Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

How Well Do 1st-Year Teachers Teach; Does Type of Preparation Make a Difference?

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

How Well Do 1st-Year Teachers Teach; Does Type of Preparation Make a Difference?

Article excerpt

American concern about the quality of teaching in public schools is not new. In an analysis of articles in The New York Times spanning 100 years, Nichols and Good (2000) found that public concern with the quality of teaching was one of four major and enduring themes. Within this, the focus of concern varied at times from issues such as teachers' morality (see Spencer, 1986) to their ability to stimulate student achievement. Although just what the public believes teachers need to be or do has changed with time, teachers' decisions to enter the field have always been made against a backdrop of public expectations and at least some concern about the ability of "today's teachers" to meet them.

In this article, we provide two types of research-based evidence about teacher education. First, we examine our major question, whether 1st-year teachers' practices meet modern "normative" expectations at three levels of schooling (elementary, middle, and high school). Second, we compare 1st-year teachers' performance as influenced by two types of teacher education preparation ("traditional" bachelor's degree and "nontraditional" master's degree/ postbaccalaureate certification). Although some would consider the differences between these two programs as minor because they are both college based, we thought it important to consider potential differences between them. We begin by reviewing the literature on the extent to which teacher education as a field affects classroom practice.


Public concern about the quality of teachers who enter the classroom includes concern about the quality of the education program that prepared them. This "crisis" in public confidence about the quality and effectiveness of teacher education programs has spurred several recent attempts to review research on the effectiveness of teacher education. The goal of these reviews has been to show that teacher education programs influence how their graduates teach and in turn, how their students learn and ultimately achieve. Unfortunately, these efforts have not yielded persuasive evidence that illustrates the value of teacher education programs.

Looking Back

Tsang (2003) reviewed extant research linking teacher education and classroom practices and concluded there was little convincing evidence. Later in the same year, the Education Commission of the States (Allen, 2003) analyzed almost 100 empirical studies with the goal of identifying aspects of teacher education programs associated with successful practice in the field. This review found little basis for research-driven practices in teacher education programs. Cochran-Smith (2005) aptly summarized the results of the Allen study and its conclusions about what research tells us about teacher preparation: "Very little" (p. 6). The American Educational Research Association's Panel on Research in Teacher Education released its report in 2005 (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005). After 5 years of investigation, the panel's comprehensive analysis and review of the research on teacher preparation and teaching practices provided no more evidence of the effectiveness of teacher education than had earlier work.

These notable efforts do not stand alone as others also have attempted to explore the research on teacher education trying, in one way or another, to demonstrate the efficacy of teacher education (Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001). Perhaps what is now known is that there is no research base that "proves" variation in teacher education programs have known relations with how program graduates teach and how their students subsequently learn and achieve. Considerable time and energy has been spent in reviewing (and rereviewing) the teacher education literature. It is time to put this quest to rest. Very little is known about if and how teacher education affects practice.

The problem of even associating teacher effects (let alone the effects of teacher education on teacher effects) with student achievement has long been known (Berliner, 1976). …

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