Global teachers' Summit focuses on culture change

published 30 March 2015 updated 1 April 2015

In his analysis of the latest studies on education, EI Senior Consultant John Bangs narrowed in on the main topics of this year's summit on the teaching profession: efficacy, leadership, collaboration and innovation.

What do we know?

First I want to acknowledge and welcome the OECD’s decision to put teacher self-efficacy at the centre of the narrative on children’s learning. Teacher self- confidence is a vital component of self-efficacy but efficacy is more than that.

To quote Bandura,

The exercise of personal agency is achieved through reflective and regulative thought, the skills at one’s command and other tools of self-influence that affect choice and support selected courses of action.

In other words; it’s knowing that you as a teacher can make a positive difference to children’s learning.

This Summit is blessed with a whole range of new evidence; From the OECD in the form of TALIS and PISA. TALIS and Linda Darling-Hammond’s further analysis of the TALIS data, academic research on the importance of teacher efficacy and leadership.

PISA’s conclusions that the Clint Eastwood model of school leadership is actually harmful to student outcomes,

Michael Fullan’s studies on teachers’ professional capital- I won’t go on. All this recent evidence confirms that teachers are worth listening to.

That there is a strong positive relationship between high levels of student outcomes and teachers’ self-efficacy. Every teacher in this room would be forgiven for saying so what? We know this already.

But there’s an enormous difference between a hunch and real evidence. Real evidence is empowering. It’s just that evidence wasn’t there before in digestible form. We didn’t have it then and now we do.

The power of professional collaboration. The importance of teacher leadership. Teachers’ beliefs about whether society values them. The importance to student achievement of paying teachers properly. And some other evidence I want to refer to.

The relationship of high class sizes to teacher shortages. Linda Darling Hammond’s further analysis of TALIS links high class sizes to teacher shortages. Exhaustion leads to burnout and burnout leads to teachers leaving.

I’d also say that what we know about the importance of one to one tuition and small group tuition must challenge views that high class sizes don’t affect pupil achievement.

And of course the vital importance of support to teachers in securing a positive classroom climate and student behaviour.

So to summarise.

All of these findings factor into teacher efficacy. And we have a triangulation between successful education systems. The value which countries place on qualified teachers. And the collective self-efficacy of the teaching profession.

Teacher leadership. What do we know?

So we know that how teachers feel about themselves making a positive difference to children’s learning is crucial. How schools and the education system is organised to reflect that is also crucial.

The way in which the system is organised around empowering teachers I think we’d call teacher leadership.

Some research has been carried out on teacher leadership. The work of Annie Lieberman, Cambridge University’s International Teacher Leadership and Education International’s study, Teacher self-efficacy, voice and leadership are classic examples.

There is plainly the evidence there that teacher leadership is the way in which many teachers themselves would describe how they would like to describe their lives inside schools. And yes inside the education system.

It certainly appears in TALIS. And indeed in this Summit’s background document. The OECD’s recommendation that there should be policy guidance at system level on distributed leadership is one of the most specific I’ve seen. It’s now urgent that we pick up the policy consequences of TALIS and this is one of the most urgent.

There is a need for a global study on teacher leadership.

We made an almost identical recommendation and fleshed it out. I’ve listed what guidance might cover on the slide.

What would such policy guidance look like? We should discuss this in our first session.

So…what are the conditions for collaborative cultures and self-confident teaching professions?

There are massive new policy implications arising from the evidence we have.

Since this Summit is focussed rightly on practical policies and implementation let’s look at what some of them might be.

We need to create the conditions which create trust in the system.

Those conditions will be different in different countries.

As we’ve said over the last five Summits we need practical policies informed by evidence and a systemic approach to teacher policy.

Our EI/TUAC survey which was published in Education Policy Outlook showed that the enabling structures which facilitate dialogue between teacher unions, governments and employers could be much improved.

And what of the policies themselves?

There’s a list of suggestions up there.

How about a contractual entitlement for teachers’ views to be heard and respected?

How about shifting teacher evaluation towards teacher development and away from bureaucratic accountability? And linking it to a contractual entitlement to professional learning?

And another big one. This latest evidence shows that Governments and teacher unions need to review all levels of evaluation at student, teacher, school, and system level.

I won’t expand on the others listed in the slide.


staff/student ratios,

Ending high rates of short term contract use.

Continuing the debate on how to practically support schools with groups of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Innovation-a virtuous consequence!

I’m sure everyone here at least agrees that innovation and creativity are at the heart of a successful education system.

So the question must be asked-what encourages innovation and creativity and what snuffs it out?

Evaluation and innovation are intimately linked. How you evaluate determines how you evaluate.

Mistakes as well as quantum leaps in imagination are essential to innovation.

Fred has already referred to the vital importance of securing protocols on technologies so that schools control those technologies rather than technologies controlling schools. Such protocols should obviously empower teachers to innovate. What would they look like?

And lastly we shouldn’t forget-the most successful schools are outward facing communities. (OECD Background Document)

Innovation is about schools being outward facing with their communities; local businesses, clubs, other public services.

How can outward facing innovation be supported?

And finally…

Schools are at the centre of children’s and young people’s lives. There is no substitute! Some say that technologies (the MOOCs) can replace teachers. They forget the role of schools as communities. They create optimism in children. Social values. Teachers have to mediate between right and wrong countless times day in day out.

Think of the responsibility teachers have mediating between the values of different groups of parents.

Schools remind us of how important teachers are to the future of society.