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Frequently Asked Questions About the Survey


In addition to the following questions about TALIS, more FAQs about international assessments are available at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/international/faqs.asp.

1. What is TALIS?

Started in 2008, Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) is an international large-scale survey of the teachers, conditions of teaching, and the learning environments in schools. Conducted internationally every 5 years, TALIS data are based on questionnaire responses from nationally representative samples of teachers and their school principals in participating countries and education systems. TALIS' main objective is to provide accurate and relevant international indicators on teachers and teaching, with the goal of helping countries review current conditions and develop informed education policy. TALIS offers an opportunity for teachers and school principals to provide their perspectives on the state of education in their own countries, allowing for a global view of teachers and the education systems in which they work.

2. What is unique about TALIS?

TALIS fills gaps in our knowledge of teacher and principal working conditions, an area that has been underrepresented in international studies of education. TALIS is unique because it is the only comparative international education study that collects data on a nationally representative sample of teachers. Although other international studies such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) all include teacher questionnaires, the data is representative on the student level. The United States also collects nationally representative data on teachers and principals through the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS); however, since this is a national survey there are no international comparisons for this data.

3. Who conducts TALIS?

TALIS is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. In the United States, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education, is responsible for conducting TALIS. NCES conducts this study under authorization in the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (20 U.S. Code, Section 9543).

4. What is the target population for TALIS?

The core target population in TALIS is ISCED*footnote level 2 (lower secondary) teachers and school principals. ISCED level 2 corresponds to grades 7, 8, and 9 in the United States. Education systems also have the option to survey ISCED level 1 teachers (primary school teachers), and ISCED level 3 teachers (upper secondary teachers), however most education systems, including the United States, participate only at the lower secondary level.

At selected schools, any staff member with instructional responsibilities for grade 7, 8, and/or 9 students—whether with a whole class or a single student—is eligible to be selected.

Once a school is selected, we ask the principal (or head administrator) and a random selection of up to 20 eligible teachers to complete an online questionnaire. If a school has fewer than 20 teachers that teach students in grades 7, 8, or 9, all teachers are selected. Schools and teachers are randomly selected in order to ensure that participating schools and teachers in the country truly represent the variety of schooling available.

*Return ISCED stands for the International Standard Classification of Education. Details on the ISCED classification system can found at http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/international-standard-classification-of-education-isced-2011-en.pdf.

5. What information is collected through TALIS?

Principals and sampled teachers are asked to complete an online questionnaire. Paper questionnaires are provided for principals and teachers who request them. TALIS is composed of two questionnaires: one for the school principal and another for teachers. The questionnaire generally takes 45-60 minutes to complete.

Although themes in TALIS differ slightly in each administration, the themes for both questionnaires generally include the following topics:

  • teachers' instructional practices and beliefs;
  • school leadership and management;
  • teachers' professional practices;
  • teacher education and initial preparation;
  • teacher feedback and professional development;
  • school climate;
  • job satisfaction (including motivation);
  • teacher human resource measures and stakeholder relations;
  • teacher autonomy and self-efficacy; and
  • diversity.

To view previous questionnaires, visit the Questionnaires page here.

6. How are the TALIS instruments developed?

Survey items for the TALIS questionnaires are developed in a collaborative, international process.

Led by the OECD and its contractors, national representatives from each participating country meet several times throughout a year to develop and refine the survey items. The themes of TALIS (e.g., teacher evaluation and feedback) are based on the policy and research priorities of all participating countries. Based on these priorities, new items are developed and items from previous rounds are reviewed. All items are included in a field trial conducted in every participating country. The field trial is used to identify items that do not function as designed or that may be inappropriate or do not easily translate into the various national contexts. Finally, the final survey instruments are reviewed and approved by the national representatives.

There is an extensive translation verification process.

Each participating country is responsible for translating the survey instruments into their own language or languages, unless the original survey items are in the language of the country. Each country identifies translators to translate the source versions into their own language. External translation companies independently review each country's translations. Instruments are verified twice, once before the field test and again before the main data collection. Statistical analyses of the item data are then conducted to check for evidence of differences in response patterns across countries that could indicate a translation problem. If a translation problem with an item is discovered in the field test, it is removed from the final survey instruments.

7. How is cross-country comparability monitored?

Procedures for administration are standardized and independently verified.

TALIS is designed, developed and implemented by international organizations that have extensive experience in large-scale international data collection projects. These coordinating organizations produce a number of manuals that are provided to each country's representative for the administration of the questionnaires. These manuals specify standardized procedures that all countries must follow on all aspects of assessment sampling, preparation, administration, and scoring. The countries themselves organize their own quality control monitors to observe the survey administration processes, and the OECD organizes an independent group of quality control monitors to observe the survey administration process. Instances in which the quality of the data collected cannot be independently verified can lead to the data being omitted from international reports.

8. Is participation mandatory?

Participation in TALIS is entirely voluntary. However, because potential respondents are randomly chosen to represent others like themselves, the participation of each chosen respondent is very important to obtaining accurate results. Respondents may skip questions they do not feel comfortable answering; however, NCES ensures protection of their privacy and confidentiality and highly encourages participants to answer questions to the best of their abilities.

9. How many education systems participate in TALIS?

Twenty-four education systems, not including the U.S., participated in TALIS 2008. Thirty-four education systems, including the United States, participated in TALIS 2013 (the most recent cycle with available data). For a complete list of participating education systems in each cycle, view the Countries table here.

10. How does TALIS ensure confidentiality?

Survey responses are entirely confidential and at no time are the names of individual teachers, principals or schools identified. Responses to the TALIS principal and teacher questionnaires are combined with those from other participating teachers across the United States to produce summary statistics and reports. Reports of the findings will not identify participating districts, students, or individual staff. Data provided by schools and staff may be used only for statistical purposes and may not be disclosed, or used, in identifiable form for any other purpose except as required by law (20 U.S.C. §9573 and 6 U.S.C. §151).

TALIS data conforms with the following federal regulations and policies: the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 20, § 552a), Privacy Act Regulations (34 CFR Part 5b), the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (ESRA 2002: 20 U.S.C., § 9543), the Computer Security Act of 1987, NCES Restricted-Use Data Procedures Manual, and the NCES Statistical Standards.

For an example of how TALIS data are reported, visit the TALIS 2013 Results page.

11. Whom can I contact if I have more questions?

If you have any questions about the TALIS data collection in the United States, you can contact WESTAT at 1-855-545-1163 or TALISHELP@westat.com. For questions for NCES, you can contact Mary Coleman at (202) 245-8382 or Mary.Coleman@ed.gov.