Evidence-Based Teacher Preparation: Policy Context and What We Know

Mar. 01, 2019

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume: 70 issue: 2, page(s): 90-101

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author argues that despite a recent explosion of research on teacher education and its connections to the outcomes of inservice teachers and their students, we do not know very much about how to better prepare preservice teachers.

Outcomes-Based Evidence About Teacher Education
In particular, there is a growing body of evidence about the extent to which the teacher preparation programs from which teachers received their credentials is predictive of student achievement, but this is quite different from knowledge about how teacher education experiences causally influence the skills of teacher candidates.

This subtle distinction is important because the improvement of teacher preparation is fundamentally connected to the ability of teacher education to change the teaching capacities of teacher candidates.
The author  goes on to argue that we are only at the beginning stages of learning about the features of teacher preparation programs (e.g., the nature of the experiences that teacher candidates receive as a consequence of attending a particular TPP) that modulate the effectiveness of candidates.

The Importance of Feedback Loops
Finally, he indicates that there are some important impediments to making progress toward understanding how such experiences influence teachers and, ultimately, their students. The problem is that there are limited feedback loops connecting specific aspects of the education teacher candidates receive to the inservice outcomes of teachers.

The author argues that understanding the structure of TPPs is fundamental to gaining a better handle on whether particular TPP features influence teacher candidate outcomes because there is evidence that TPPs can differ from one another (and change over time) in terms of, for instance, their requirements for admission, in the timing and nature of student teaching, and in the courses in pedagogy and academic subjects that they require.
It is only recently that this sort of information has been systematically collected; programs themselves often do not have a long and detailed history of what was required of teacher candidates in the past, and it is this level of historical information that is necessary to connect the features of teacher education to teacher workforce outcomes that are only observed years after a teacher candidate has entered and completed a program.
The author posits that the bottom line is that we really do not have much empirical evidence about whether TPP features are related to teacher outcomes.

These connections are the beginning steps to understanding how to more effectively develop teacher candidates so that they are better prepared to teach when they assume classroom responsibilities. But this is only part of the challenge.
Knowing that certain features of TPPs are (or are not) associated with, for instance, teacher effectiveness does not imply that those associations are causal. He notes that to really gain a handle on whether specific TPP experiences change individual teacher candidates, we will likely need some well-designed randomized control trials focused on teacher education interventions. Although it is challenging to pull off this kind of research, recent efforts show it is possible. 

Updated: May. 26, 2019