Professional Dispositions of Teacher Candidates: Measuring Dispositions at a Large Teacher Preparation University to Meet National Standards

June, 2021

Source: The Teacher Educator, 56:2, 117-131

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study is to add to the literature on measuring and assessing the dispositions of undergraduate and graduate teacher candidates by highlighting the process by which the authors’ university attempts to meet Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) (2015) standards to address dispositions.
Findings are presented on the 12 teacher dispositions that were measured with the Professional Dispositions Qualities (PDQ) survey.
Scores are compared between teacher candidates (at the undergraduate and graduate level), mentor teachers, and supervising faculty to assess for any similarities and differences in ratings.
The research questions for this study are as follows:
1. What are the mean scores for the items on PDQ? Hypothesis: students, supervisors and mentors will rate students as proficient or advanced in all of the professional dispositions measured.
2. Is there a statistically significant difference between teacher candidate self-report, mentor teacher reports and university supervisors in mean scores on the PDQ? Hypothesis: there will be a statistically significant difference in how teacher candidates rate themselves compared to mentor teachers’ and supervising faculty’s scores, with teacher candidates rating their competencies higher than mentors or supervisors.
3. How do the mean scores on the PDQ change across time? Hypothesis: mean scores on the PDQ will improve over time.


Unduplicated scores on the PDQ Survey were collected from (N = 4,681) undergraduate and graduate teacher candidates (n = 1,220), mentor faculty (n = 2,094), and supervising faculty (n = 1,367), from spring 2015 through fall 2018 from the authors’ institution.
These participants were required to complete the PDQ at three points, typically during the beginning, middle and end of their programs.
Participants were chosen through purposeful sampling in which dispositions were assessed during certain courses.

There is support in the literature for programs developing their own survey instruments, such as the one used in the current study, to address program-specific needs (Immekus, 2016), as well as through the CAEP (2015) standards.
Since there is no consensus in the literature on which disposition qualities should be measured, it is up to various teacher preparation programs to select the disposition qualities they think meets the professional standards and the standards within their respective institutions.
As such, the PDQ survey was created through a literature review on existing dispositions items, surveying special education teachers, and university professors on which disposition qualities they saw as important to assess (Brewer et al., n.d.).
Additionally, two pilot studies were completed, and a committee comprised of various teacher education faculty provided feedback about the construction of the instrument, including the items selected and the definitions of the items (Brewer et al. n.d).
The PDQ in its current form has 12 disposition items and 3-point Likert-Type scale instead of a traditional Likert Scale (Brewer et al., 2011; Phelps et al., 1986).
The current instrument rates students on the 12 dispositions items related to professional dispositions as either Target, Approaching, or Unacceptable (Target = 3, Approaching = 2, and Unacceptable = 1, for data analysis purposes).
The final 12 dispositions items included in the instrument focused on:
professional appearance, attendance, professional responsibilities, ethical behavior, response to feedback, reflexive practitioner, collaboration, professional initiative, respect for diversity, student engagement, communication skills, and portrayal of professional confidence and competence.
The design of this instrument was intended to be able to track professional dispositions of individual teacher candidates throughout their program, as well as to compare scores between teacher candidates, mentoring teachers, and supervising faculty (Brewer et al., 2011).
This final instrument was first piloted in the spring 2015 academic year, and then fully integrated into the academic institution.

The PDQ rubric was completed by teacher candidates, mentor teachers, and supervising faculty at three points during each teacher candidate’s program.

Results and discussion
Results indicated the mean scores on the PDQ items were not normally distributed resulting in a limited range of scores and a “halo effect” (Phelps et al., 1986).
This is similar to the distribution in the findings in Immekus (2016) and Niu et al. (2017).
One could cautiously attribute this finding to a couple of different explanations.
The first explanation could be the teacher candidates are meeting professional disposition standards due to the rigorous admissions process, which evaluates potential teacher candidates on their professional dispositions.
Another explanation could be due to the PDQ instrument having three response choices (Target, Approaching, Unacceptable) because there is little room for variability in the results.
A last possibility could be due to the halo effect; which has been found to be present in using Likert-Type rating scales (Phelps et al., 1986).
This possibility is the least likely of the explanations due to having similar means on the 12-items for three different raters and across time points.
The three professional dispositions with the highest means were attendance, respect for diversity and adherence to ethics.
These findings provide evidence of the teacher candidates being culturally responsive teachers (Aceves & Orosco, 2014).
The lowest mean scores were around professional initiative, student engagement, and portraying professional confidence and competence.
The findings from the lowest ratings are consistent with the literature which has also found that ratings on student engagement and confidence in teaching are typically low for teacher candidates (Putman, 2012; Swan et al., 2011; Tschannen-Moran et al., 1998).
All of the means on the 12-items were above the approaching category, indicating that the institution’s teacher candidates have professional dispositions consistent with those of experienced teachers.
Mentoring teachers rated the teacher candidates slightly higher than they rated themselves and scores between teacher candidates and supervising faculty were relatively the same, which has been supported by previous research (Conderman & Walker, 2015).
These results suggest that the school’s teacher candidates are slightly more self-critical of their professional dispositions than mentor teachers.
These results also suggest that teacher candidates and supervising faculty have similar perceptions of the professional dispositions of the teacher candidates.
Lastly, results indicate a slightly positive increase in scores across time.
A possible explanation could be the continued focus of this institution on the positive development of teacher dispositions.

Implications and directions for future research
Results from this study have numerous implications and future directions for assessing the professional dispositions of teacher candidates.
First, due to the robust internal consistency of the PDQ, the PDQ offers a reliable framework for measuring professional dispositions due to having the teacher candidate and two other raters assessing each student at various time points.
The design of the PDQ could help other teacher preparation programs understand how professional dispositions of teacher candidates change across time, reliably identify students with unacceptable dispositions, and identify where program improvement efforts could be made to help teacher candidates develop their professional dispositions efficiently.
The results indicate a high number of the school’s teacher candidates possess acceptable teaching dispositions, providing support for the PDQ as a screening tool for admissions into both undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation programs.
Teacher candidates have also stated that filling out disposition assessment forms multiple times is helpful to their own self-awareness and continued growth of their dispositions (Diez, 2006).
Lastly, the PDQ instrument is a mandatory part of certain courses at the participating university, enabling a large sample to be collected, which increases the generalizability of these results.

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Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). (2015). CAEP accreditation standards. /media/Files/caep/standards/caep-2013-accreditation-standards.pdf
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Updated: Oct. 20, 2021