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As for all professionals, teachers need adequate support to live up to the expectations set in their work and to help their students achieve their full potential. In that sense, the pandemic has not shifted the notions of professionalism but rather has made them more visible, palpable and present. If anything, it has created a sense of urgency in the education community, reinforcing the need to move quickly on the steps required for the teaching profession to successfully meet these new challenges.
Collaboration at the School
A report published by OECD in 2021 looks at professionalism in teaching . The study is called the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). The study is the largest international survey asking teachers and school leaders about their working environments and practices.
The limitations of teacher collaboration at the upper secondary level could be explained by the organisational structures of schools (such as division into subject tracks, general and vocational education tracks), which may lead teachers to work more independently and in isolation. It might also be because teachers in upper secondary tend to be more experienced than teachers in primary education and feel they have less need to collaborate with their colleagues. Finally, it can respond to a specific “school culture” fostered by the goals of this educational level or even the training of teachers, in the sense that a generalist background (rather than subject-specific as in higher levels of education) might facilitate co-operation among teachers.
Policies to promote teacher collaboration should be grounded in research understanding the conditions that schools and teachers need to purposefully collaborate. For example, do teachers in upper secondary education have time and interaction spaces outside their instructional duties to exchange ideas with their colleagues and obtain peer-to-peer support? In order to improve teacher collaboration, there is a need to observe and document existing forms of collaboration between teachers at the upper secondary level.
The benefits that teachers perceive and derive from collaborating with their colleagues can ultimately encourage them to engage voluntarily in collaborative exchanges and build a community of practice in their collegial circles. Research indicates that the relevance of particular forms of collaboration for teachers depends on their learning needs. Therefore, identifying the improvement needs for teachers at the upper secondary level can be a starting point to identify what forms of collaboration education systems need to promote. Having a consultation with teachers and extracting lessons in a post-pandemic context may be a way to identify needs and boost new forms of collaboration for teachers in upper secondary.
Data from the Report
- Most principals have autonomy in establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures. This ranges from 93% in Alberta (Canada) to 31% in Turkey, with an average of 72% across Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) countries and economies.
- Some 33% of principals reported significant teacher participation in establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures. In Croatia (68%) and Slovenia (65%), about two-thirds of principals reported significant teacher participation but less than 5% did in Sweden.
- Over 90% of teachers in upper secondary have autonomy in selecting teaching methods and assessing students.
- Fifty-two percent of principals provide parents or guardians with information on school and student performance. Some 10% of upper secondary principals do so in Sweden, which goes up to 80% in Brazil and 86% in the United Arab Emirates.
- Teachers in upper secondary education reported being involved in fewer collaborative activities than their peers in lower secondary education. Teaching jointly as a team in the same class shows significant decreases among teachers in upper secondary (5 percentage points difference).
- Principals at this level are, on average, less concerned with shortages in resources available to teachers, such as libraries (17%) and instructional materials (16%), than with inadequate digital technology for instruction (26%).
References Teachers Getting the Best out of Their Student, From Primary to Upper Secondary Education. OECD (2021), Teachers Getting the Best out of Their Students: From Primary to Upper Secondary Education, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5bc5cd4e-en.
Lucubrate Magazine October 2021
The picture on the top of the article: Adobe Stock