March 14, 2016

Supporting Teacher Professionalism: Insights from TALIS 2013

Written by Carina Omoeva, Elizabeth Buckner, and Charles Gale, FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center

Teacher with children around a table

A recent report, Supporting Teacher Professionalism: Insights from TALIS 2013, examines the nature and extent of support for teacher professionalism using the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2013, a survey of teachers and principals in 38 countries and economies around the world, designed and administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In the report, teacher professionalism is conceptualized as a composite of three domains: 1) a Knowledge Base, which includes knowledge considered necessary for teaching (including pre-service and in-service training); 2) Autonomy, which is defined as teachers’ decision-making over aspects related to their work and 3) Peer Networks, which provide opportunities for information exchange and support needed to maintain high standards of teaching.

The report, co-authored by researchers from FHI 360’s Education Policy and Data Center, finds that while most countries and economies have similar support systems for teachers’ knowledge base, there are larger differences across educational systems in terms of their support for peer networks, and substantial differences in terms of the amount of school-based decision-making (i.e., autonomy) that teachers enjoy. As a way of identifying patterns across countries and economies, the report proposes five models of teacher professionalism depending on the domain that is most emphasized, and finds that support for peer networks tends to be emphasized in East Asian countries while teacher autonomy is valued more in northern European countries. The analysis also employs a rigorous statistical design to test for the relationship of teacher professionalism to key policy-relevant outcomes, which include perceptions of the status of teaching and self-efficacy to carry out teaching duties, and measures of teacher satisfaction. It finds that the Knowledge Base and Peer Networks scales both consistently and significantly predict higher perceptions of status and satisfaction across countries, while Autonomy generally does not, although important qualifications must be considered regarding how the concept of autonomy is captured.

An important consideration for governments in supporting educational delivery is ensuring that all children are exposed to the same level of opportunity regardless of socioeconomic background. The analysis sub-divides schools into those with high and low needs, based on their populations of second language learners, students with special needs, or students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Important for equity concerns, the association between teacher professionalism support and teacher satisfaction is greater for teachers in high needs schools, suggesting that one of the best investments such schools can make in increasing teacher satisfaction is providing practices that support teacher professionalism. The report shows that overall higher levels of teacher professionalism are beneficial for teachers – however, it recognizes the complexity of supporting teacher professionalism in different contexts. Specifically, it recommends requiring teachers to participate in pre-service formal teacher education, expanding the support for induction and mentoring programs, and encouraging teacher participation in networks of other teachers for information exchange.

Read the full report.