According to teachers in England, perhaps not. Researcher Kristen Weatherby teases out the ICT angle
It's official – teachers in England and Scotland work very hard (see BBC's "Teachers work 'longer classroom hours'"). Which makes it an ideal time to revisit the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS 2013) that asked teachers worldwide about their experiences with continuing professional development (CPD) and where they might require further support.
If we compare the areas in which teachers in England and Japan expressed high levels of need for CPD, a puzzle emerges.
Japan is known for having one of the highest performing education systems, according to the OECD’s PISA assessment, while pupils in England perform at around the international average of all PISA countries. Yet large percentages (over 50 per cent in some cases) of Japanese teachers (see graph 7 below) express high levels of need for further CPD in many areas, whereas only a small minority (1-8 per cent) of teachers in England express the same levels of need (see graph 6 below). Why is this? Do England’s teachers simply not need CPD?
It’s true that according to TALIS data, the vast majority of teachers in England are getting CPD already. In fact, 92 per cent of teachers in England report participating in professional development in the 12 months prior to the TALIS survey. And a higher percentage of teachers in England (93 per cent) receive this CPD for free than in any of the other 33 countries surveyed. But it’s also true that teachers in England spend approximately half the number of days in CPD as their international colleagues. Furthermore, teachers in England tend to favour short-term CPD activities, such as courses and workshops (75 per cent of teachers) rather than more in-depth activities, such as participation in a qualification programme (a mere 10 per cent of teachers).
Does this matter? It matters for many reasons. But if we want teachers to increase their use of technology in the classroom, it actually matters a great deal. TALIS data also found that the kind of CPD teachers take is related to the teaching practices they use in the classroom. Teachers who participate in individual or collaborative research or in a network of teachers are more likely to report using ICT in their teaching. Unfortunately only a third or fewer teachers in England report participating in these kinds of CPD offerings.
The area of highest need for teacher CDP involves technology
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that only 37 per cent of teachers in England report that their students use ICT for projects or class work frequently or in all or nearly all lessons. Additionally, while teaching with technology is the area in which teachers in England express the highest level of need for CPD, only 32 per cent report having participated in CPD with this focus. Of those teachers, slightly less than two thirds reported that the CPD had a positive impact on their teaching. Thus the majority of teachers in England are not only not using ICT frequently, but they aren’t taking CPD that might help them increase or improve their ICT use.
To further add to the mystery around CPD and the use of ICT in the classroom, let’s look at this statistic. The areas in which the most teachers around the world express high levels of need for CPD are in ICT skills for teaching (19 per cent of teachers in all TALIS countries) and using new technologies in the workplace (18 per cent). (These were also the top areas of need for teachers around the world in TALIS 2008. Not much has changed!)
England’s teachers expressed the same needs for CPD, but with much lower percentages: only 8 per cent of teachers in England expressed a high level of need for CPD in both of these areas. For some reason, it doesn’t seem like improving technology use is a priority for teachers in England. Is this really the case?
A closer look at the TALIS data for England reveals other possible reasons that teachers might not be participating in as much in-depth CPD as their peers around the world. Teachers in England report working an average of 46 hours per week. This weekly work schedule is exceeded only by teachers in Japan, Singapore and Canada. Of these 46 hours, teachers in England report spending:
- 20 hours teaching;
- 8 hours planning;
- 6 hours marking;
- 4 hours on administrative work.
This leaves only eight hours for everything else that is required of teachers, which means that any CPD that occurs would happen above and beyond the busy, 46-hour work week. It’s not surprising that as many as 60 per cent of teachers in England express their number one barrier to taking further CPD is their existing work schedule.
It is also possible that teachers in England are not getting feedback on their teaching that allows them to accurately assess their own level of need for CPD. While nearly all teachers in England report receiving formal appraisal and feedback on their teaching, less than half felt that the feedback they received led to any positive changes in their teaching practices. Indeed more than half of England’s teachers feel that appraisal and feedback systems in schools are simply box-ticking exercises designed to fulfil administrative requirements.
There are many possible solutions to the mystery presented by these data, but if increased use of ICT in the classroom is a priority, teachers need support in order to find the time to attend CPD and to select the most appropriate offerings for their needs. Meaningful appraisal and feedback on their teaching that is connected to continuing professional learning would also help them identify the areas in which they need the most help.
Kristen Weatherby on Twitter