Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Understanding Teacher Candidate Dispositions: Reflecting to Build Self-Awareness

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Understanding Teacher Candidate Dispositions: Reflecting to Build Self-Awareness

Article excerpt

In describing quality teaching, Fenstermacher and Richardson (2005) argue that it is composed of both good teaching and successful teaching. Good teaching involves the "worthiness of the activity," and successful teaching involves the "realization of intended outcomes" (p. 186). They argue that although one may be successful insofar as the teacher has employed methods that produced student learning, the teaching may not have been good if the teacher taught something that is morally reprehensible. Although Fenstermacher and Richardson focus on the act of teaching, their argument can be extrapolated to explain the qualities embraced by an effective teacher. If an effective teacher must possess content knowledge and pedagogical skills to achieve successful teaching (Carter, 1990; Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; Shulman, 1987), what must the effective teacher possess to achieve good teaching?

In the early 1990s the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) offered an answer: dispositions. Dispositions replaced the construct of attitudes in the knowledge, skills, attitudes triad. According to Freeman (2007), many viewed attitude as a vacuous construct: "Attitude is not a reliable predictor of behavior," as a chasm exists between what one intends to do and what one actually does (p. 6). For example, a teacher may have a positive attitude toward teaching struggling students to read but may fail in any attempts to accomplish that goal. In contrast, dispositions have been described as "predictive patterns of action" (Borko, Liston, & Whitcomb, 2007, p. 361), exemplifying teachers' tendencies to act in certain ways under certain circumstances (Katz & Raths, 1985). By connecting intention with actions (Sockett, 2009), dispositions serve a more useful purpose than the construct of attitudes and provide a means to exemplify good teaching. In summarizing the rationale behind including dispositions in the standards, Diez (2007a) explains, "The INTASC standards group recognized the problem of having the knowledge and skills required to be an effective teacher and yet not using them for good in the classroom" (p. 389). Dispositions became a means to fill this void. Dispositions bridge successful teaching-revealing how teachers enact knowledge and skills--with good teaching--elucidating the discernment one employs to achieve worthwhile ends.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) adopted INTASC's inclusion of dispositions as requisite for effective teachers. In 2002, the NCATE accreditation standards required teacher education programs both to "articulate" and "systematically assess" candidate dispositions (p. 19). This requirement has pushed many institutions to focus on disposition assessment. Although assessment is important, it is the development of dispositions that should be of the most concern in teacher education (Carroll, 2005; Diez, 2007b; Eberly, Rand, & O'Connor, 2007; Sockett, 2008). Fostering development means helping teacher candidates become aware of the dispositions they tend to manifest in particular contexts so they can reach desired outcomes, namely, fostering student learning. The purpose of this article is to analyze and describe the dispositions teacher candidates draw from as they think about their early teaching experiences. These baseline data provide essential information for teacher educators working to develop candidates' dispositions.

Before proceeding any further, we should be more specific about what we mean by the term disposition. Our conceptualization stems from the research on thinking dispositions and the literature on the self of the teacher. Psychologists studying thinking dispositions posit that intelligence includes more than ability. It involves an inclination to put one's ability to use and the sensitivity to know when a situation calls for specific skills. In a number of compelling studies (see Perkins, Tishman, Ritchhart, Donis, & Andrade, 2000; Ritchhart & Perkins, 2000), researchers studying thinking dispositions found that although people often possessed particular intellectual abilities and the inclination to use these abilities, unless they were specifically prompted, they often lacked the sensitivity to know when to put this knowledge and these skills to use. …

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