Why we’re asking teachers about their work

By Pablo Fraser
Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

When we launched the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) more than 10 years ago, we began with a simple question: what can teachers tell us about their work? At the time, this was a novel approach; TALIS was the first global survey to ask teachers and school leaders about their work and learning environments. But over time, it’s become clear that a better understanding of the conditions under which teachers work (and students learn) can help countries face diverse challenges and improve policies.

Our first report, released in 2008, focused on the most important issues that teachers face in their careers, such as the importance of school leadership, professional development opportunities and the implementation of effective pedagogical practices. The 2013 TALIS conducted a more in-depth analysis of these topics, and broadened its scope to 34 countries. Now, we’re preparing to release findings from our most recent survey next year – and it couldn’t come at a more critical time.

The teaching profession has undergone profound transformations over the past decade. Globalization and new technologies have changed the skill sets that today’s students will need to thrive in their world; and student bodies are increasingly diverse, with a wide and varied range of needs that education systems must meet. High-quality teachers can help guide students through this changing landscape, which is why effective education systems seek to attract, develop and retain the best and the brightest. We hope that our TALIS findings will help advance that goal.

A cross-national perspective on teaching and teacher’s work can help shape new policies and practices across the world.

Over the last two years, we’ve surveyed more than 240,000 teachers and 13,000 principals in nearly 50 countries and economies. As with previous cycles, the 2018 TALIS covered lower secondary schools in all countries, though some countries participated at the primary and upper secondary level, as well. The framework for the study is based on 11 themes, covering both emerging issues, such as innovation, and those that have endured across previous cycles, such as school leadership.

In surveying teachers and school leaders, we asked them about their teaching practices – including how they manage classrooms and assess students – as  well as practices that extend beyond the classroom, such as how often they collaborate with peers or participate in decision making processes. We also gathered information on characteristics that have been shown to influence teaching practices: educational background; professional confidence (or self-efficacy); satisfaction and motivation; and career expectations. And because teaching practices can vary across different school environments, our survey included information on school climate, classroom composition and leadership structures, among other indicators.

When our analysis is finalized, we’ll be able to compare key indicators across different countries, and get a better idea of how these indicators relate to one another. We’ll also be able to compare and understand indicators at the school and teacher level, and under different educational contexts. This kind of cross-national perspective on teaching and teacher’s work can help shape new policies and practices across the world.

We’ll be releasing the 2018 TALIS results in June 2019. Until then, we’ll be describing different aspects of the survey in a series of posts on this blog – so stay tuned for more!

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