A possible alternative pathway for training more effective teachers?

If you look up the effect of teacher training in Visible Learning by John Hattie you’ll be surprised – and as a teacher trainer depressed – how low the effect really is, although my personal opinion is that this not only due to the quality of the teacher training programs but also due to the different concerns teachers have, first described by Fuller (for a more recent update about this theory check here):

  1. concerns about self, to
  2. concerns about tasks, to
  3. concerns about students and the impact of teaching.

But there is also maybe another explanation when looking at this new study by Tim R. Sass, published in The Journal of Law and Economics, teacher training programs may well be a reason why the better students don’t choose to follow a teacher training program at the university as he compares the characteristics and performance of Florida teachers who graduate from traditional university-based teacher preparation programs with those who enter teaching from alternative pathways where a bachelor’s degree in education is not required. In general, alternatively certified teachers have stronger SAT scores, come from more competitive colleges and are more likely to pass teacher certification exams on the first try.

From the press release:

Of the three alternative certification pathways studied, teachers who enter through the path requiring no coursework in education have the greatest effect on student achievement, substantially larger than that of traditionally prepared teachers. In contrast, the alternative pathway that requires prospective teachers to take courses that are not transferable to other fields yields teachers who are less effective at boosting student test scores than either traditional-route teachers or teachers who entered the profession through other alternative pathways.

These results suggest that any benefits from required coursework in education are overwhelmed by self-selection away from programs that require non-transferable investments in training. The findings provide a cautionary note to those who seek to improve educational outcomes by tightening the standards to become a teacher.

Adding course requirements to existing teacher preparation programs may be counterproductive by causing the most talented individuals (and those with the highest time cost) to eschew the teaching profession.

Abstract of the study:

In this paper I use a rich longitudinal database from Florida to compare the characteristics of alternatively certified teachers with their traditionally prepared colleagues. I analyze the relative effectiveness of teachers who enter the profession through different pathways by estimating value-added models of student achievement. In general, alternatively certified teachers have stronger preservice qualifications than graduates of traditional university-based teacher preparation programs do, with the least restrictive alternative route attracting the most qualified prospective teachers. Teachers who enter through the path requiring no coursework have a substantially larger effect on student achievement. In contrast, the alternative pathway that requires substantial occupation-specific human capital investment yields teachers who are less effective than either traditional-route teachers or teachers who entered the profession through other alternative pathways. These results suggest that any benefits from preservice training are overwhelmed by the adverse selection into programs that require nontransferable human capital investments.

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