When I started teaching English in my native Hungary, I was excited, confident, and maybe a bit nervous, about managing a group of students and helping them grow. My first year went well: I established good relationships, my students were actively engaged in their learning, and they made huge progress. A year later, however, I taught my first class in mathematics, and the experience was entirely different. The class was often a mess, my students were disengaged, and I felt helpless. I was still the same teacher, so why were the two experiences so different? Or, to put it more broadly, what makes good teaching?
We can all probably agree that teachers must be capable of planning a lesson and managing a classroom. They also need to use teaching methods that facilitate learning and allow every student to grow. And to do that, they need to know how students learn. Some of this knowledge can be applied across all subjects, some is more discipline-specific. But regardless of which subject they taught, we probably remember our best teachers as being enthusiastic and always willing to help. Good teaching certainly relies on teachers’ motivation, as well.
In an effort to improve education for all students, countries have been trying to identify the characteristics of good teaching and design policies to promote them. Developing teaching standards – or a description of what teachers, as professionals, are required to know and be able to do – is one way to do this. A number of questions naturally arise around standards, including how they are developed, how they relate to the teaching profession and teacher learning, and how they work in everyday practice. We take a closer look at all of these issues in a newly published report.
Standards differ quite considerably across countries, though…