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Emerging themes in teacher development
(c) Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Emerging themes in teacher development

Research 4 minute read

What we learned about improving education from monitoring teacher development investments in 3 countries.

The global learning crisis has highlighted the urgent need to improve the quality of education. Further, it has shown that to transform education systems in the long term, it is crucial to invest effectively in teacher development.

The need for quality education – effective teaching, measurable learning – has only become more acute with the COVID-19 disruptions to education systems. Improving teaching quality can have a significant impact on student learning and outcomes, and remains a focus of many investments in education systems around the world.

Recognising the need for effective teacher development, the Australian Government is currently supporting teacher investment initiatives across the Indo-Pacific, including in Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos). The strategies employed to improve teaching vary in approach as each of these three countries introduces a new primary education curriculum. To understand the effectiveness of their support, the Australian Government, as part of the Education Analytics Service, commissioned the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) to conduct a multi-year study series to investigate one overarching question: To what extent does the Australian investment produce improved teaching quality and improved student learning?

'Most education investment programs have a core goal of improving student learning, but no number of improved curriculums or increased budgets will lead to better student outcomes without sustained, considered and innovative support to teachers. Right now, the media is reporting on teacher shortages and crises in dozens of countries around the world – there is no learning without teachers, so education systems must find better ways of supporting them,' emphasises Jeaniene Spink, Research Director for Education and Development at ACER.

Beginning with data collection in Timor-Leste in 2018, the study series has produced multiple country-level reports and supporting resources. Each country-level study used a mixed-methods approach, analysing both quantitative and qualitative data. Initial findings across all three countries identified four emerging themes on teacher development investments.

  1. Language of instruction – language policies and how they are implemented and resourced can enable or hinder the quality of the teaching and learning process.
  2. Targeted approach to teacher professional development – differentiated teacher development approaches that consider specific teaching and learning challenges, and the diversity of teacher workforces, are needed.
  3. Embedding continuous teacher development into support systems – establishing and resourcing systems for ongoing professional learning is critical to sustaining and integrating gains from initial teacher development inputs.
  4. Monitoring teaching quality and student learning – a robust system of monitoring can help governments understand what is working and not working in a system to make necessary changes to curricular, teaching, assessment and resourcing to improve learning.

'These four themes are significant findings, as they have emerged consistently from each country, but require different implementation strategies relevant to each context,' explains Spink. 'While each country in the study series is at a different phase in their reform process, these emerging themes can help guide future policy, programming and research, and Australia’s future education investments in the region.'

Data collection will continue in 2022, with final reports for each of the three countries, and a final synthesis report, expected for publication in 2023.

Read the full report: Teacher development multi-year studies. Emerging themes: Challengers and enablers.

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