For children of migrant background, school quality is critical to ensuring academic success. Research shows that school quality has a greater impact on the education outcomes of migrant children compared to their peers of higher socioeconomic status or ethnic majority background. Therefore, any comprehensive strategy to improve the educational position of migrant children must work to improve the quality of schools themselves.
School quality, or professional capacity, encompasses the capacity of its teachers, administrators, and other staff. It can be measured by examining the content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and interpersonal skills of instructors; the level of responsibility administrators give teachers; and whether all staff work together in a cohesive, professional learning community. Schools with these communities, in which teachers work continuously to improve their teaching practices and learn from their colleagues, are more effective in encouraging student achievement in disadvantaged areas than are schools where teachers do little to reflect on their practices.
This policy brief uses the concept of professional capacity to frame SIRIUS’s recommendations regarding school quality. It identifies four key areas for improvement: language diversity, the learning environment, social psychology and acculturation, and community connections. To develop expertise in these areas, the brief outlines three strategies for policymakers:
build professional learning communities that focus on diversity;
build networks of expertise on diversity;
and develop teacher training programs dedicated to diversity.
This policy brief is part of a series produced by theSIRIUS Networkin collaboration with MPI Europe, which focuses on how policies at the EU level and within individual Member States can better support the education outcomes of young people with a migrant background.
Germany’s union for education and science is gearing up to host a conference in September focused on helping teachers navigate the challenges of working in a 21st century classroom.
Education International’s (EI) affiliate, The Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), will launch its GEW Forum on the future of teacher training with a conference, Beyond Teacher Education, in Leipzig, central Germany on 25 September.
“Inclusive education, school structural reforms, full-time teaching: not only the requirements for schools, but also the challenges for teachers are changing,” said GEW Deputy President and board member responsible for Universities and Research Dr. Andreas Keller.“Not least, the growing diversity in the classroom means that teachers must be more than just pedagogues. Meeting these new challenges requires good qualifications before entering the profession and continuous in-service training for teachers.”
The GEW adopted an “action plan on teacher education” at its 27th national union conference in 2013 held in Dusseldorf, putting the reform of teacher education on the next year’s agenda, he reminded.
During the fall, the new Forum on teacher training will also begin its work. Representatives of Länder (states) associations, professional groups and GEW branches, as well as experts and representatives from federal and state universities and educational organisations will take part.
“All teachers and teaching staff, as well as academics and teacher students are cordially invited to the conference,” said Keller. “This event is a GEW contribution to theEI’s Unite for Quality Education campaignand will be a great start for our new GEW Forum on the future of teacher training and a good preparation to World Teachers’ Day on 5 October.”
The conference will also see EI Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst give a presentation on “What makes a good teacher and a good teacher? Professionalisation, skills and conflict of interest” shedding an international light on this topic.
The OECD has recently published the 2013 results of theTeaching and Learning International Survey(TALIS), which asked more than 100,000 teachers and school leaders in lower secondary education in 34 countries about their job satisfaction, working conditions and learning environment in their schools. The study also assesses to what extent pre and in-service training provides teachers with the necessary pedagogical and didactic skills and looks at teachers’ self-reported confidence and attitudes towards teaching.
Key recommendations and observations of the report include:
Governments should develop policies to attract more teachers to disadvantaged schools.
Schools should be given more autonomy, yet there also need to be accountability and support mechanisms in place.
School leaders have a crucial role to play and need many different skill sets. Therefore, formal initial training should be provided to prepare future school leaders. Additionally, in-service training and exchange with other school leaders needs to be more accessible.
New teachers often feel unprepared for certain challenges in the classroom and are uncertain about their capabilities. Induction programs that offer structural support for new teachers, for instance through mentoring schemes or supervision and feedback sessions, can help to support young teachers and increase their teaching capacities.
Continuous mentoring and support programs between colleagues have shown to improve student outcomes and teachers’ job satisfaction, yet very few teachers have access to or use such schemes.
In-service training should be more accessible and needs to be supported by the school management.
Teachers need to be better equipped to handle behavioral problems of students.
Teaching still largely takes place in isolation. Teachers should receive more feedback on their teaching from colleagues or the school management and should then be supported to use this feedback for positive change in their teaching styles.
Distributed leadership that includes teachers in decision-making processes at a school level should be promoted as it increases job satisfaction and the feeling of self-efficacy among teachers.
The SIRIUS Focus
Although the report does not discuss if and how teachers are specifically prepared for multilingual classrooms, many of the recommendations resonate with the outcomes of the SIRIUS stakeholder meetingon teacher training and professional capacity and themeeting of teachers with migrant backgrounds. In June 2014, a group of educational practitioners, researchers and civil society representatives came together to look at the question of teacher training from the perspective of inclusive education and discussed how teachers can be provided with the skills needed in diverse classrooms, such as knowledge about second language learning, intercultural education and social psychology.
Similarly to the OECD report, they stated that such skills should be fostered by
rendering in-service training more accessible.
school leaders who encourage or offer professional development.
promoting collaborative and open-minded school leadership to enhance professional capacity of teachers and inclusive education.
giving teachers more opportunities to exchange experiences among each other.
Additionally, however, it was noted that teacher training curricula need to adapt to prepare teachers for the needs of a multilingual and multicultural student body. During the meeting the large majority of teachers noted that they often felt left alone with these challenges. Currently, universities do not or only sporadically offer courses on second language learning or intercultural education. Furthermore, they are mostly voluntary and do not form an integral part of the curriculum.
Interestingly, only 12 percent of teachers state in the OECD survey to have a strong need to develop their skills for teaching in a multicultural or multilingual setting (p.109). Similarly, around 16 percent report to have participated in in-service training on how to teach in diverse classrooms in the last 12 months (p.106). The OECD notes that these skills seem to be less important to teachers in Europe, except for Italy where 27 percent of teachers would like to receive additional training in this field. Furthermore, teachers in Latin American countries also wish for more in-service training (46 percent in Brazil and 33 percent in Mexico).
The OECD survey therefore suggests not only a lack of pre- or in-service training in this field, but also little awareness among many teachers, who do not consider additional training in second language learning and intercultural education as necessary skills to develop.
On Thursday, 5th June 2014, Migration Policy Group hosted a SIRIUS stakeholder meeting on the topic of teacher training and professional capacity. This meeting followed on from a 1 ½ day meeting of migrant teachers where they discussed both important skill sets and policy recommendations on how to better equip teachers for diverse classrooms.
The stakeholder meeting brought together these teachers with a migration background, other educational practitioners and school leaders as well as researchers, policy makers and civil society organisations to discuss skills that teachers need in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. In addition, a focus was put on how teachers are prepared in teacher training institutions and supported during their career.
The meeting was opened by Sarah Cooke O’Dowd from the Migration Policy Group welcoming a group of about 30 participants. Eva Degler, also from the Migration Policy Group, continued by giving a short overview about the contents of capacity training, best practices and the role of the EU in enhancing teacher training (See Presentation).
Sabine Severiensfrom the Erasmus University Rotterdam then presented recommendations from her research on professional capacities and areas of expertise together with the migrant teachers who shared their successful strategies and gave insights into their professional experiences (See Presentation). The SIRIUS Report on Building Professional Capacity concerning the educational position of migrant childrenhad originally identified five main areas of expertise necessary for the professional capacity of teachers in diverse classrooms (language diversity, didactics, social psychology and identity development, parental involvement and school-community relationships). During the teacher meeting, they had also identified the need for additional space in the curriculum, training/familiarity with the development of migration history, diagnostic tests and the effectively utilising school surroundings as additional desired expertise. It was striking that hardly any of the teachers present had received initial training. Moreover, it was left to their own initiative to attend in-service training and bring up issues of inclusive education in their schools.
Piet van Avermaetfrom the University of Ghent and the Centre for Diversity and Learning then spoke about how to respond to diversity in education, focussing on the role of multilingualism, teachers’ expectations of immigrant pupils and the challenge of rendering diversity a core issue for policy making in education (See Presentation).
The last hour of the meeting was spent discussing parental and community involvement, different strategies for second language learning and the positive impact of collaborative and open-minded school leadership. Centres of expertise should be developed in schools that include interdisciplinary teams which support each other and thus increase the capacity of the whole school. These centres would include teachers, psychologists, guidance councillors etc. This would supply vital support to teachers who agreed that, at present, they are largely left alone in responding to the needs of diverse learners. Making second language learning and intercultural education an integral part of teacher training curricula was also considered crucial. At present, universities across Europe do not or only sporadically offer such training modules. Ideally, such training should become a transversal issue that is woven through all levels of teacher training. In addition, more in-service training programmes should be offered and school leaders should strongly encourage professional development in this field. Lastly, a number of participants remarked that many projects are still incidental and very rarely evaluated, which renders impact assessment and informed policy-making difficult. Furthermore, their funding often means that they have support for only a limited period of time. Structural support for good practices is necessary to make them sustainable.