Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
Teachers at the Intersection of Societal Aspirations, Policy Priorities, and Everyday Realities: A Panel at CIES 2022
This panel was chaired by Joan DeJaeghere (RISE Vietnam), and co-organised by Joan and Yue-Yi Hwa (RISE Directorate). Each part of the panel included four presentations followed by discussant remarks from Frances Vavrus (University of Minnesota; ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel) and an open Q&A session.
In bringing together these different presentations, we aimed to engage with the multi-scalar influences on teachers and teaching. We also hoped to consider the theoretical and methodological pluralism that is needed to understand the role of teachers and teaching within the larger educational system. These presentations included examining teachers and teaching with diverse methods as well as different theoretical positionings of teacher development and practice.
Part I: Exploring classroom practice across contexts
1. Anna Pons, ‘Global Teaching InSights: Findings from the OECD’s Video Study of Teaching’
- By directly observing teaching in the classroom, the Global Teaching InSights study examined classroom management, social-emotional support and instructional practices in the classroom, as well as students’ opportunities to learn the content specified in the curricula and how all of these aspects of teaching related to student learning and student non-cognitive outcomes.
- To obtain direct evidence from the classroom, about 700 teachers and 17,500 students from eight countries (Chile, Colombia, England, Germany, Japan, Madrid, Mexico, and China) were videotaped in two lessons from the unit of quadratic equations in secondary school mathematics. The teaching materials were also collected. Before and after the unit, teachers and students filled out questionnaires on their beliefs, practices and perspectives, and students also took tests to measure their learning gains.
- Overall, instruction was of reasonable quality, although large variation was observed within and across countries. One particularly interesting point of variation concerns how teachers respond when students struggle or make mistakes. In some countries, teachers immediately come to their rescue. However, in other countries, teachers tend to leave students to persist in their struggles independently.
2. Bich-Hang Duong (presenter), Vu Dao, & Joan DeJaeghere, ‘Teachers’ sensemaking of competency and competency-based teaching in Vietnam’
- Vietnam’s leaders have adopted competency-based education (CBE) in a comprehensive reform of its education system since the early 2010s. Although the global idea of CBE has been widely adopted and recontextualised in various educational contexts, the implementation of the reform at the local level is never a linear and simple process. This study explores how Vietnamese teachers made sense of key competencies and adapted their teaching to competency development. The data analysis included qualitative interviews with 91 secondary teachers and video-cued reflections of their classroom teaching collected over three years (2017–2019), with an in-depth focus on 8 math and literature teachers.
- The findings shed light on the ambivalence of teachers as they made sense of the target competencies and aligned their practices with the new CBE reform. Based on their prior experiences and worldviews, teachers made sense of competencies as learning the foundational knowledge and skills, in addition to developing good attitude, character, and morality. Over the years, they placed a stronger emphasis on process, integration, and real-life application of competencies toward whole-child development.
- Despite teachers’ shifting sensemaking of competencies, the performativity culture for high learning outcomes still prevailed, making teaching competencies for life a challenging task.
3. Barbara Bruns (presenter), Tassia Cruz, & Ariana Britto, ‘The impact of teachers’ “mindsets” on student learning: New evidence from Rio de Janeiro’
- This study looked at the extent to which a five-week training intervention designed to promote a growth mindset can change teachers’ beliefs and, consequently, student outcomes. The study was run as a randomized trial across 89 treatment schools and 89 control schools in Rio de Janeiro, with a focus on Grade 5 teachers.
- In the treatment group, the intervention significantly increased teachers’ beliefs in growth mindset in the treatment and significantly improved classroom culture. Strikingly, it also led to large and significant gains in Portuguese (0.2 SD) and maths (0.7 SD) scores in end-of-year standardised tests.
- One innovative aspect of the study was using a tablet-based observation tool called TEACH Plus. TEACH Plus merges the World Bank’s TEACH instrument with the Stallings Classroom Snapshot to generate robust data on the full range of Stallings and TEACH variables that are directly comparable to data generated by TEACH and Stallings separately. These include teachers’ use of instructional time; use of classroom materials; pedagogical practice; ability to keep students engaged, plus assessments of teacher quality (in classroom culture, instruction, and support for socio-emotional skills).
4. Adelle Pushparatnam (presenter), Ezequiel Molina, Diego Luna Bazaldua, Emma Carter, Nidhi Singhal, ‘Teaching for All? Measuring the Quality of Inclusive Practices Across Eight Countries’
- While there is a consensus on the importance of inclusive education, a common bottleneck for the implementation of inclusive education is the lack of support for teachers to implement high-quality inclusive teaching practices in the classroom. We present an ongoing research programme that aims to understand and measure the quality of inclusive teaching. This programme draws upon the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. Key principles in UDL include providing multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement within the classroom.
- In this presentation, we use this framework to identify inclusive teaching practices within the Teach framework, a quantitative classroom observation system to support teachers in their classroom practices. We present the analysis of data collected through 5,348 classroom observations in eight countries (Afghanistan, Jordan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uruguay).
- We find three main results. First, while teachers spent more than 87 percent of class time on task, a large majority of teachers does not follow high-quality inclusive teaching practices. Second, teachers demonstrate similar relative strengths and weakness on inclusive teaching practices. Finally, teachers who demonstrate high-quality inclusive teaching practices are also more likely to demonstrate better teaching in other areas.
Part II: Perspectives on being and becoming a teacher
5. Shintia Revina (presenter), Ulfah Alifia, & Rezanti Putri Pramana, ‘Becoming a Teacher:How Policy Shapes Novice Teacher Professional Identity Formation in Indonesia’
- This presentation shares the findings from a longitudinal qualitative study that explores the experience of 16 novice Indonesian teachers and discusses how policy on teachers have shaped their professional identity formulation during the early years. Teachers were required to write a reflective journal entry every other month. In between journal entries, we interviewed the teachers by phone to elaborate on or clarify information they wrote in their journals.
- The key difficulty teachers face is the lack of support. Their initial education and training are disconnected from classroom realities, and it is difficult to establish supportive relations with more experienced colleagues and parents. This is compounded by inadequate resources and policies that do not prioritise student learning or teacher well-being.
- Some key results offer an interesting contrast to the existing literature. First, teachers emphasised their relationship with students as central to their ideal of teaching. They focus on shaping students’ characters and transmitting values rather than maximising test scores. Also, civil servant status is seen as central to teachers’ professional integrity and their commitment to staying in the profession.
6. Matthew A.M Thomas (presenter), Janet Serenje-Chipindi, & Ferdinand Chipindi, ‘Zambian Pre-service Teachers’ Experiences of Sociology of Education: Exploring Theory for (Future Teaching) Practice’
- This study examined the experiences of pre-service teachers (PSTs) in Zambia who completed a Sociology of Education course as part of their teacher education programme, and explored their perceptions of its value for their future work as primary and secondary school teachers. The study draws on surveys (n=318) and focus groups with students (n=20), a focus group with tutors (n=6) working on the course, and reflections and fieldnote observations conducted by lecturers.
- In general, the PSTs gained strong sociological understandings related to the contexts of teaching, learning, and schooling; gleaned specific insights for their future teaching practice, such as the dangers of deficit approaches and certain forms of socialisation (e.g., publicly identifying ‘slow learners’ in classes); desired further guidance to help them move between theory and practice as well as sociological and psychological frames; and felt impacted by the material constraints existent within the institutional context.
- In addition to reporting these findings, the paper posits that more scholarly attention to teacher education curricula—specially in social foundations of education—is necessary within lower-income contexts such that the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs can be enhanced.
7. Shwetlena Sabarwal (presenter), Malek Abu-Jawdeh, & Radhika Kapoor, ‘How Teacher Mindsets Shape Education Insights from Low- and Middle-Income countries’
- Despite many interventions in low- and middle-income countries that aim to address low levels of student learning by improving teacher practice, few of these interventions show a positive impact on teacher behaviour. Additionally, few impact evaluations of such interventions collect data on teacher beliefs. This study aims to fill this gap by conducting a survey on teacher mindsets in nine countries (Afghanistan, Argentina, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tanzania).
- The survey found that teachers care deeply about students and their learning. However, the survey also found two problematic mindsets among teachers. First, most teachers both within and across countries believe that not all students deserve attention, such that teachers tend to focus on students who are already performing well or working hard. Secondly, many teachers believe that there is little they can do to help a student learn if parents are uneducated or if students come unprepared from previous grades. This suggests that teachers may be reinforcing rather than compensating for baseline gaps in student learning.
- Shwetlena is currently conducting further work, in collaboration from researchers from a range of disciplines, to understand teacher mindsets, how these mindsets can be shifted, and how they affect student learning.
8. Yue-Yi Hwa, ‘Teacher professional norms in the Global South: Competing priorities, dominant practices, and prospects for change’
- This project explores the dominant norms shaping teacher practice in the Global South, the factors underlying the emergence of these norms, and approaches for norms change. The main data source is a series of 14 paired interviews conducted with 28 interlocutors. Interlocutors include both researchers and practitioners, spanning a variety of professional affiliations, academic disciplines, and country contexts. After each interview was transcribed, interlocutors were given the opportunity to reflectively revise their spontaneous contributions to the asynchronous symposium. The transcripts were then analysed using qualitative content analysis.
- The current version of this conceptual framework categorises the factors underlying teacher norms into four domains: selves (teachers’ perceptions of ‘what I value’), situations (teachers’ perceptions of ‘what can be done’), standards (teachers’ perceptions of ‘what those in charge expect’), and society (broader influences).
- The working hypothesis is that the practices and priorities that are most likely to emerge as dominant norms are those that are reinforced across domains. This working hypothesis also implies a principle for reorienting teacher norms: reform attempts are more likely to succeed if they intervene concurrently and coherently across multiple domains.
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