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Survey: continuing teacher education on the right track, but still much to do

Survey: continuing teacher education on the right track, but still much to do

A representative Forsa survey commissioned by Deutsche Telekom Stiftung shows high participation and satisfaction with continuing education, but low program effectiveness - Insufficient cooperation among faculty members

How can teachers meet the growing challenges of everyday school life? It's the big question at today's German Teachers' Day in Leipzig. Deutsche Telekom Stiftung has done its part by highlighting the central role of regular continuing education and presenting the results of a representative survey of 500 teachers of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Conclusion: most are very open to continuing education and take advantage of available programs, but with little effect on their teaching.

The Forsa Institute for Social Research interviewed teachers about their professional development in February 2017 on the foundation's behalf. Their answers paint an ambivalent picture. On the one hand, STEM teachers have become very active participants in continuing education. The vast majority (82 percent) are satisfied with their continuing education classes, and nine out of ten teachers feel well supported by administrators. On the other hand, very little of this new knowledge actually makes it to the classrooms. Just under one-quarter of the respondents applied everything they had learned in their last continuing education course to their own lessons.

"The fault doesn't lie with the teachers; they're obviously very willing to learn. This is a problem with the system as a whole," said Dr. Ekkehard Winter, Executive Director of Deutsche Telekom Stiftung. "Our survey found that continuing education courses are still viewed as a one-time affair. Teachers attend them alone, away from their own school. However, this approach runs counter to current scientific knowledge about success factors for professional teacher development."

Indeed, many of the teachers surveyed understand the importance of shared learning for professional development. Two-thirds describe attendance with other teachers from their school as important to very important for the utility and effectiveness of a continuing education course. In addition, 90 percent of the respondents think it makes sense to develop lessons together. However, almost 40 percent attended their last continuing education course alone. And 63 percent of the STEM teachers interviewed stated that their everyday work responsibilities often left them with insufficient time to develop lessons together.

"Effective training depends on the ability to collaborate with other faculty members: by sharing ideas in work groups, teaching in a team, observing a colleague's classes or giving them feedback," said Winter. "But that takes time - time that the schools need to give their teachers. What we're proposing is nothing less than the establishment of an entirely new professional development culture in which school administrators see staff development as a core component of their mission and actively and purposefully support continuing education for faculty."