Build Teacher Expertise and Capacity

Strong professional development programs for teachers are a hallmark of high-performing school systems around the world. In many international school systems, teachers spend significantly less time in the classroom than their counterparts in the U.S., giving them more time to prepare for lessons, experiment with new lesson plans, and improve their practice. High-performing international school systems also make teacher collaboration an essential part of professional development. Teachers are given the time and space to discuss best practices, observe each other’s lessons, and learn from master teachers.

High-performing schools in the U.S. take many of these lessons. Many use the OECD Test for Schools as a catalyst to help teachers understand international standards and adjust their practice accordingly.

Best Practices in Building Teacher Expertise and Capacity:

1. Review OECD Test for Schools questions with teachers. High performing schools share the results of the OECD Test for Schools with teachers, and explain the purpose of the test and what it measures. They share specific test questions with teachers to help them understand the types of skills the assessment measures. They work with teachers to adjust teaching practices to match the rigor and expectations of the international standard.

2. Allocate time and resources to professional development. Where possible, high performing schools adjust the school schedule to ensure adequate time for professional development. They also ensure teachers have access to resources (such as master teachers to provide advice, or external conferences to learn new skills) to support their development.

3. Create opportunities for collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. Top schools provide common planning time for subject teachers, so teachers can discuss lesson plans and share notes on what works. Some high-performing schools organize teacher mentorship programs, so new teachers can learn from their more experienced peers.

4. Emphasize critical thinking skills in professional development. Given the importance of critical thinking skills to student success, top schools design professional development to help teachers foster those skills in their students. As a quick win, one school included tips about critical thinking in the weekly teacher newsletter.