How Engaged Are Pre-service Teachers in the United States?

August 2017

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 66 (2017) 12-23
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines engagement among pre-service teachers.

Data were collected through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) from 1610 U.S. education major students in 2013 at time 1, and 1413 education majors in 2016 at time 2 across 256 U.S. institutions.
The sample was predominantly female (84%) and the vast majority (74%) was White.
All of the students who identified their first or second major as an education related field in either the 2013 or 2016 NSSE administration were included.

The findings revealed that preservice teachers only scored between 54% and 70% of the maximum possible across all engagement scales. These findings suggest that there is much room for improvement. In particular, the engagement scale that pre-service teachers’ reported lowest in 2013 and 2016 was experiences with faculty. This is a notable finding given the many benefits of positive experiences with faculty on student development and achievement. Some have posited that pre-service teachers are less engaged with faculty in the senior year

The engagement scale that pre-service teachers reported highest in 2013 and 2016 was campus environment. However, preservice teachers reported lower engagement in campus environment in 2016 than in 2013. The authors suggest that teacher education programs could exert greater effort in helping pre-service teachers experience a positive campus environment especially in their senior year, a time when students need much support in graduating, looking for jobs, and taking certification exams.

Furthermore, the multilevel models predicting engagement among pre-service teachers suggest that in both years, a number of institutional characteristics were predictive of engagement. For instance, students in Doctorate granting institutions reported higher engagement in learning with peers than those in either Master's or Baccalaureate granting institutions.

Among student demographic variables, there was a small positive effect favoring males in experiences with faculty. In addition, these results suggest that men and women undergo qualitatively different educational experiences; because engagement is highly contextual, these experiences vary by year.
Different trends in student demographics were observed with 2016 engagement results. Whereas race was not predictive of any engagement scale in 2013, being Black was positively predictive of three of the four engagement scales: academic challenge, experiences with faculty, and campus environment.
Furthermore, these results suggest that Black pre-service teachers reported higher levels of engagement than their majority White classmates in a number of educationally purposeful activities.

Another important finding was that academic achievement (ACT) scores did not significantly predict reported engagement in any of the scales for either years.

The authors conclude that this study is an important first step in examining a deeply informative variable, student engagement, in the context of preservice teacher education. 

Updated: Feb. 20, 2018