Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders for the 21st Century:
Lessons from around the world
Wisdom never ages, at least we hope it doesn’t.
In which case the wisdom contained in this 2012 OECD publication should be as relevant 10 years on as it was when published.
Informed by PISA results, independent and OECD research, and the International Summit on the Teaching Profession held in New York in March 2012, hosted by the U.S. Dept. of Education, the publication aims to capture the trends and practices as governments and schools around the world grapple with three interconnected issues:
Developing Effective School Leaders
Preparing Teachers to Deliver 21st Century Skills
Matching Teacher Demand and Supply
This article summaries the key findings from OECD’s comparative policy reviews on these questions as described and analysed in their publication.
1. Developing Effective School Leaders
‘As more countries grant autonomy to schools in designing curricula and managing resources to raise achievement, the role of the school leader has grown far beyond that of administrator. Developing school leaders requires clearly defining their responsibilities, providing access to appropriate professional development throughout their careers, and acknowledging their pivotal role in improving school and student performance.’
What are the different roles and responsibilities of 21st-Century school leaders and how have countries succeeded in developing effective school leaders at scale?
1. Grant greater autonomy to school leaders but recognise that effective autonomy depends on effective and strong support systems, including senior and middle management teams. This requires a distributed leadership approach, new types of training and development for school leaders, and appropriate incentives. High-performing schools tend to grant greater autonomy to leaders, allowing them to define the school goals, and develop strategies to achieve them. Example given, Canada (Ontario).
2. A core aspect of effective school leadership lies in supporting, evaluating and developing teacher quality. In Sweden, for example, school leaders often spend much of their time giving feedback to teachers about their work.
3. Goal-setting, aligning instruction with external standards, and measuring progress against these goals while making necessary adjustments. School leaders should have a high discretion in how they design curriculum content and sequencing, organize teaching and monitor quality.
4. Strategic resource management should be the responsibility of school leaders but this requires the leaders to be fully trained so they can effectively align resources with pedagogical purposes.
5. School leadership needs to be professionalised and seen as a specilized skill. To that end, leadership-preparation programmes should be created for new principals (example, Norway and Finland). Experts in leadership and development state that school leaders professional development activities should be ‘ongoing, career-staged, and seamless’.
6. Appraisal of school leaders can help improve practice. But for accountability systems to lead to improvements, they need to focus on information relevant to teaching and learning, motivate individuals and schools, and build the knowledge necessary for interpreting and applying the information. Example given, Scotland.
School leaders make a difference in school and student performance, but they need the autonomy to make important decisions. They also need to be able to influence teacher recruitment and match the school needs to candidates. Distributed (collaborative) leadership (and power) is the most effective approach for school management and most likely to achieve desired results.
To be avoided: Over-burdening school leaders with long work hours, deficiencies in working practices, and unnecessary administration duties (examples given; England and New Zealand)
2. Preparing Teachers to Deliver 21st Century Skills
‘Many nations around the world have undertaken wide-ranging reforms of curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the intention of better preparing children for the higher educational demands of life and work in the 21st century.’
What are the skills that young people need to be successful in this rapidly changing world and what competencies do teachers need, in turn, to effectively teach those skills to their students?
1. Creativity and innovation. At the country, organization, and personal levels these two skills have become the recognized hope for solving employability, personal, and societal crises. These skills need to be nurtured in students, deliberately and systematically, and across all disciplines.
2. Teachers need to become ‘high level knowledge workers’ who constantly advance their own professional knowledge as well as that of their profession. Example given, Singapore.
3. Innovative learning environments need to be created, ensuring learning is social, emotional, collaborative, differentiated, attuned to student’s motivations, but without overloading students.
4. Teachers need to reflect and learn from their experiences.
5. Teachers must have a ‘rich repertoire’ of teaching strategies at their disposal.
6. Teachers need to be well-versed in their subjects and adept at using different teaching methods as necessary.
7. Strategies should include direct, whole-group, guided discovery, group work, self and individualised discovery, and should include personalized feedback.
8. Teachers should have the capacity to help design, lead, manage and plan learning environments in collaboration with others.
9. Teacher education must be a. research-based, b. focus on developing pedagogical content knowledge, c. equip teaches to diagnose students with learning-difficulties, d. have a very strong clinical component which includes extensive course work on how to teach, state-of-the-art practices, and a full year of clinal practice in a school associated with the university. Example given, Finland.
10. No single best method: Teachers need to know how to use all the possible methods available to them and when to apply them. Innovative learning environments are charactized by a good balance between discovery and personal exploration on one hand, and systematic guidance and instruction on the other.
11. Teachers should be trained to be action researchers in effective practice, with the best teachers going on to support new teachers and helping improve lesson quality. Example given, China (Shanghai).
12. The ‘technical core’ of teaching needs to be strengthened – this requires the development of educational ecosystems that are innovative, knowledge/scientific based, entrepreneurial, and informed by users (students, parents, communities).
The most effective 21st century teachers are highly skilled, advanced knowledge workers who are adaptive, technologically competent, reflective, collaborative and pursuing continual professional development. They are, crucially, supported in all this by both school leadership and governments.
To be avoided:
Taking Teachers for granted - Lack of incentives.
‘It is sobering to learn that three out of four teachers responding to the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey in 2008 reported that they would not be rewarded for being more innovative in their teaching. The incentives for encouraging innovation appear to be missing.’
3. Matching Teacher Demand and Supply
‘Many education systems face a daunting challenge in recruiting high-quality graduates as teachers, especially in shortage areas and retaining them once they are hired.’
How have countries succeeded in matching their supply of high-quality teachers to their needs?
1. Make teaching an attractive career choice. The best-performing education systems provide most of their students with the kind and quality of education that average performing countries only offer to a small elite.
2. Transform the work organisation in schools by replacing administrative forms of management with professional norms that provide status, pay, autonomy and accountability, together with high-quality training and responsibility that go with professional work.
3. Ensure teachers have a good work-life balance, job security, flexibility and allow schools to manage their human resources.
4. Adopt a comprehensive approach (selection, compensation, development) to identifying teaching talent and nurturing it at undergraduate level. Example given, Singapore.
5. Promotional programmes targeted at ‘non-traditional’ entrants to teaching.
6. Reinventing selection criteria for new teachers, with the aim of identifying applicants with the greatest potential through interviews, preparing lesson plans, demonstrating teaching skills.
7. Give greater weight to qualities that are harder to measure, e.g. enthusiasm, commitment, sensitivity, emotional intelligence.
8. Offer incentives for experienced teachers to work in hard to staff schools. Avoid having new teachers assigned to the more difficult and unpopular schools. This not only disadvantages the students, it potentially damages teachers’ career development. Example given, Korea.
9. Make teaching a sought-after occupation by raising entry standards and giving teachers high levels of responsibility, including ‘action researchers’ to find effective educational solutions. Raise the social status of teachers to a level where there are few occupations with higher status, e.g. equivalent to a university professor. Raise the bar for entry but provide teachers autonomy, professional discretion and judgement in the way they manage their classrooms and respond to differentiated learning. Example given, Finland.
10. Allow teacher salaries to be under the remit of the school leader. In Sweden, the government establishes a minimum starting salary and leaves decisions about individual teacher’s salaries to the be negotiated annually by the principal and teacher.
Resolving this problem requires policy changes at two levels. 1. The nature of the teaching profession itself and the teachers’ work environment. Both need to be improved. 2. Targeted responses and incentives for particular types of teacher shortage, which recognises there is no single labour market for teachers but a set of them. Finally, high quality continuing professional development is essential to ensure that all teachers are able to meet the demands of diverse student populations, effectively using data to guide reform, engage parents, and become active agents of their own professional growth.
To be avoided:
Expecting teachers to fund all their own professional development. At least a sizeable proportion of the cost should be met by the school/state and in many cases, 100%. And secondly, making sure teachers have the time to undertaken PD. What prevents teachers undertaking PD? Conflict with their work schedule.
This EDDi article only offers a brief overview of what is a very detailed and informative document. If any of the questions, issues and recommendations raised here spur you to know more, you’ll find the full OECD publication to be a valuable resource.
And no, it is in no way dated but as relevant today as it was when published, ten years ago.
link: files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED533757.pdf (direct link to PDF)
reference: Schleicher, A. (ed.) (2012), Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders for the 21st Century: Lessons from around the World, OECD Publishing