Preservice Teachers' Mathematics Teaching Competence: Comparing Performance on Two Measures

By Santagata, Rossella; Sandholtz, Judith Haymore | Journal of Teacher Education, November-December 2019 | Go to article overview

Preservice Teachers' Mathematics Teaching Competence: Comparing Performance on Two Measures


Santagata, Rossella, Sandholtz, Judith Haymore, Journal of Teacher Education


Introduction

A key goal of teacher preparation programs is to prepare candidates to become effective classroom teachers who foster student learning. Licensed teachers should not only manage classroom activities but also promote and evaluate student understanding. However, in the United States, licensing systems have typically focused on preventing the certification of underqualified teachers by determining if candidates meet basic levels of content and professional knowledge (Goldhaber & Hansen, 2010; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996). In contrast to many countries, teacher licensing in the United States is a state responsibility rather than a federal responsibility. Consequently, the criteria and testing requirements for teachers to obtain a license vary across states. Some states require that applicants to teacher preparation programs meet a minimum grade point average (GPA) and pass standardized tests that focus on basic skills to be accepted. After completing the programs in these states, candidates then must pass state-mandated tests measuring content and professional knowledge to receive an initial teaching license. In other states, there is no pre-program testing requirement, but candidates must pass licensing tests at the end of their preparation programs. The aim of minimum pass scores on these tests is to prevent underqualified candidates from becoming licensed teachers (Goldhaber & Hansen, 2010). To some degree, the tests also hold teacher preparation programs within a state accountable for the competence of their graduates and allow states to compare graduates from different programs (D'Agostino & Powers, 2009). However, given high pass rates, there is some question about the extent to which the tests identify candidates who are not ready to be licensed classroom teachers.

Teacher licensing exams typically have consisted of multiple choice questions (D'Agostino & Powers, 2009). One key concern about this type of test is that it evaluates lower level subject matter knowledge that is not directly relevant to teaching (R. Mitchell & Barth, 1999). Moreover, multiple choice exams do not involve any direct classroom observations of the teachers being licensed (Goldhaber & Hansen, 2010). Researchers report that teachers' scores on this type of licensing exam tend not to predict effectiveness in classroom teaching (Berliner, 2005; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Darling-Hammond, Wise, & Klein, 1999). In a meta-analysis of 123 studies, D'Agostino and Powers (2009) reported that test scores were "at best modestly related to teaching competence" and concluded that performance in preparation programs was a significantly better predictor of teaching skills (p. 146).

In many states, licensing systems are shifting from assessing teachers' subject matter knowledge to appraising how candidates apply this knowledge in classroom teaching (AACTE, 2015). But questions persist about whether these assessments adequately measure candidates' use of subject-specific pedagogy to promote student learning. In this exploratory study, we examine the relationship of preservice teachers' performance on two measures of teaching competence in mathematics. The first is a teaching performance assessment for licensure that is based on applied competencies, and the second is a measure of knowledge for teaching mathematics that researchers have found to predict teaching effectiveness. The two measures are more fully described in subsequent sections.

Theoretical Framework

Our theoretical framework draws from research establishing the role of teacher knowledge in classroom practice and the challenges of assessing effective teaching for licensure.

Teacher Knowledge

Whereas process-product research attributed effective teaching to discrete, observable teaching acts operating independent of time, place, and subject matter, conceptions of effective teaching shifted over time to reflect the complex contexts and subject-specific demands that teachers encounter in their work (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 1999; National Board for Professional Teaching Standards [NBPTS], 1999; Shulman, 1986). …

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