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Teachers’ professional development and conditions

An Education international – commissioned study for the EI Research Institute on teacher professional identities, based on seven localities and five case studies, shows that teachers are concerned about the well-being and progress of students. They also consider professional development and learning central to that mission along with professional standing and status.


EI released a study performed for its Research Institute entitled “Constructing Teachers’ Professional Identities” and a companion document containing case studies. The seven locations included are Ontario, Scotland, Singapore, Sweden, Berlin, Chile and Kenya. The Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) carried out the literature review and the studies.

Teacher identity can be simply defined as what it means to be somebody who teaches. That will vary according to countries and cultures and with the passage of time.

The study will be useful for authorities who are interested in developing teacher-centred school systems, a concept that is increasingly accepted as being indispensable to good quality education. It will also support teacher trade unions, as the representative voice of teachers, to have more influence on education policy decisions.

Although there were differences in emphasis among the locations studied, the data gathered confirmed that:

  • Teachers put the well-being and progress of their students above all else, including their careers;
  • Professional development and learning is the single most import factor in teachers’ professional identities. EI’s report on its 2018 survey on the status of teachers reached the same conclusion using a larger volume of data;
  • Teacher well-being and public respect as well as recognition of their contributions in the form of fair professional salaries and working conditions contribute to good quality school systems; and
  • Teacher shortages, a serious global problem, vary considerably depending on professional status and treatment, with some jurisdictions enjoying a surplus of teachers.

EI General Secretary David Edwards stressed the value of teacher-centred learning to adapt to rapid change. In his foreword to the study, he wrote,

“The twenty-first century is well under way, and the challenges ahead increase with the growing complexity that we are witnessing. The main takeaway from this new study is that the complexity of today’s educational environment can only be understood when the perspective of teachers is taken into account.” 

The principal researcher on the study, Philippa Cordingley, expressed the hope that:

“…this evidence can help all education systems build the virtuous circle of teacher development and learning, enhanced professional status and strong professional working conditions that are contributing so much to teacher recruitment and retention and student, teacher and system success in the highest preforming nations.”

The evidence supplied in this research will not only be of use to education ministries and other school authorities and teachers and their trade unions but will also enrich and deepen on-going discussions on the central role of teachers with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, UNESCO and others.


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