Most existing reviews of professional development literature focus on the content and process of teacher development. They also tend to draw upon experimental studies based on large interventions. This potentially neglects important findings about how/whether teachers’ working conditions affect teachers’ improvement, measured in terms of impact upon students’ academic attainment, over time.
We reviewed 30 papers on teacher working conditions and school leadership in order to explore the impact of teacher working conditions on student attainment. We find evidence that:
- The quality of teachers’ working conditions has a clear, consistent relationship with student attainment that tentatively suggests a causal impact;
- The role of the school leader in fostering these conditions appears to be crucial;
- There are five aspects of teachers’ working conditions that appear most closely associated with increased student attainment:
- Creating opportunities for effective teacher collaboration to explore student data, plan and review lessons and curricula, and plan and moderate assessments,
- Involving teachers in whole school planning, decision-making and improvement,
- Creating a culture of mutual trust, respect, enthusiasm in which communication is open and honest,
- Build a sense of shared mission, with shared goals, clear priorities and high expectations of professional behaviours and of students’ learning, and
- Facilitating classroom safety and behaviour, where disruption and bullying are very rare and teachers feel strongly supported by senior leaders in their efforts to maintain this classroom environment;
- Allocating teachers to certain partners, mentors, subjects and classes and keeping this stable over time is associated with a positive impact on student attainment;
- The same working conditions appear to be associated with successful, sustainable school turnaround…
- … and with successful retention of teachers in the profession…
- … and with successfully navigating the complexities and uncertainties of COVID-19.
We identified four guiding principles for training leaders around the required skills, the necessity to focus on use of time including meetings, the importance of mentoring and coaching and the importance of an open and communicative culture.
- Burns, M. K., Naughton, M. R., Preast, J. L., Wang, Z., Gordon, R. L., Robb, V., & Smith, M. L. (2017). Factors of Professional Learning Community Implementation and Effect on Student Achievement. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 1–19. doi:10.1080/10474412.2017.1385396
- Eells, Rachel Jean, “Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Collective Teacher Efficacy and Student Achievement” (2011). Dissertations. 133.
- Favero, N., & Bullock, J. B. (2014). How (Not) to Solve the Problem: An Evaluation of Scholarly Responses to Common Source Bias. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 25(1), 285–308. doi:10.1093/jopart/muu020
- George, B., & Pandey, S. K. (2017). We Know the Yin-But Where Is the Yang? Toward a Balanced Approach on Common Source Bias in Public Administration Scholarship. Review of public personnel administration, 37(2), 245–270. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734371X17698189
- Goldhaber, D., Krieg, J., & Theobald, R. (2020). Effective like me? Does having a more productive mentor improve the productivity of mentees?. Labour Economics, 63, 101792.
- Goddard, R., Goddard, Y., Sook Kim, E., & Miller, R. (2015). A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of the Roles of Instructional Leadership, Teacher Collaboration, and Collective Efficacy Beliefs in Support of Student Learning. American Journal of Education, 121(4), 501–530. doi:10.1086/681925
- Grissom, J.A., Loeb, S & Master, B (2011) Effective Instructional Time Use for School Leaders: Longitudinal Evidence from Observations of Principals
- Helal, Mike & Coelli, Michael , 2016. “How Principals Affect Schools,” Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2016n18, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne
- Hitt, D.H. and Tucker, P. D. (2016), Systematic Review of Key Leader Practices Found to Influence Student Achievement: A Unified Framework. Review of Educational Research June 2016, Vol. 86, No. 2, pp. 531–569 DOI: 10.3102/0034654315614911
- Hoy, W. K., Hannum, J. and Tschannen-Moran, M. (1998) ‘Organizational Climate and Student Achievement: A Parsimonious and Longitudinal View’, Journal of School Leadership, 8(4), pp. 336–359. doi: 10.1177/105268469800800401
- Jackson, C.K. and Bruegmann, E., 2009. Teaching students and teaching each other: The importance of peer learning for teachers. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(4), pp.85-108
- Johnson SM, Kraft MA, Papay JP. How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on their professional satisfaction and their students’ achievement. Teachers College Record [Internet]. 2012;114 (10) :1-39.
- Kini, T., & Podolsky, A. Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research (Palo Alto: Learning Policy Institute, 2016). https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/our-work/publications-resources/does-teaching-experience-increase-teacher-effectiveness-review-research
- Kraft MA, Blazar D, Hogan D. The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence. Review of Educational Research [Internet]. 2018;88 (4) :547-588
- Kraft MA, Marinell WM, Yee D. School organizational contexts, teacher turnover, and student achievement: Evidence from panel data. American Educational Research Journal [Internet]. 2016;53 (5) :1411-1499
- Kraft MA, Papay JP. Can Professional Environments in Schools Promote Teacher Development? Explaining Heterogeneity in Returns to Teaching Experience. Educational Effectiveness and Policy Analysis [Internet]. 2014;36 (4) :476-500.
- Kraft, Matthew A., Nicole S. Simon, and Melissa Arnold Lyon. (2020). Sustaining a Sense of Success: The Importance of Teacher Working Conditions During the COVID-19 Pandemic . (EdWorkingPaper: 20-279). https://doi.org/10.26300/35nj-v890
- Ladd, H. (2011). Teachers’ perceptions of their working conditions: How predictive of planned and actual teacher movement? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(2), 235-261.
- Le Floch, K. C., Ph.D. (2015). Supporting School Turnaround: Lessons for Texas Policymakers. https://www.raiseyourhandtexas.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Turnaround_ResearchReport.pdf
- Lee, M. & Louis, K.S. (2019). Mapping a strong school culture and linking it to sustainable school improvement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 81, 84-96.
- Lee, M., Walker, A., & Bryant, D. (2019). What Leadership Practices Are Associated with International Baccalaureate (IB) Student Achievement? An Exploratory Study of IB Schools in Southeast Asia. Peabody Journal of Education, 1–19. doi:10.1080/0161956x.2018.1515831
- Liebowitz, D. D. and Porter, L. (2019) ‘The Effect of Principal Behaviors on Student, Teacher, and School Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature’, Review of Educational Research, 89(5), pp. 785–827. doi: 10.3102/0034654319866133.
- Meyers, Coby V. & Hitt, Dallas Hambrick (2017) School Turnaround Principals: What Does Initial Research Literature Suggest They Are Doing to Be Successful?, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 22:1, 38-56, DOI: 10.1080/10824669.2016.1242070
- Nguyen, Tuan D., Lam Pham, Matthew Springer, and Michael Crouch. (2019). The Factors of Teacher Attrition and Retention: An Updated and Expanded Meta-Analysis of the Literature. (EdWorkingPaper: 19-149). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://www.edworkingpapers.com/sites/default/files/ai19-149.pdf
- Papay, J.P., Taylor, E.S., Tyler, J.H. and Laski, M., 2016. Learning job skills from colleagues at work: Evidence from a field experiment using teacher performance data (No. w21986). National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Podolsky, A., Kini, T., Darling-Hammond, L., & Bishop, J. (2019). Strategies for attracting and retaining educators: What does the evidence say? Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27(38). http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.27.3722
- Ronfeldt, M., Farmer, S. O., McQueen, K., & Grissom, J. A. (2015). Teacher Collaboration in Instructional Teams and Student Achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 52(3), 475–514. doi:10.3102/0002831215585562
- J Sebastian, E Allensworth, H Huang (2016) The role of teacher leadership in how principals influence classroom instruction and student learning American Journal of Education, DOI: 10.1086/688169
- Sims, S., & Jerrim, J. (2020). TALIS 2018: Teacher Working Conditions, Turnover and Attrition. Statistical Working Paper. UK Department for Education.
- Sun, M., Loeb, S. and Grissom, J.A., 2017. Building teacher teams: Evidence of positive spillovers from more effective colleagues. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 39(1), pp.104-125.
- TNTP (2012) – Greenhouse Schools: How Schools Can Build Cultures Where Teachers and Students Thrive
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This is a Teacher Development Trust working paper. That is, it is currently a work in progress, offered on this site by the authors, in the interests of scholarship. Working Papers are not refereed. We warmly welcome critique and suggestions as we continue to develop this paper further.
We are very grateful to a number of colleagues for their advice and critique, including Rob Coe (Evidence Based Education), Matthew Kraft (Brown University), Emily Perry (Sheffield Hallam University), Cat Scutt (Chartered College of Teaching) and Sam Sims (UCL Institute of Education).
This discussion paper for the School Improvement Through Professional Development conference has been written by the Teacher Development Trust. While funding from Wellcome has made it possible, it does not necessarily reflect Wellcome’s views or position.
Suggested citation: Weston, D., Hindley, B., & Cunningham, M. (2021). A culture of improvement: reviewing the research on teacher working conditions. Working paper version 1.1, February 2021. Teacher Development Trust.
You can contact the authors via enquiries@TDTrust.org
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