Last week, NewTechKids’ co-founders attended the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) Conference in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

Hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the conference brought together Dutch and international teachers, school leaders, researchers, policy makers and government representatives. They shared the results of TALIS (a large-scale international survey involving 33 countries) and discussed new strategies for improving the professional development of teachers and the learning environments in schools.

The conference was a good reminder that a lot of people are working on significant changes and improvements in the professional development of teachers in the Netherlands and around the world. According to one speaker, “teachers are the single most important variable which determines the quality of education”. We agree!

Here’s some of the highlights of the TALIS conference for us:

Dirk van Damme, Head of the innovation and Measuring Progress Division (IMEP) in the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills: According to Dirk, 2000 Dutch primary and secondary school teachers participated in TALIS. 91% of Dutch teachers are satisfied with their jobs and don’t regret their choice profession. But 40% feel that society doesn’t value them and their efforts. He delivered some not-so-good survey results: Dutch teachers collaborate less with their peers and participate in professional development less than other countries. Dirk called for more professional development and an increase in collaboration and cooperation amongst Dutch teachers.

Femke Cools, 2014 Dutch Teacher of the Year in Primary Education: Femke works in a Montessori and spoke about the pressures and demands of guaranteeing that her students receive personalised, quality education and attention. She encouraged school leaders and administrators to actively solicit feedback and input from teachers, encourage teacher autonomy and provide the necessary resources and moral support.

Marco Snoek, Knowledge Centre Education and Teaching, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences: Marco talked about the need for teachers to encourage students to be “contra-thinkers” and “constructive refusers”. He challenged teachers to seek out feedback and assessment every day in their classrooms and to become more innovative and experimental by using students as a source of learning.

Darleen Opfer, RAND Education Director and Distinguished Chair in Education Policy at RAND Corporation: Darleen knocked our socks off with some impressive crunching of the data generated by TALIS. Her main findings: 1) professional development activities for teachers which take place on the job in schools have much higher impact and reinforce collaboration and cooperation amongst teachers and 2) the professional development activities of teachers needs to be linked to their school’s learning and teaching goals. She recommended that schools increase the amount and variety of professional development activities such as teacher discussion groups, teaching material exchanges and team conferences.

NewTechKids will be focusing more on teacher training in order to increase the number of teachers with the qualification and mindset to teach technology education to primary school children. Hence, it was great to be at this conference to ‘pick the brains’ of fellow participants and share our experience in a relatively new field (technology education) which demands a lot from teachers in terms of learning and an innovator’s mindset.