supporting our teachers for the betterment of learning.

For more on the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey:
Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First results from TALIS 
Follow TALIS and Kristen Weatherby @Kristen_Talis

Photo credit: ©Royalty-free/ Hemera/Thinkstock

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