10 SES 06 E, Special Call: Mapping Teacher Education across Europe and Beyond
The desire to improve the quality of educational outcomes has gained much attention in many countries especially with the increased interest in international comparisons such as PISA, TIMSS, and TALIS, which aim to facilitate the dissemination of ideas on effective education systems and thereby, seek to drive up education standards everywhere based on cross-national empirical evidence (Watts, 2017). In this respect, Singapore and Hong Kong have been two countries that have attracted so much attention internationally as a result of their continuous success at PISA and TIMSS, encouraging other countries, including Turkey - among the lowest-performing OECD countries (ERG, 2017; Karip, 2017; OECD, 2018) - to explore and discuss the reasons behind their achievement.
At the heart of these discussions, defining teacher competencies has been highlighted as a key international priority (Korthagen, 2004; Zhu & Zeichner, 2013). The Council of the European Union calls for defining teacher competencies as a vital initiative (European Commission, 2013), supported with the argument that teachers are the most critical element and the backbone of the education systems (Darling-Hammond, 2006, 2007; Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; Day, 2013; Commission of the European Communities, 2007; Zhu & Zeichner, 2013) not only to achieve high quality educational outcomes (Council of the European Union, 2009), but also to benchmark a nation’s educational achievements against other nations (Akiba & LeTendre, 2009; Darling-Hammond, 2006; Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005). Accordingly, it has been underlined that the expectations from teachers have been ever increasing in the 21st century based on the emerging needs of the current era, underpinned by a perspective that views teacher competencies as developing gradually throughout a continuum from initial teacher preparation to career-long professional development (European Commission, 2013).
Building on the discussions above, portraying the distinctive features of teacher competencies suggested in Singapore and Hong Kong can draw policymakers in the European Union (EU) member countries, including Turkey as a candidate country, into international exchanges that inspire them to develop productive policies and practices in identifying the competencies that are essential for teachers in the 21st century. While there is common ground across different cultures on the nature of teaching, defining teacher competencies is historically and culturally bound with specific constraints in different contexts, coupled with the argument that teaching is as a complex and multifaceted act that involves certain values and assumptions concerning education, teaching, learning, and society (European Commission, 2013).
Along with these, this study aims to compare general teacher competencies suggested in Singapore and Hong Kong with those suggested in Turkey. To this end, the study particularly addresses the following research question:
1. What are the similarities and differences among key general teacher competencies suggested in Turkey, Singapore, and Hong Kong?
The study contributes to the European Commission’s call for developing better teacher education policies as it highlights the key teacher competencies suggested in Singapore and Hong Kong - two high performing countries in international comparisons of student achievements. In so doing, this study addresses the issue of teacher competencies in a global context so that European societies can borrow ideas and learn from these countries to prepare highly qualified teachers towards their desire to improve the educational policies and practices in their countries, considering that each country has its unique traditions of teacher education that can offer insights to other countries (Gopinathan et al., 2008). Moreover, by highlighting key teacher competencies, this study sheds light on improving the current preservice and inservice teacher education policies in EU member states and candidate countries as the findings might offer a ground for admission, preparation, certification, appointment, and professional development policies along the whole continuum of teacher education.
The study employed multiple-case study to investigate the key teacher competencies suggested across contexts of three countries: Turkey, Singapore, and Hong Kong. In case studies, a case is explored within a context that it takes place (Yin, 2014). The researcher examines the case within a bounded system along with certain parameters such as specific place and time, after which a case description is reported (Creswell, 2013). In particular, Herriott and Firestone (1983) argue that multiple-case designs are regarded as more robust (as cited in Yin, 2014) compared to single case designs. Among purposive sampling strategies that seek to ensure the selection of information-rich samples, this study utilized extreme case sampling as it focuses on cases that are unusual or special in some way (Patton, 1990). Accordingly, our sample involved three countries: Turkey was selected among the lowest-performing countries, whereas Hong Kong and Singapore were selected as two high performing countries with respect to international comparisons of student achievements. Thus, the study sought to ensure the selection of the cases that would offer lessons about unusual conditions that are particularly troublesome or especially enlightening, such as outstanding successes or notable failures (Patton, 1990) for improving teacher education policies based on key teacher competencies. The data collection consisted of documents issued by the governmental and nongovernmental organizations in three countries, including official reports, legislations, reform documents and guides for teachers. The documents were sorted through certain keywords such as “teacher competencies”, “teacher standards”, “teacher quality”, and “21st century teacher competencies”. Selected documents were reconsidered and assessed based on the recognition they have received within the field of teacher education. The selection process started to converge as the primary documents have been mentioned repeatedly. Moreover, regarding Singapore and Hong Kong, experts studying on teacher education were identified and contacted to ensure the information richness of the selected documents. As in descriptive qualitative case studies (Yin, 2014), we have been analyzing the data descriptively (Corbin & Strauss, 2008; Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2018) to do a comparison across the three sets of teacher competencies as they are, and identify what competencies seem to be similar, connect across countries, and which are different. To this end, the unit of analysis has been chosen at the country level considering that teacher competencies are, to a certain extent, culturally bound. Lastly, to ensure the trustworthiness of the study, several strategies were utilized, which will be described further.
In light of the preliminary analyses, we have found that there are certain similarities across the three countries, while we also noted that each country has placed special emphasis on distinct competencies. The findings are, first, presented country wise as it follows: In Turkey, the updated General Competencies for Teaching Profession (2017) consists of three domains that are reportedly interrelated: (1) professional knowledge, (2) professional skills, and (3) attitudes and values. First, “professional knowledge” comprises content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and knowledge on legislation. Second, “professional skills” includes planning of education and teaching, creating learning environments, managing the teaching and learning process, and assessment and evaluation. Third, as for the “attitudes and values”; national, moral, and universal values, approach to students, communication and cooperation, and personal and professional development seem to be the highlighted themes. Considering the case of Singapore, it is seen that attributes of the 21st century teaching professional are summarized by five themes: (1) V1-learner-centered values, (2) V2-teacher identity, (3) V3-service to the profession and community, (4) skills, and (5) knowledge. Lastly, regarding Hong Kong, it is noted that the generic teacher competencies have been categorized under the following four domains: (1) teaching and learning, (2) student development, (3) school development, (4) professional relationships and services. While this snapshot of findings offers insights to the key categories of competencies suggested for teachers in the three countries, a closer examination of these categories provides lessons for countries that are seeking to improve their teacher education policies and practices. In this respect, this study, above all, concludes that teachers in high performing countries in international comparisons of student achievements seem to be expected most to “learn” – rather than teach - and “collaborate” with each other, along with the basic premise of enhancing the personal growth and development of teachers.
Selected References Akiba M., & LeTendre, G. (2009). Improving teacher quality: The U.S. teaching force in global context. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Commission of the European Communities. (2007). Communication from the commission to the council and the European Parliament: Improving the quality of teacher education. Retrieved from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52007DC0392&from=EN Council of the European Union. (2009). Council Conclusions of 26 November 2009 on the professional development of teachers and school leaders. Retrieved from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52009XG1212(01)&from=EN Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Constructing 21st century teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 57(10), 1-15. Darling-Hammond, L. (2007). Building a system for powerful teaching and learning. In B. Wehling (Ed.), Building a 21st century U.S. education system. Washington, D.C.: The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (2005). Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Day, C. (2013). Teacher quality in the twenty first century: New lives, old truths. In X. Zhu & K. Zeichner (Eds.), Preparing teachers for the 21st century (pp. 21-38). Berlin Heidelberg: Springer. European Commission. (2013). Supporting teacher competence development for better learning outcomes. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/policy/school/doc/teachercomp_en.pdf Gopinathan, S., Tan, S., Yanping, F., Devi, L., Ramos, C., Chao, E. (2008). Transforming teacher education: Redefined professionals for 21st century schools. Retrieved from https://www.nnstoy.org/download/preparation/Transforming%20Teacher%20Education%20Report.pdf Karip, E. (2017). Türkiye’nin TIMSS 2015 performansı üzerine değerlendirme ve öneriler (TEDMEM analiz dizisi 5). Ankara: Türk Eğitim Derneği Yayınları. OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation). (2018). PISA 2015 results in focus. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Watts, A. (2017). International surveys TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS. Retrieved from https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/Images/271193-international-surveys-pisa-timss-pirls.pdf Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Zhu, X., & Zeichner, K. (2013). Preparing teachers for the 21st century. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer.
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