New OECD report investigates what makes teachers happy with their job and stay in the profession

Five smiley faces of increasing happiness with 1–5 stars

Source: VectorMachine /

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found the most satisfied science teachers collaborate with colleagues, participate in professional development activities and teach well-behaved students.

In 2015, as part of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the OECD surveyed 32,071 science teachers in 19 countries. The countries suffer not only from difficulties recruiting science teachers but also from them leaving the profession. Released today, the analysis aims to understand what makes the working environment and conditions of science teaching satisfying enough for those that do stay, despite the job’s challenges.

Results showed teachers who had taken part in at least three professional development activities in the last year were much more satisfied with their profession and current role. The most common professional development activity the teachers engaged in is informal dialogue with colleagues about how to improve teaching.

The report highlights just how dependent teachers are on colleagues in their success. Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD, said in a webinar today that staff social relations ‘do matter in virtually every country for which we have data.’ Andreas pointed out that while some things that improve teachers’ environments cost money, ‘creating a more collaborative climate is just down to good school leadership.’

organisations should not treat student attainment and teacher satisfaction as separate policy areas

Teachers reported greater satisfaction in schools with better discipline. However, they didn’t mind working in environments traditionally thought of as challenging, including schools where large proportions of students don’t speak the native language, provided the school climate is positive and there are adequate resources. ‘You might think if I have a high degree of diversity in my students, for example a large proportion of immigrants, that’s going to make my life difficult,’ said Andreas. ‘That’s not what we saw in the data.’

The report also finds teachers who always intended to go into the profession after finishing their education are more satisfied than those who didn’t. However, career motivation isn’t enough to keep teachers if other factors are absent.

The report suggests that if schools improve disciplinary climate, teacher collaboration and provide professional development opportunities, their teachers are more likely to stay satisfied. Moreover, these things improve student attainment at the same time. Ultimately, the report concludes that organisations should not treat student attainment and teacher satisfaction as separate policy areas.