Survey: Teachers Worldwide Seek More Opportunities for Collaboration

By Sarah D. Sparks — June 25, 2014 2 min read
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Secondary school teachers from the United States to Singapore value collaboration with their peers, but the vast majority are still largely isolated in their classrooms, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The OECD’s 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey analyzes what more than 100,000 teachers in 34 member countries and economies think of their working conditions. The survey found women still make up 68 percent of the teaching force and that teachers are overwhelmingly college educated and engaged in ongoing professional development at least once a year.

U.S. teachers report spending more hours a week working than their international counterparts—45 hours versus 38 on average in other countries—and more hours in instruction, 27 hours versus the 19-hour OECD average. Even so, 89 percent of the U.S. teachers surveyed said they were satisfied with their job overall—only slightly below the international average of 91 percent. UPDATE: The OECD provided information on U.S. teachers in a special country-level report.)

The OECD chart below shows how U.S. teachers’ average work week compares to the international average:

But when it comes to implementing research-backed teaching practices such as collaboration, many teachers reported not being able to do so.

In spite of research touting the benefits of collaboration, the survey found that more than half of teachers in grades 7 to 9 reported they rarely or never co-teach or observe their peers teaching. Moreover, nearly half never get feedback on how they can improve at their jobs from their principal or other school administrators. Nearly all U.S. teachers receive feedback from their principals or administrative staff (98 percent), but less than half receive feedback from their peers.

“It was amazing that teachers in the U.S. were significantly more likely to report never working with their colleagues,” said Dennis B. Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, America’s largest teachers union. Though more districts have been adding additional school days to the calendar, he said, schools need to discuss ways to integrate more professional development, planning, and team-teaching time throughout normal school days rather than tacking on a few extra professional-development days at the end of a term.

“We think this is a critical analysis of what’s really going on for teachers,” said Melinda George, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, which is partnering with the OECD on the U.S. reease of the TALIS data. She pointed to an accompanying teacher’s guide to help educators use the findings.

The sample of teachers who responded was smaller for the United States than in other countries, but Andreas Schleicher, OECD director for education and skills,
said that researchers took steps to validate the accuracy of the data for comparison with other countries.

Schleicher said the OECD will next study the connections between these survey findings and separate surveys of parents and students of the same teachers. “This kind of triangulation, looking at the same factors through the perception of students, teachers, parents, is going to be very insightful,” he said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.