Teacher Verbal Ability and School Outcomes: Where Is the Evidence?

Nov. 29, 2009

Source: Educational Researcher. Vol. 38, Iss. 8; pg. 612- 624. (Nov 2009).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Many have claimed that teachers' verbal ability is among the most important predictors of school outcomes. Teachers' verbal ability has been thought to predict student achievement ever since the relationship was found in the classic Equality of Educational Opportunity (EEO) study by Coleman et al.

By way of meta-analysis the authors examine the evidence on the power of teachers' verbal ability as a predictor of school outcomes.

Research Questions

The authors address the following questions:
1. What claims have been made in the literature about verbal ability as a predictor of school outcomes?
2. What is the overall strength of the relationship between teachers' verbal ability and school outcomes?
3. How much evidence exists on this question?
4. Does the relationship vary across different measures of verbal ability, types of school outcome, grade level, publication status, and study year?

The authors find that the evidence is not as extensive as might be inferred from prior reports. Results of 19 studies indicate that teachers' verbal ability is at best very weakly related to school outcomes, and the main evidence for this weak relationship arises from the EEO study. Other studies find that verbal ability is unrelated to school outcomes.

The authors argue that other work from their project suggests that a set of teacher qualities, including the teacher's certification status (Qu & Becker, 2003), teacher values (Metzger & Wu, 2008), and teacher content knowledge (Becker & Aloe, 2008; Choi, Ahn, & Kennedy, 2008), combine to have an impact on die quality of teaching.

Becker, B. J., & Aloe, A. M. (2008, March). Teacher science knowledge and student science achievement. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.

Coleman, J. S., Campbell, E. Q., Hobson, C. J., McPartland, J., Mood, A. M., Weinfeld, F. D. (1966). Equality of educational opportunity. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Choi, J., Ahn, S., & Kennedy, M. (2008). Role of teachers subject matter knowledge. Manuscript submitted to Teaching and Teacher Education.

Metzger, S. A, & Wu, M.-J. (2008). Commercial teacher selection instruments: The validity of selecting teachers through beliefs, attitudes, and values. Review of Educational Research, 78, 921-940.

Qu, Y., & Becker, B. J. (2003, April) . Does traditional teacher certification imply quality? A meta-analysis. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

Updated: May. 09, 2010