What does teaching look like? A new video study

by Anna Pons
Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

Looking – literally – at how teachers around the world teach can be a game changer to improve education. The evidence is clear that teachers are what makes the greatest difference to learning, outside students’ own backgrounds. It is widely recognised that the quality of an education system is only as good as the quality of its teachers. Yet we know relatively little about what makes a good and effective teacher.

Our new research project, the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) Video Study, aims to help us learn more about how our teachers teach. The study aims to provide a better understanding of which teaching practices are used, how they are interrelated, and which are most strongly associated with students’ cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes.

The TALIS Video Study is based on a truly innovative research design. It uses videos to capture what goes on in the classroom, and also surveys teachers and students, measures students’ learning gains, and looks into instructional materials to get as complete a picture of teaching as possible. The study will not produce a comprehensive assessment of “the state of teaching”, a global assessment of teachers or a ranking of the quality of countries’ teachers. Instead, we’ll be gaining valuable insights into the practice of teaching and student learning.

We don’t really know how teaching and learning unfold in classrooms across the globe. At the OECD, we have asked teachers and students about what goes on in class; we have measured students’ outcomes and teachers’ knowledge, and collected information about the resources at teachers’ disposal and their autonomy in shaping their lessons. But that doesn’t give us a complete picture of what teaching looks like and how it influences student outcomes. Watching peers in action, though, can help teachers become aware of their own teaching methods, reflect on other approaches, and understand what innovative pedagogies actually mean in practice.

The importance of observing real teaching can only increase as the job becomes ever more challenging. Teachers are being asked to move away from teacher-centred methods and to cater to the different learning needs, styles and pace of their students. They are also expected to meet the demands of rapidly changing environments, from being able to use new technologies to assist them in their lessons, to understanding how to teach students from increasingly diverse backgrounds.

Observing how teachers around the world deal with similar challenges in different ways can offer useful new insights. Differences in teaching practices are greater between countries than within countries, particularly when it comes to student-centred and innovative teaching practices. This is because teaching practices are strongly influenced by national pedagogical traditions and do not travel easily. Opening up peer observations to the entire world can provide fresh ideas about how teachers can improve their own practice, no matter where in the world they teach.

Teaching in Focus No. 20 – What does teaching look like? A new video study
Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)

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