These days, education is no longer just about teaching students something, but about helping them develop a reliable compass and the tools to navigate with confidence through an increasingly complex, volatile and uncertain world. We live in this world in which the kind of things that are easy to reach and test have also become easy to digitize and automate, and where society no longer rewards students just for what they know – Google knows everything – but for what they can do with what they know. Today’s teachers need to help students think for themselves and work with others, and to develop identity, agency and purpose.
That’s why we demand a lot from our teachers. We expect them to have a deep and broad understanding of what they teach and whom they teach, because what teachers know and care about makes such a difference to student learning. That entails professional knowledge, such as knowledge about a discipline, knowledge about the curriculum of that discipline, and knowledge about how students learn in that discipline; and it entails knowledge «out professional practice so teachers can create the kind of learning environment that leads to good learning outcomes. It also involves enquiry and research skills that help teachers to be lifelong learners and grow in their profession. Students are unlikely to become lifelong learners if they don’t see their teachers as active lifelong learners.
There are aspects that make the job of teachers much more challenging and different from that of other professionals. Teachers need to be experts at multitasking as they respond to many different learner needs all the same time. They also do their job in a classroom dynamic that is always unpredictable and that leaves teachers no second to think about how to react. And whatever a teacher does, even with just a single student, will be witnessed by many and can frame the way in which the teacher is perceived in the school that day forward.
We expect much more from teachers that what appears in their job description. So how teachers perceive current environment based on their perspective?
The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) is an international, large-scale survey of teachers, school leaders and the learning environment in schools.
In this article we outlined findings based on the reports of lower secondary teachers and their school leaders in mainstream public and private schools in Turkey.
1- Who are today’s principals and teachers and the students in their classrooms?
Teaching was the first-choice career for 65% of teachers in Turkey and for 67% in OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS. In terms of why they joined the profession, at least 98% of teachers in Turkey cite the opportunity to influence children’s development or contribute to society as a major motivation.
- In Turkey, teachers are, on average, 36 years old, which is lower than the average age of teachers across OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS (44 years old).
- Only 7% of principals are women, compared to 56% of teachers. This can be benchmarked against the OECD averages of 47% of women among school leaders and 68% among teachers.
- In terms of classroom environments, relations between students and teachers are positive overall, with 93% of teachers in Turkey agreeing that students and teachers usually get on well with each other.
2- What practices are teachers using in the classroom?
- 57% of teachers report frequently asking students to decide on their own procedures for solving complex tasks, compared to 45% on average across the OECD.
- During a typical lesson, teachers spend 72% of classroom time on actual teaching and learning, on average in Turkey, which is lower than the OECD average of 78%.
- Overall, a vast majority of teachers and school leaders view their colleagues as open to change and their schools as places that have the capacity to adopt innovative practices. In Turkey, 79% of teachers also report that they and their colleagues support each other in implementing new ideas. This is not significantly different from the average share across the OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS (78%).
3- How are teachers and school leaders trained?
- During their initial education and training, 76% of teachers in Turkey were instructed on subject content, pedagogy and classroom practice – a share that is lower than the average of OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS (79%).
- In Turkey, 24% of teachers report having participated in some kind of formal or informal induction when they joined their current school, compared to 42% of teachers across OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS.
- In Turkey, 30% of school leaders have completed a program or course in school administration or training for principals (OECD average 54%), and 36% have completed an instructional leadership training program or course (OECD average 54%), before taking up their position as principal.
- Taking part in some kind of in-service training is commonplace among teachers and principals in Turkey, with 94% of teachers (OECD average 94%) and 96% of principals (OECD average 99%) attending at least one professional development activity in the year prior to the survey.
- Attending courses and seminars is one of the most popular types of professional development for teachers across the OECD. In Turkey, 86% of teachers participate in this kind of training, while 21% of teachers participate in training based on peer learning and coaching. It is interesting to note that teachers, across the OECD, report that professional development based on collaboration and collaborative approaches to teaching is among the most impactful for them.
- Teachers in Turkey appear satisfied with the training they received, as 72% report that it had a positive impact on their teaching practice, a share that is lower than the average of OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS (82%).
- But some areas of professional development are still lacking, according to teachers. Across the OECD, developing advanced ICT skills is one area in which teachers say that they need more training, along with teaching in multicultural/multilingual settings and teaching students with special needs. Among these three areas, teachers in Turkey expressed a higher need for training in teaching in multicultural or multilingual settings
4- Teaching students in teaching in multicultural or multilingual settings
- 27% of teachers on average participated in professional development activities including teaching in a multicultural or multilingual setting in the 12 months prior to the survey, training in teaching in a multicultural or multilingual setting is the professional development topic with the highest percentage of teachers reporting a high need for it – 22% in Turkey (compared to 15% across the OECD).
- However, on average in Turkey, 55% of teachers feel they can cope with the challenges of a multicultural classroom “quite a bit” or “a lot” in teaching a culturally diverse class (compared to 67% across the OECD).
OECD, “TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners”, 2019, http://www.oecd.org/education/talis/talis-2018-results-volume-i-1d0bc92a-en.htm
OECD, TALIS 2018 Country Notes Turkey, http://www.oecd.org/education/talis/talis-2018-country-notes.htm