Lessons from the World on Effective Teaching and Learning Environments

May. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 62(2), 2011, p. 202-221.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article presents key findings from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) conducted in 2007-2008.
It surveyed more than 70,000 lower secondary teachers and their school principals in 23 countries, representing a workforce of more than 2 million teachers.

The aim was to provide comparative insights into the conditions of teaching and learning at their school, the leadership in their schools, their preparation and professional development, and the feedback and appraisal which they do—or do not—receive.


The results from TALIS reveal the magnitude of the challenges that many schools face.
Across the 23 countries covered by the survey, a significant proportion of teachers work in schools in which the principal reports that the school suffers from a shortage of qualified teachers, a lack of instructional support personnel, or inadequate equipment and instructional support that hinder effective instruction.

TALIS yields important insights into current teaching practices in secondary school as well as teachers’ beliefs and attitudes.
The results show that teachers generally support modern constructivist beliefs about instruction, rather than direct transmission.
However, those beliefs are often not mirrored in the instructional behavior they report. Teachers were more likely to adopt structuring of lessons, followed by student-oriented practices, and lastly enhanced learning activities such as project work.
One in four teachers loses at least 30% of lesson time in disruptions and administrative tasks—and the classroom climate affects individual teachers’ job satisfaction.

TALIS highlights not only that better and more targeted professional development is an important lever toward improvement but also that systems need to do better in matching the costs and benefit as well as supply and demand for professional development.
More than half of the teachers surveyed felt they needed more professional development than they had received in the previous 18 months.
Most often they did not do more because of conflicts with work schedules, but teachers also often cited lack of suitable development opportunities.

TALIS results also show that appraisal and feedback have a strong positive influence on teachers and their work, and teachers report that it increases their job satisfaction and significantly increases their development as teachers.
However, only 70% of teachers in TALIS work in schools that had undergone an external evaluation within the previous five years.
And 13% of teachers had never received any appraisal or feedback from either their principal, a member of the school management, another teacher, or an external evaluator.
Close to 80% of teachers reported that their appraisal and feedback were helpful in developing their work as teachers.
Almost half of them reported that it led to a teacher development or training plan to improve their teaching.

The close associations that TALIS shows between factors such as a positive school climate, teaching beliefs, cooperation between teachers, teacher job satisfaction, professional development, and the adoption of a range of teaching techniques provide indications that public policy can actively shape the conditions for effective learning.

Together, the results from TALIS suggest that equipping teachers for effective learning in the 21st century will require the rethinking of initial teacher education programs, redesigning and strengthening investment in professional development, and providing effective and ongoing support and feedback for teachers in every aspect of their work.

Different dimensions of teacher education, development, and support to equip effective teachers need to be designed within an integrated framework.
They also need to be supported by policies concerning other aspects of schools, teachers, and school leadership.

Finally, the engagement and support of all stakeholders including teachers, school leaders, and teacher educators and their active involvement in the policy design process itself are crucial to successful implementation and real changes in classroom practices.

Updated: Jan. 06, 2014