Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teacher Preparation Research: An Insider's View from the outside. (Editorial)

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teacher Preparation Research: An Insider's View from the outside. (Editorial)

Article excerpt

Commissions and professional societies are issuing an increasing number of recommendations concerning the practices and policies of teacher preparation, and such recommendations are also debated in scholarly circles. Groups as diverse as the National Research Council, the Fordham Foundation, and the American Federation of Teachers have issued reports concerning the future of teacher preparation. Considerable debate has ensued concerning both how much we know and what we should do (e.g., Ballou & Podgursky, 2000; Darling-Hammond, 2000a).

The U.S. Department of Education commissioned us to summarize the existing research--empirical studies, conducted with rigor and critically reviewed--on teacher preparation. We recognize, of course, that research is not the only basis on which decisions are made, especially in matters of schooling where the future of U.S. children is at stake, but we agreed to do this review because, as teacher educators and researchers, we felt that it was a helpful exercise to take a step back--as insiders--and look critically--as outsiders--at our own field. Here we highlight some of the report's major findings, encouraging readers to examine the full report on the Web site for the Center for the Study of Teaching & Policy,


The Department of Education asked for a Summary of rigorous empirical research on five key questions asked by policy makers, educators, and the public, questions about the effects of major components of teacher preparation, about the effects of teacher education policies, and about alternative routes to teacher certification (see Table 1).

We identified candidate studies by searching databases, examining reference lists of reviews and reports, reviewing prominent journals and Web sites, and consulting scholars. The domain of our review was empirical research on U.S. teacher education, published in the past two decades, that was directly relevant to the five key questions. With the assistance of our technical advisory group, we decided to focus on peer-reviewed journal articles that met generally accepted standards in a varied set of research traditions, from large-scale correlational analyses to interpretive studies. In short, we searched for research that would conform to what scholars characterize as disciplined inquiry, presentations that describe the methods of investigation and analysis as well as the findings well enough that others can assess their validity. Limitations of time and uneven review processes led us to omit book chapters from our review. We found 57 studies that met all our criteria.

We begin with some cautions. First, although the phrase teacher preparation seems familiar to us all, it is falsely so, for teacher preparation means many different things across the United States. Second, we focused our review on the role teacher education plays in helping all students meet academic standards, but we acknowledge that teacher education has other goals. Third, we recognize that claims about the effects of teacher preparation must be treated with caution, given the imperfections in measures developed thus far. Fourth, although the key questions we addressed are each important, we recognize that they are also limited. Other topics, such as teacher recruitment, are critical for understanding the forces that affect teacher quality.


What Are the Effects of Subject Matter Preparation?

We found no reports meeting our selection criteria that directly assessed prospective teachers' subject matter knowledge and evaluated the relationship between teacher subject matter preparation and student learning. To date, researchers conducting large-scale studies have relied on proxies for subject matter knowledge, such as majors or coursework. The research that does exist is limited, and in some cases, the results are contradictory. …

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