OECD says teachers at the heart of effective schools

Less is more when it comes to teaching; less administrative duties mean more time spent working with students.
Feb 3, 2021
Effective schools have happy, effective teachers

The OECD’s TALIS report ‘Positive High Achieving Students?’ places teachers at the core of the most effective educational systems and reinforces what many will know; teaching success relies on the basics.

The report’s value is that it relies on advanced statistics and machine learning techniques to come to its conclusions.

Less is more when it comes to teaching; less administrative duties mean more time spent working with students and fostering the personal relationships that promote the best educational outcomes.

The report stresses that the most must be made of classroom time. Teachers should analyse the way they typically use their class time and find ways to reduce time spent on administrative tasks and keeping order in the classroom.

Teachers’ involvement in extracurricular activities has a strong effect on disciplinary climate. Time spent with students outside of the regular classroom hours helps to establish and nurture good relationships with students which encourages students’ cognitive and social-emotional development.

The classroom space counts too, a layout where teachers can monitor their class time closely and manage conflicts while letting students focus or interact and become more autonomous is important.

Reducing noise in the classroom is essential, the OECD says ways to make it happen might include building a classroom noise barometer or introducing students to the beauty of silence.

The report also stresses the importance of marking and correcting student work; regular feedback helps build trust-based relationships between teachers and students, but teachers need time to do it and schedules need to be freed up.

Schools and school systems should promote a culture focused on achievement to raise performance and equity. Regular use of both formative and summative assessments can be useful for identifying the content that students still need to master and the learning methods that could still improve.

The report suggests a more frequent appraisal of teachers can promote both efficiency and equity in educational achievement. Formal appraisal by external individuals and bodies is more objective and less judgmental than appraisal by the school management team or colleagues.

Providing feedback to teachers about their competencies and performance could be enhanced by central standards and criteria, a more formal and standardised process and the possibility for teachers to appeal when they doubt the fairness of the process.

Boys are difficult, in most school systems they play up more, do less well than girls, and drop out more often. It’s a problem that confounds many but one thing that does seem to work is making teachers accountable.

School leaders can play an active role in continuously fostering teachers’ feeling of responsibility over student performance. The report found this type of leadership and sense of accountability can improve boys’ performances.

Schools should optimise the way students are grouped within classes in a form that helps fragile students more than it is detrimental to the strongest students.

Schools should spread out students with disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and academically gifted students as evenly as possible across classes. This helps address disparities in student achievement and gaps in student self-concept.

Students benefit from teachers with varied backgrounds (especially in terms of gender) across subjects and/or across school semesters/years. Variety in teacher backgrounds allows a variety of teaching approaches and role models for students.

Obviously, job satisfaction has a positive impact on teachers, school culture and ultimately on students. Consulting with teachers and stakeholders to identify areas which aren't satisfactory is especially beneficial in disadvantaged schools where teachers are most likely to face unfavourable working conditions.

Teachers and school principals should interact with parents to help them build a positive learning environment in their schools.

Parents can be encouraged to discuss education matters with their child, help with homework and supervise their child’s progress through education. Schools might also invite parents to speak with the school staff and participate in school decision making and school activities.

Some schools have had success creating community hubs which link the school and the community by sharing facilities.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels