Moral Dispositions in Teacher Education: Making Them Matter

By Sherman, Shelley | Teacher Education Quarterly, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Moral Dispositions in Teacher Education: Making Them Matter


Sherman, Shelley, Teacher Education Quarterly


Teacher education programs continue to face the challenge of meeting uniform and very specific national and state standards that are established by external accreditation bodies, not by teacher preparation programs themselves (see Darling-Hammond, 2001, for a review of standard setting in teaching). But many teacher educators seek to establish goals that are driven by locally-shaped values, beliefs, and priorities and that focus on candidates' capacities to be good teachers in a broader sense. This includes how a teacher candidate is developing capacities to be responsive to students in multiple ways in a variety of contexts. Such capacities can be associated with the moral dispositions of teachers, which I discuss later. Establishing high standards for the moral dispositions of prospective teachers is an important mandate for teacher preparation programs, although standardizing their assessment is not possible.

In this article, I first describe the tensions that exist between meeting prescribed standards and maintaining a focus on dispositional qualities of teachers. Then I discuss why it is vital to address these tensions, even if they cannot be fully resolved. My emphasis is upon responsiveness to students, which I suggest is an aspect of the moral dimensions of teaching. Finally, I propose potential ways of maintaining a focus on aspects of the moral dimensions of teaching in practical and visible ways.

Existing Tensions

The standards movement has strong ties to the social efficiency model, which, with its emphasis on causal relationships between teaching and learning, according to Beyer (2002), positions teacher preparation "as something like a science--to be generated by an adherence to content and developmental standards and evaluation practices that guarantee results ..." (p.240). And yet, the goal to achieve learning outcomes in schools, a goal that traditionally has been associated with quantitative research studies, remains an elusive one. Contextual factors, including the circumstances of particular communities and the needs of students, require locally situated decision-making, interpretation, and innovative teaching responses that resist standardization.

Shaffer and Serlin (2004), in their discussion about the qualitative-quantitative research "paradigm wars" (and who provide an interesting model for possible rapprochement between the two research traditions), assert that "No technique--not even randomized controlled trials--provides a universal prescription for truth" (p.23). Similarly, although standards may provide useful benchmarks for teacher assessment, used alone, they may not provide a full-bodied vision for assessing candidates that must include individual developmental considerations as well as contextual knowledge of the school settings in which candidates are learning how to teach.

Serious concerns about the pressures of standardization in teacher preparation are not new. These concerns have been felt by many teacher educators and have been described convincingly in the literature (e.g., Beyer, 2002; Bullough, Clark, & Patterson, 2003; Cochran-Smith, 2000, 2004). The drive to standardize teacher education is one that is related, politics aside, to the desire to produce high-quality teachers across teacher education programs. Standards are not inherently bad. But the notion that teacher candidates will necessarily become good teachers by meeting the technical competencies that standards emphasize is questionable. This is the reason why. The term "highly qualified" is being used by policymakers in ways that are associated with program completion and satisfactory performance on certification tests (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). This characterization of high quality is limited and even distracting, because it draws attention away from normative aspects of teaching that cannot be quantified.

The dispositions of teachers, which can be related to the moral dimensions of teaching but are not explicitly attached to technique and content knowledge, may not be assessed in compelling ways by national and state standards alone. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Moral Dispositions in Teacher Education: Making Them Matter
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.