The Implications of Teacher Effectiveness Requirements for Initial Teacher Education Reform

Article excerpt

Abstract: Problem statement: School effectiveness research shows that teacher effectiveness is the single most important school-based factor in student success. The effects of poor teaching linger and can be measured for at least three years after students have leftthe classroom. It is too late to wait until secondary school level for backlogs to be eradicated. Education systems, such as the South African system, which grapple with large numbers of dysfunctional schools, should look anew at teacher effectiveness in all school phases. The urgent need for highly effective teachers in every classroom requires that education systems develop a comprehensive definition of teacher effectiveness and create training programmes to develop it. Thus, the problem investigated is: What are the characteristics, skills, attitudes and behaviors associated with effective teachers and what is the best way in which schools of education can adapt initial teacher education to meet the challenges of today's classrooms? Approach: A mixed method approach was adopted. In addition to an in-depth literature review, openended questionnaires, probing perceptions of teacher effectiveness issues were distributed to teachers, school principals, policy officials and teacher educators. Interviews were conducted with a variety of educational experts. Classroom observations of experienced and novice teachers were conducted in a variety of contexts using open-ended classroom observation checklists. Results: Based on the findings of the research a synthesis of the characteristics, knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors associated with effective teachers was developed. Conclusion: If teachers are to be effective their initial training will have to be effective. This study has identified the characteristics and behaviours associated with effective teachers. These indicators are broad guidelines for schools of education to stimulate teacher education reform. Covering the curriculum, structuring of content, appropriate pacing and alignment, clear goal setting, clarity of content and presentation, are a few requirements for effective teachers which have direct implications for teacher education.

Key words: School Effectiveness Research (SER), effectiveness issues, appropriate pacing, training programmes, multiple challenges, neglected primary

INTRODUCTION

This study focuses on teacher effectiveness. School Effectiveness Research (SER) shows that teacher effectiveness is the single most important school-based factor in student success. Teachers, not schools, make the difference in student learning (Wyatt, 1996; Townsend, 2001). The effects of poor teaching and, conversely, good teaching, linger and can be measured for at least three years after the students have leftthe classroom (Wendel, 2000). It is too late to wait until secondary school level for backlogs built up during years of neglected primary school education to be eradicated.

However, teaching in contemporary societies is an extremely multi-faceted and specialized task. We are living in a rapidly changing world. Teachers are faced with multiple challenges. In this age of rapid change in the economic and technological fields and the impact thereof on the world of work, great demands are being made on education systems to provide high quality education to raise the standards of achievement.

If teacher effectiveness in this complex era is the single most important school-based factor in student achievement, education reform movements should look anew at teacher effectiveness in all school phases and the factors contributing to effective teaching. The training that teachers receive is most surely one of the critical factors contributing to whether they would be effective or not. Teacher success is inevitably linked to good and effective training.

In South Africa, now almost 18 years after the end of apartheid, it is claimed that between 80 and 90% of all schools "can be labeled as dysfunctional" (Cohen and Seria, 2010). …