“What is fundamentally different today is that education systems now need to equip all teachers, and not just some, for effective learning.” — Andreas Schleicher
In Search of Professionals Around the World
By C. M. Rubin with Harry Rubin and Michael Freeborn
“It is very clear that high performing systems generally have a high performing teacher population.” — Andreas Schleicher
Professional Capital, Andrew Hargreaves’ and Michael Fullan’s recently released book, proposes an action plan for teachers, administrators, schools, districts, and state and federal leaders as to how to create a 21st century generation of professional teachers.
Countries around the world are undertaking reforms to better prepare teachers to teach in 21st century classrooms. Today in part four of our series, The Global Search for Education - In Search of Professionals, I have asked Andreas Schleicher, given his extensive global educational perspective, to weigh in on what the US and other nations can learn from some of the high performing education systems that are doing this.
Andreas Schleicher is Deputy Director for Education and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD’s Secretary-General. He also provides strategic oversight over OECD’s work on the development and utilization of skills and their social and economic outcomes. This includes the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), and the development and analysis of benchmarks on the performance of education systems (INES).
What steps or changes do you believe we should make in the US in order to further advance the quality of teachers and the teaching profession going forward?
Part of the answer lies in the changes in the demands placed on teachers. In every country, there have always been great teachers, and many of us are here today because we had great teachers. But what is fundamentally different today is that education systems now need to equip all teachers, and not just some, for effective learning. In the past, when you only needed a small slice of well-educated workers, it was sufficient, and perhaps efficient, for governments to invest a large sum into a small elite to lead the country. But the social and economic cost of low educational performance has risen very substantially and the best performing education systems now get all young people to leave school with strong foundation skills, which is what you see in the PISA results. When you could still assume that what you learn in school will last for a lifetime, teaching content and routine cognitive skills was at the center of education. Today, where you can access content on Google, where routine cognitive skills are being digitized or outsourced, and where jobs are changing rapidly, education systems need to enable people to become lifelong learners, to manage complex ways of thinking and complex ways of working that computers can’t take over easily. That requires a very different caliber of teachers. When teaching was about explaining prefabricated content, you could tolerate low teacher quality. And when teacher quality was low, governments tended to tell their teachers exactly what to do and exactly how they wanted it done, using prescriptive methods of administrative control and accountability. What you see in the most advanced systems now is that they have made teaching a profession of high-level knowledge workers, and that, not higher salaries, is what makes teaching so attractive in countries as different as Finland, Japan or Singapore. But people who see themselves as candidates for the professions are not attracted by schools organized like an assembly line, with teachers working as interchangeable widgets. You therefore see a very different work organization in high performing systems, with the status, professional autonomy, and the high-quality education that go with professional work, with effective systems of teacher evaluation and with differentiated career paths for teachers. That is perhaps the biggest challenge for the US.
“Singapore’s new TE21 Model seeks to enhance key elements of teacher education.” — Andreas Schleicher
In general what common characteristics have you observed in the high performing systems relative to their teaching profession?
High performing systems have common characteristics:
- Their teachers are well-versed in the subjects they teach and adept at using different methods and, if necessary, changing their approaches to optimize learning.
- They have a rich repertoire of teaching strategies, the ability to combine approaches, and the knowledge of how and when to use certain methods and strategies.
- Their teachers have a deep understanding of how learning happens, in general, and often also of their individual students’ motivations, emotions and lives outside the classroom, in particular.
- Their teachers work in highly collaborative ways, with other teachers and professionals or para-professionals within the same organization, or with others in other organizations, in networks of professional communities and in different partnership arrangements, including, for some, mentoring teachers.
- In some countries teachers acquire strong technology skills and skills to use technology as effective teaching tools, both to optimize the use of digital resources in their teaching and to use information-management systems to track student learning.
- Their teachers have the capacity to help design, lead, manage and plan learning environments in collaboration with others.
- Last but not least, their teachers reflect on their practices in order to learn from their experience.
Consider three advanced education systems: Finland, Singapore and Japan. What do you see as the strengths of the Finnish system?
Teacher education in Finland has several distinguishing qualities:
- It is research based. Teacher candidates are not only expected to become familiar with the knowledge base in education and human development, but they are required to write a research-based dissertation as the final requirement for the masters degree. The rationale for requiring a research-based dissertation is that teachers are expected to engage in disciplined inquiry in the classroom throughout their teaching career.
- It has a strong focus on developing pedagogical content knowledge. Traditional teacher preparation programs too often treat good pedagogy as generic, assuming that good questioning skills, for example, are equally applicable to all subjects. Because teacher education in Finland is a shared responsibility between the teacher education faculty and the academic subject faculty, there is substantial attention to subject-specific pedagogy for prospective primary as well as upper-grade teachers.
- There is ample training for all Finnish teachers in diagnosing students with learning difficulties and in adapting their instruction to the varying learning needs and styles of their students.
- It has a very strong clinical component. Teachers’ preparation includes both extensive course work on how to teach - with a strong emphasis on using research based on state-of-the-art practice - and at least a full year of clinical experience in a school associated with the university. These model schools are intended to develop and model innovative practices, as well as to foster research on learning and teaching.
“What’s interesting in Japan is their approach to build on the knowledge of the profession.”— Andreas Schleicher
What are your thoughts on the Singapore system?
Singapore is easy to understand because the system is well documented and highly institutionalized. Singapore’s National Institute for Education as a university-based teacher education institution provides the theoretical foundation to produce “thinking teachers” but has strong partnerships with key stakeholders and the schools to ensure strong clinical practice and realities of professionalism in teacher development. Singapore’s new TE21 Model seeks to enhance key elements of teacher education, including the underpinning philosophy, curriculum, desired outcomes for our teachers, and academic pathways. These are considered essential prerequisites in meeting the challenges of the 21st century classroom. Their model focuses on three value paradigms: Learner-centered, Teacher Identity and Service to the Profession and Community. Learner-centered values puts the learner at the centre of teachers’ work by being aware of learner development and diversity, believing that all youths can learn, caring for the learner, striving for scholarship in content teaching, knowing how people learn best, and learning to design the best learning environment possible. Teacher identity values refer to having high standards and strong drive to learn in view of the rapid changes in the education milieu, to be responsive to student needs. The values of service to the profession and community focuses on teachers’ commitment to their profession through active collaborations and striving to become better practitioners to benefit the teaching community. The model also underscores the requisite knowledge and skills that teachers must possess in light of the latest global trends, and to improve student outcomes.
Finally what are your thoughts on the Japanese System?
What’s interesting in Japan is their approach to build on the knowledge of the profession, through regular lesson studies in which all teachers take part. The Japanese tradition of lesson study in which groups of teachers review their lessons and how to improve them, in part through analysis of student errors, provides one of the most effective mechanisms for teachers’ self-reflection as well as being a tool for continuous improvement. Observers of Japanese elementary school classrooms have long noted the consistency and thoroughness with which a math concept is taught and the way in which the teacher leads a discussion of mathematical ideas, both correct and incorrect, so that students gain a firm grasp on the concept. This school-by-school lesson study often culminates in large public research lessons. For example, when a new subject is added to the national curriculum, groups of teachers and researchers review research and curriculum materials and refine their ideas in pilot classrooms over a year before holding a public research lesson, which can be viewed electronically by hundreds of teachers, researchers and policymakers. The tradition of lesson study in Japan also means that Japanese teachers are not alone. They work together in a disciplined way to improve the quality of the lessons they teach. That means that teachers whose practice lags behind that of the leaders can see what good practice is. Because their colleagues know who the poor performers are and discuss them, the poor performers have both the incentive and the means to improve their performance. Since the structure of the East Asian teaching workforce includes opportunities to become a master teacher and move up a ladder of increasing prestige and responsibility, it also pays the good teacher to become even better.
Andreas Schleicher and C. M. Rubin
Photos courtesy of the OECD.
In The Global Search for Education, join me and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Michael Block (US), Dr. Leon Botstein (US), Professor Clay Christensen (US), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (US), Dr. Madhav Chavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (US), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Jean Hendrickson (US), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Dr. Eija Kauppinen (Finland), State Secretary Tapio Kosunen (Finland), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Professor Ben Levin (Canada), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Shiv Nadar (India), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Dr. Pak Tee Ng (Singapore), Dr. Denise Pope (US), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Dr. Diane Ravitch (US), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Professor Dr. Wolfgang Schneider (Germany), Dr. Anthony Seldon (UK), Dr. David Shaffer (US), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (US), Yves Theze (Lycee Francais US), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (US), Sir David Watson (UK), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Dr. Mark Wormald (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.
The Global Search for Education Community Page
C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
Young Australians present to their classmates
Australia On The Move
By C. M. Rubin with Harry Rubin and Michael Freeborn
In Vicki Abeles’ movie, Race to Nowhere, we met U. S. kids who were so overscheduled they had no time to be kids. The film suggested we were preoccupied with testing and performance, undermining what our kids should be doing in the classroom, let alone in their down time. So what is happening down under?
I’ve been to Australia six times for business and personal reasons (my ancestors, who were academics, once owned Geelong College in Victoria). The only thing that’s consistent about each trip? When I have to go home, I cry and then console myself with the promise, I shall return!
Professor Barry McGaw returned in 2005, leaving his position as Director for Education at OECD, responsible for the PISA test — the test U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan downloads when someone mentions The Global Achievement Gap. Did you know Arne Duncan played professional basketball for Australia’s National Basketball League and in the process met his wife Karen, an Australian high school teacher?
Australia is on the move! Professor Barry McGaw, Chair of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), has a brand new national curriculum to explain to me, among other things.
Barry, when I mention your work, educators bring up student assessment. Why?
What I am going to say is in the context of Australia and in an effort to produce a national curriculum. We are, like the United States, a federation, but one in which the responsibility for education is at the state and not the local level. There are six states and two territories with separate curricula, so the task of developing a national approach is much simpler than it would be in the United States. There have been several attempts since the late 1980s to move to a national curriculum but this time we have made significant progress. In December 2010, the Council of Education Ministers endorsed an Australian Curriculum for Kindergarten through Year 10 in English, Mathematics, Science, and History.
The national curriculum includes knowledge, understanding and skills, and sets our students’ learning entitlements. The ‘content descriptions’ set down the entitlements but we have provided ‘content elaborations’ as well for those teachers who would welcome additional guidance about how the content might be dealt with. The elaborations also serve to meet the expectations of those states and territories that traditionally specify their curricula in more detail than others.
When it comes to specifying achievement standards by grade level for learning areas, it is difficult to do it unambiguously. We do it but illustrate them with annotated samples of real students’ work collected in response to real tasks set by teachers. The assessments and annotations are provided by panels of teachers and the samples chosen illustrate various levels of achievement. The states and territories have been using this approach for a number of years, as are people in other countries as well. We think that this is the best way to help teachers use specifications of achievement standards consistently.
What kind of education system provides the human skills to compete globally in the 21st century?
In the Australian curriculum, we are taking a different approach to incorporation of what some call 21st century skills. First, we have not abandoned the traditional disciplines. We recognize that there are thousands of years of intellectual development behind the current ways of thinking about and representing knowledge. The disciplines that have been created are rich in their capacity to help people understand the world. So we have a curriculum that is discipline based but that is one of only three dimensions.
We include the so-called 21st Century skills as a second dimension. We do not call them that, however, since most of the skills typically nominated are ones that were clearly relevant in earlier centuries. We call them ‘general capabilities’. We started with eight but now use seven: literacy, numeracy, ICT competence, critical and creative thinking, ethical behavior, personal and social competence, and intercultural understanding.
Young Australians explain their history
On a third dimension we have identified three current priorities that we believe need special attention. They are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia’s links with Asia, and Sustainability. These are in addition to and not instead of things already secure in the curriculum such as Australia’s historical connections with the United Kingdom and their expression in Australia’s political and legal systems.
When our curriculum writers are developing the discipline based curricula, they are obliged to pay attention to where the general capabilities and the current cross-curriculum priorities could be addressed. The curriculum is presented electronically (see www.australiancurriculum.edu.au) and that enables users to view the curriculum content from the perspective of any one of the three dimensions: disciplines, general capabilities and cross-curriculum priorities. The electronic display lets us have it all ways. We can embrace general capabilities that are particularly important in the 21st Century without abandoning well established discipline based ways of knowing. We can also provide protection to current issues, such as those captured in our cross-curriculum priorities, that we believe should be an important part of the world view offered to young Australians.
Technology knowledge in today’s world could almost be a special extension to curriculum. Would you agree?
Yes, but not as a separate subject in the early years. It has to be developed alongside everything else as reflected in our general capability, ICT competence. By the time you get to Grades 8 to 10, schools will offer a range of technology studies.
Can schools teach ethics?
Schools are institutions in which values and ethics have to be addressed. It’s tricky territory because it’s easy for people to mischaracterize teachers as pursuing particular political agendas if they do address them. Our ‘general capabilities’ include ‘ethical behavior’, ‘personal and social competence’, and ‘inter cultural understanding’ quite deliberately to address the issue you raise.
More students applying to higher education. More pressure?
We have the same problem. We have parents as well as students feeling this pressure. We have had a huge shift of students from government to private schools. Our research shows that the performance of those private schools is not necessarily better than public schools but parents feel the pressure to buy what they feel might give their children an advantage.
We see the pressure building earlier too. We have national assessments of students in Grades 3, 5 , 7 and 9 in the basic skills in literacy and numeracy. Parents receive reports on their own children but we now publish school results on the My School website (www.myschool.edu.au). On that site, we provide direct comparisons amongst schools with students from similar socio-educational backgrounds. That avoids unfair comparisons with schools in much more advantaged circumstances but it does put pressure on schools and students.
Enough emphasis on the arts in curriculum?
There is always a risk when some things, such as literacy and numeracy, are given such special prominence that other things might be downgraded. There is a case for special attention to literacy and numeracy because they are basis to so much other learning, but we need to protect other areas from too much focus on them. The protection for the others lies in clear, publicly available information on the curriculum to be implemented in all schools. Furthermore, we require teachers to report to parents students’ achievements in all areas of the curriculum.
World Wisdom — The Goals of Australia’s New Curriculum
Support students to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, active and informed citizens by promoting equity and excellence in education. Equip students with the essential skills, knowledge and capabilities to thrive and compete in a globalised world and information rich workplaces of the current century. Curriculum will be accessible to all regardless of their social or economic background or the school they attend.
Barry McGaw, Chair ACARA, and C. M. Rubin
In The Global Search for Education, join C.M. Rubin and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Leon Botstein (US), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (US), Dr. Madhav Chavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (US), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Professor Ben Levin (Canada), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. David Shaffer (US), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (US), Yves Theze (Lycee Francais US), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (US), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.
C.M. Rubin has more than two decades of professional experience in development, marketing, and art direction for a diverse range of media businesses. She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice In Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld