“Undervalued, undertrained, long hours, get useless feedback, but love the job.” Experts on England results OECD TALIS Teachers’ Survey

Here four leading research experts analyse the findings of the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey 2013 for the Education Media Centre, Professor Chris Husbands, Professor Pamela Sammons, Emeritus Professor Dylan Wiliam and Vivienne Porritt.

Department for Education, Teachers in England’s secondary schools: evidence from TALIS 2013, can be found here.

Half of teachers in England say appraisals don’t improve their teaching.

England’s teachers work a longer week but spend less time teaching than in many other countries.

Bad behaviour is unusual across English state schools, and even better in selective independent schools.

Professor Chris Husbands, Director of the Institute of Education identifies key messages for English schools from the OECD’s international teachers’ survey, TALIS:

“The sample size of 154 schools and 2496 secondary teachers from both state and independent schools, and the response rate of 75% make this the most extensive study of teaching and teachers to date.

Classroom behaviour

The report confirms what we mostly know from other research: widespread disciplinary problems are unusual in England.

On most responses, England is at, or in some respects better than the average for countries in this survey. 21% of teachers in England agree they have to wait for students to quieten down at the start of their class, but this is below the median for all countries – 27% and below all high performing nations except Japan.

Two thirds of teachers report a positive classroom climate and in these classes teachers more likely to use a variety of teaching approaches including group work, extended projects information technologies. Teachers more likely to teach in this way if they participate in professional development involving individual and group research, visits to other schools or teacher networks.

Teachers in independent schools in England report better behaviour than teachers in maintained schools or academies.

Independent schools teach a more socially selective population and studies of state schools suggest that classroom behaviour is correlated with the backgrounds of the pupils both in the whole school, and, even more so, at individual classroom level.

There is also evidence that disciplinary environment is better in smaller classes – and, of course, smaller classes are often found in independent schools.

Teachers’ working hours

The study confirms working hours for teachers in England are amongst the highest at 46 hours a week and 9 hours more than the average. Only teachers in Alberta, Singapore and Japan work longer, according to this survey.

Yet, despite having greater numbers of teaching assistants and administrative staff, teachers in England spend only 20 hours of their long working week on face-to-face teaching time, which is close to the international average.

This may be a result of the high levels of autonomy enjoyed by English schools which means each school takes on more of the necessary administration and bureaucracy themselves. The data in this survey bears that out finding English teachers spend slightly more time on each aspect of their work: planning, marking, and administration.

Teachers’ Continuous Training

For all the rhetoric, over more than a decade now, that continuing professional development is not simply about ‘going on a course’, it is courses and workshops which account for the vast majority of continuous training . Just 45% of English teachers reported professional development involving ‘working with a group of colleagues’.

71% of teachers in the nine highest performing countries reported a positive impact from CPD in their subject – but before that becomes policy line, 73% of teachers in the eight lowest performing countries also reported a positive impact from CPD in their subject!

Taken as whole, the OECD conclusion across the entire study is that taking part in collaborative professional learning activities at least five times a year coincided with teachers feeling more self confident in their capabilities. This is consistent with what we know from other research.

Teacher Appraisal

This study signals we are not making the most of teacher appraisal. 99% of teachers report receiving feedback; yet only about half of teachers in England saw the feedback as helping their teaching.

There are some striking findings about teacher effectiveness. There are sharp variations particularly within schools, which means it is teams and departments which matter. There is no difference between independent and state-funded schools, or between relatively affluent and relatively deprived schools.

Instead, teachers’ sense of making a good impact tends to be highest when teachers report strong professional relationships, but the causality is unclear. It may be that teachers with high self-efficacy build good relationships, or, by working in teams with good relationships teachers become more confident.

Taken as a whole, the report provides fascinating insights into teaching across the OECD. It’s balanced and thoughtful. Above all, it is clear that good teaching can be supported by effective feedback, high quality, collaborate CPD and a strong focus on pedagogy. But it tells us that even the best systems have some way to go.”

Commenting on the OECD’s teacher survey TALIS, Pamela Sammons, Professor of Education, University of Oxford said:

“This report finds only a minority believe teaching is a valued profession in their country and this should worry policy makers, given the importance of teachers in preparing children and young people for their future lives as productive and engaged citizens.

The main findings from the survey chime with those of other research on teacher effectiveness and school improvement and point to the value of engaging teachers in school decisions ; providing more professional development opportunities and giving meaningful feedback to help improve teaching practice.

It is unfortunate a large minority of teachers felt appraisals were only an administrative exercise in their schools. Formative feedback is recognised as important for learning, and ideally should link with relevant professional development, yet the report highlights in England a lower proportion of teachers see positive changes in their motivation, public recognition or job satisfaction after appraisal or feedback.

It is worrying that teachers in England spent less than half the number of days on professional development than the average in this survey -10 versus 22, and reported less engagement in educational conferences or seminars, individual or collaborative research leading to professional qualifications. Increasing opportunities for worthwhile on-going professional development is increasingly necessary given the fast pace of educational change and should be a priority for funding by policy makers.

Teachers report high numbers of working hours in a typical school week and the total is slightly higher in England than the survey average: 51 hours. Teachers in England spend most time teaching and on closely linked activities : planning, and marking. The findings confirm the intensity and complex demands of teaching in schools most countries.

This report finds only a minority believe teaching is a valued profession in their country and this should also worry policy makers, given the importance of teachers in preparing children and young people for their future lives as productive and engaged citizens.

We should be cautious about any attempts to make causal claims from this study. For example ,the survey notes a stronger association between class behaviour and teachers’ job satisfaction, than between job satisfaction and class size. But we can`t assume from this that class size is not important for job satisfaction or that if class sizes grew teachers’ job satisfaction would not fall!”

Note to journalists: The research referred to in Professor Sammons’ second paragraph is from the CfBT reviews of Effective Teaching by Ko & Sammons (2013) and in Successful leadership: a review of the international literature, by Christopher Day and Pamela Sammons.

Comment from Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the Institute of Education, University of London:

“The 2014 TALIS (Teaching and Learning International Survey) report contains a wealth of data on secondary school teachers and their leaders in OECD and other partner countries. Most of the patterns are probably as expected, but there are some surprises.

For example, out of the 34 education systems surveyed, only Singapore had teachers with less teaching experience than England, and in England younger teachers are more likely to be working in more challenging schools. In other countries the trend is for more challenging schools that is those with more poor students, more students with English as an additional language, more students with special needs to have more experienced teachers.

Formal induction to the profession and the school is a strong feature of education in England, but English teachers had only 3 days of professional development per year which is the same as Finland, but way below the survey average of 8 days per year.

As the TALIS Country Note for England states, “teachers in England reported lower levels of participation in professional development activities that include educational conferences or seminars, individual or collaborative research and professional qualifications”. But since these activities have been shown to have a negligible impact on student learning, that may be no bad thing…

Perhaps the most surprising data in the TALIS report generally relates to the proportion of teachers who say they have never had a formal appraisal. In England, it was 11% and only Korea, at 5%, was lower while in Finland 91% of teachers said they had never had a formal appraisal.

Perhaps as importantly, in Korea, Singapore and England, formal appraisal almost always results in some formal action such as the development of a training plan or the appointment of a mentor or coach. However unlike most other countries with comprehensive appraisal systems, fewer than half of teacher in England report that feedback from appraisal has any impact on their teaching.”

Vivienne Porritt, Director of School Partnerships at the Institute of Education, commenting on the OECD`s international survey of teachers, Talis:

“TALIS 2014 shows that England’s leaders and teachers have better access to professional development than in other countries. However, they don’t have as much access to the opportunities for professional learning and development that evidence suggests improve students’ learning.

TALIS and other research findings are consistent on ways to address this. These include participation on collaborative enquiry and research, formal qualifications and professional development systematically designed to meet teachers’ on-going needs.

Research emphasises the need for teachers to have “time for reflection and feedback” and that “teachers and students thrive in the kind of settings that are research-rich.” We need to build capacity to improve and TALIS 2014 is an important reminder of ways to do so.”

Note to journalists: The evidence referred to in the first paragraph is described by Stoll, Harris & Handscomb ( 2012).

The research mentioned in the final paragraph is Earley & Porritt (2009) and the 2014 BERA / RSA report.


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