Teacher Policies

Designing an Effective Training Program October 12, 2015

Global Best Practices for Developing the Teaching Profession

This article is the executive summary of the 2015 WISE Research Report “Teacher Policies“.

Find out more about the 2015 WISE Research series.

Teacher polices are key to improving teacher quality which impacts student outcomes. Many educational systems grapple with the issues of recruitment, teacher preparation, performance management, teacher development and empowerment. Based on our examination of academic literature and international reports, the current discourse on teacher policies can be meaningfully categorised under ten key areas, which reflect every important aspect of a teacher’s career. In this report we discuss these areas and related strategies for achieving optimal policies. Our key insights and recommended strategies for these ten areas are as follows.

  • Recruitment of Quality Candidates

The ideal teacher is one with a right balance of aptitude and attitude. To identify teachers with the ideal profile, selection processes should encompass multi-pronged approaches, and maintain a high degree of rigour in selection standards. Global best practices typically involve a combination of at least a few clusters of tools, including: (a) academic performance and/or an entrance proficiency test, (b) classroom simulations, (c) interviews with experienced panels, (d) prior teaching experience and/or (e) vocational fit assessments.

  • Compensation and Incentives

Policy makers need to understand the reasons why people may or may not be attracted to teaching, which include altruistic, intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Negative perceptions of teaching relating to starting salaries, professional image, working environment and career prospects need to be actively addressed. Ensuring competitive salaries for teachers is essential and policymakers should benchmark salaries appropriately. However, raising salaries above the market average does not necessarily lead to substantial increases in quality. Many top performing systems provide competitive salaries but make room for the best to progress towards higher salary scales through built-in merit increments. Many top-performing countries also employ a range of related incentives such as performance and retention bonuses, additional pay for extra duties taken, and leave for professional and personal growth.

  • Initial Teacher Preparation and Accreditation Standards

A quality initial teacher education (ITE) program is critical to ensuring effective teacher preparation. The best ITE programs are holistic, and include both general and specialized content knowledge training, with a substantial focus on research-informed pedagogy. They also integrate theory and practice effectively, and facilitate the growth of strong learning communities. Furthermore, they incorporate mentoring and feedback mechanisms, for example, through graduated practicum programs and formal mentor-mentee relationships. The best systems also ensure high standards of teaching by active alignment with national professional standards and rigorous accreditation.

  • Career Development Structures

Education is becoming an increasingly complex enterprise and sophisticated expertise is needed in pedagogy, curriculum development, and leadership of educational units. There is a need to facilitate the creation of career tracks to provide opportunities for career progression and talent allocation. For example, different tracks should be carved out for teachers with passion to work in the classroom, teachers with interest to work on content and curriculum specialization, and teachers with the aspiration and capacity for school leadership. Clearer professional pathways also signal professional authority and autonomy amongst teaching professionals.

  • Professional Development and Continuous Learning

It is imperative that teachers consistently and continuously keep up-to-date with new knowledge, skills and teaching practices. School leaders need to provide support in terms of time and resources to meet the needs of teachers at different stages of their careers. Optimal professional development goes beyond workshops and courses, to include school-embedded professional development, sophisticated induction and mentoring, collaborative teacher networks and project-based research-cum-inquiry approaches to improving teaching practices and learning outcomes.

  • Accountability, Performance Management and Evaluation

Teacher evaluation should focus on both teacher development and accountability. A pragmatic and multi-faceted approach is recommended. Common tools for evaluation include classroom observations by peers and senior teachers, interviews/dialogue sessions, keeping a portfolio, individual goal-setting and self-evaluation, and broader evidence of student learning and development. At the same time, pragmatism calls for an appreciation of the resource costs of implementing sophisticated evaluation tools, and calibrating these tools to each school’s context.

  • School Leadership

School leadership plays a critical role in transforming the environment in which teachers and learners function. Top performing systems pay more attention to the selection of school leaders, promote effective leadership practices and the development of leadership capacity. Proactive approaches and succession planning is essential. Those with leadership aptitude should be given leadership roles progressively, and programs should be developed to promote research-based and instructional leadership practices. Leaders should be trained to handle policy implementation, nurture professional involvement and development, and practice effective public engagement.

  • Teacher Symbolism

Our vision of teachers must go beyond their being mere communicators of content, and must also encompass their roles as leaders in pedagogical thinking, inspirational role models, respected domain experts and custodians of societal values. Key policy factors in enhancing teacher symbolism include (i) building on cultural regard for teachers, (ii) making space for professional autonomy and trust, (iii) publicizing quality-driven recruitment, selection criteria and training, (iv) managing workloads and the general working environment, (v) giving national recognition for the accomplishments of teaching professionals, and (vi) utilizing branding and marketing campaigns which raise the attractiveness of the profession.

  • Policy Integration, Alignment and Coherence

The whole is more than the sum of its parts when it comes to effective policy implementation. Effective education systems have a “big-picture” perspective and coordinate policies with a view to longer-term impact. Key policy strategies include (i) governance structures that ensure congruence of goals, alignment of activities and optimization of resources, (ii) ensuring collaboration among all stakeholders, and (iii) the presence of mediating layers and networks for facilitating implementation.

  • Future Orientations: Teaching Roles in the Twenty-first Century

In a rapidly changing world, teachers need to be cognizant of the changing nature of knowledge, learning and environments. There is a need to equip teachers with new roles such as being facilitators of learning and designers of the learning environment. Teachers need to embrace new pedagogies and transform pedagogical practices, for example, to account for new ways in which learners absorb information through technology and social media. Teachers must appreciate their role in cultivating twenty-first century competencies including problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and interpersonal skills. Teachers also play a critical role in helping students build character and inculcate values.