Teachers as Learning Specialists: Implications for Teachers' Pedagogical Knowledge and Professionalism

Brussels, 18 June 2014

Hosted by OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation and the Flemish Department of Education and Training

Background and Project Objectives

 The OECD's Innovative Teaching for Effective Learning (ITEL) project is investigating the pedagogical knowledge base of teachers as a way of addressing the critical issue of teacher quality and its impact on student outcomes. There are many studies examining the relationship between teacher quality and student outcomes. However, most of these studies have primarily focused on factors such as certification, qualifications, or courses taken. The resulting evidence is generally mixed, since formal qualifications are not necessarily equivalent to relevant teacher knowledge.

 The ITEL project focuses on the pedagogical core of the teaching profession, namely, the pedagogical knowledge base of teachers, and questions whether this knowledge base is still in tune with recent advancements in learning research and with new skills demands society expects from students. In recent years, the interdisciplinary field of the learning sciences, including the neurosciences, has made significant progress in understanding how the human brain processes and retains information. The potential of the learning sciences to inform the pedagogical knowledge base of teachers and, hence, to improve pedagogical practice is significant. We are specifically interested in the general pedagogical knowledge needed for creating effective teaching-learning situations across subjects.

 In addition, the policy imperatives for the teaching and learning of '21st century' skills might entail a re-skilling of the current teacher workforce and upgrading of the profession's knowledge base. We view teaching as a knowledge-rich profession with teachers as 'learning specialists.' As professionals in their field, teachers can be expected to process and evaluate new knowledge relevant for their core professional practice and to regularly update their knowledge base to improve their practice and to meet new teaching demands. Thus, there is a need to derive evidence-based suggestions for educational policy and future research by developing an instrument to profile the status of the knowledge base of teachers, to understand the knowledge dynamics in the teaching profession, and to examine their implications for the instructional process.

 In particular, findings from this research will contribute to the theoretical and empirical research base in the area of teacher knowledge. More importantly, findings will have policy implications for both teacher education and professional development (e.g., preparing new teachers with the most up-to-date scientific knowledge for effective teaching and learning, identifying potential knowledge gaps for in-service teachers, and proposing ways in which such gaps can be addressed, while acknowledging and benefiting from teachers’ available expertise and their role as learning specialists).

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Objectives for the Symposium

 The objective of this Symposium is to engage in discussions with leading experts in order to inform our development of a conceptual framework for developing an instrument to profile the pedagogical knowledge base of teachers. The Symposium will bring together leading researchers in the field to make presentations of their conceptual and empirical work to begin exploring the following questions:

  •  What is the pedagogical knowledge base of the teaching profession?
  • How is teachers' general pedagogical knowledge conceptualized? For instance, is it multi-dimensional, and if so, what are the various cognitive dimensions and can these be measured?
  • How do teachers’ motivations and beliefs about teaching (e.g., self-regulation, self-efficacy, professional responsibility) relate to teacher knowledge and how can these relationships can be measured?
  • How does teacher pedagogical knowledge impact student learning outcomes?
  • What is the relationship between pedagogical knowledge and professionalism, and how can it be measured?
  •   Is teachers' pedagogical knowledge up-to-date?
  • Does the knowledge base of teachers sufficiently incorporate the latest scientific research on learning? Can neuroscience research inform teachers on how to create effective teaching-learning situations?
  • Does teachers' knowledge base meet the expectations for teaching and learning '21st century skills'? What does the research say about how these skills are learned and developed?

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Invited Speakers

Daniel Ansari (University of Western Ontario, London, Canada)

Dr. Daniel Ansari received his undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex in 1999. From there he went on to study for his PhD at the Institute of Child Health, University College of London, UK. During his PhD studies, he became increasingly interested in Neuroscience, leading him to study for an MSc in Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. From 2003-2006 he was an Assistant Professor of Education at Dartmouth College. Since 2006, Dr. Ansari is Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, where he heads the Numerical Cognition Laboratory. He and his team explore the developmental trajectory underlying both the typical and atypical development of numerical and mathematical skills, using both behavioural and neuroimaging methods. Dr. Ansari serves as an Associate Editor of the peer-reviewed journals, PLoS ONE, Developmental Science, and Mind, Brain and Education. In 2009, he received the ‘Early Career Contributions’ Award from the Society for Research in Child Development and in 2011 he was awarded the Boyd McCandless Early Researcher Award from the Developmental Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. Currently, he is the president-elect of the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES).

Sigrid Blömeke (Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany)

Prof. Dr. Sigrid Blömeke has been a Full Professor of Instructional Research at Humboldt University of Berlin since 2002. Between 2007 and 2009, she spent two years as a Visiting Professor of Competence Measurement at Michigan State University in the USA. Dr. Blömeke is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre of Educational Research in Berlin and a member of several national and international editorial boards. Her areas of research include the modelling and measuring of teacher competencies, international comparisons, and the effectiveness of ICT in instruction. She has received major research grants for national and international studies in these fields. Dr. Blömeke is the German head of IEA's large-scale assessment “Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics” (TEDS-M), the head of the federal funding initiative "Modelling and Measuring Competencies in Higher Education" (KoKoHs), and the head of the department for “Design-Based Research and Evaluation” at the German Centre of Mathematics Teacher Education (DZLM).

Fien Depaepe (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)

Dr. Fien Depaepe worked as a research assistant for the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders from 2004-2009. In 2009, she obtained the degree of Doctor in Educational Sciences at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. She worked for four years as a postdoctoral researcher, funded by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and by the Fund for Scientific Research– Flanders. Since 2013, she is Assistant Professor in Educational Sciences at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Her major research interests are at the intersection of mathematics education and teacher education. She is interested in cognitive (e.g., content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge) and affective factors (e.g., beliefs, attitudes) that influence mathematics teaching and learning. Dr. Depaepe is currently leading a research project aimed at assessing and improving pre-service teachers’ content and pedagogical content knowledge in the domain of rational numbers.

Johannes König (University of Cologne, Germany)

Prof. Dr. Johannes König is a Full Professor of Empirical School Research, Quantitative Methods at the University of Cologne in Germany. He previously worked as a research assistant at Humboldt University of Berlin. He received the First State Examination for Teachers at Humboldt University of Berlin in 2003, a Dr. phil. at Freie Universität Berlin in 2006, and Habilitation in 2011. His current research fields are teacher education research, teacher competencies, and teacher knowledge (with a special focus on general pedagogical knowledge), and international comparisons. In various projects such as TEDS-M, he has worked extensively on assessing teacher knowledge and teacher education quality for the purpose of international comparisons. Since 2014, he is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Empirical Research on Teachers and Teaching at the University of Cologne.

Fani Lauermann (University of Michigan, USA)

Dr. Fani Lauermann is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. She obtained her doctoral degree from the Combined Program in Education and Psychology at the University of Michigan in 2013. She is interested in the motivational underpinnings of educational and professional choices and performance, including such questions as what motivates teachers to provide students with high quality education, as well as what motivates students to pursue such education. In her current work, she is particularly interested in teachers’ sense of professional responsibility, and its implications for the instructional process. Dr. Lauermann’s research has been distinguished with the 2013 Outstanding Author Contribution Award from the Emerald Literati Network for Excellence, the 2011 Paul R. Pintrich Outstanding Paper Award at AERA, and the 2009 Student Research Excellence Award at EARLI. More recently, she has expanded her research agenda to include a more general focus on professional choices and career aspirations.

James W. Pellegrino (University of Illinois, USA)

James W. Pellegrino is Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He also serves as Co-director of the university’s interdisciplinary Learning Sciences Research Institute. His research and development interests focus on children's and adult's thinking and learning and the implications of cognitive research and theory for assessment and instructional practice and is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences. He has published over 275 books, chapters, and articles in the areas of cognition, instruction, and assessment. He has served as the head of several U.S. National Academy of Sciences study committees, including the Committee on Learning Research and Educational Practice, the Committee on the Foundations of Assessment, the Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills, and the Committee on Developing Assessments of Science Proficiency in K-12. He is a lifetime member of the U.S. National Academy of Education.

Thamar Voss (University of Tübingen, Germany)

Dr. Thamar Voss is currently a research scientist at the Center of Educational Science and Psychology at the Institute of Education at the University of Tübingen. She completed her PhD in 2010 working with Prof. Jürgen Baumert and Prof. Mareike Kunter at the Center for Educational Research within the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Her research interests are primarily concerned with the professional competence of teachers, successful entry into the teaching profession, and the question of what makes good teaching. Her dissertation project focused on creating a valid and reliable assessment for teachers’ pedagogical/psychological knowledge. Dr. Voss worked at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development as a pre-doctoral research fellow until 2010 and afterwards as a post-doctoral research scientist. She was a member of the German COACTIV-study (Cognitive Activation in the Mathematics Classroom and Professional Competence of Teachers) which is a large study on teachers’ professional competence.

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