Op Ed Opinion:Thai education Opinion:World Education

Teacher Improvement and Professional Review Processes. Which way to go?

By Greg Cairnduff M Ed BA Dip ED MACE, Deputy Managing Director.

Improving teacher quality is an essential element in ensuring successful and productive learning outcomes for all students. Teacher quality and teacher performance are well documented and thoroughly researched as the key elements in achieving high performing schools.

In those countries that score well in the PISA tests for example, teacher quality and teacher development is seen as the critical factor in the achievement of such high performance.

The question arises about the key factors to ensure that teachers are effective. Research demonstrates that choosing the right people to become teachers is one of these factors [McKinsey 2006][1] and other data [Grattan Institute 2102][2] shows that in highest  performing systems in Asia – Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and South Korea, there is a strong link between teachers and their ongoing learning in relationship to their development as effective teachers.

The question which is looked at by Dr Peter Foley in the main article this month is about assessing teacher performance – although Peter is referring to a system of performance assessment in an Asian country, it is evident that as education systems, schools and the teaching profession grapple with the changes that are needed in the electronic era, the profession and systems are looking at better ways to assess teacher performance.

The terminology for assessing teachers varies, terms like “teacher appraisal”, “performance management”, performance review” are among these terms. In my own context as a school Director responsible for 75 staff, we use the term “professional review” and the process used is a triangulated, collaborative process.

It seems to me that regardless of the process or the terminology, there are certain important starting points. The first of these is that there should always be a set of professional standards for teachers against which effectiveness can be judged, secondly, schools and professional bodies need to have a view of what qualities and competencies are required for teachers to be considered an effective teacher.

I am aware that in Australia the endeavour to enhance teacher performance and teacher development, one survey [OECD] indicated that 63% of Australian teachers reported that feedback on their work was mostly done to fulfill administrative requirements.

I wonder what such a survey would indicate if it was conducted with Thai teachers? Would a survey show that there is and professional feed back at all? Would it indicate that feedback that is given is of a high quality and that it enhances performance?

Whatever system of teacher professional review is used it ought to be a worthwhile process which is well regarded by teachers and is part of a performance and development culture that has a clear focus on improving teaching and learning as this is what improves student learning outcomes.

Such a system has some fundamental requirements for teachers.

    • They must know what is expected of them
    • They must receive useful and frequent feedback on their teaching
    • They must have access to support that helps them improve their practice

This may be all very well for Australia, but is it possible to achieve a culture of performance and development in Thai schools?

I will leave our Thai readers to comment and debate this question, I believe that having such a culture widespread throughout Thai education is essential to systemic and therefore, national educational improvement.

[1] McKinsey and Company How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better 2012


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