Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 112 Number 3, 2010, p. 914-960.
A half-century ago, scholars of teaching observed that there was a disconnect between theory and evidence. This problem remains. Although there is great deal of scholarly activity about teacher effectiveness and quality, discussion of theory is largely separate from empirical evidence. In addition, research on teaching is based on an implicit assumption that teaching is unique, suggesting further that lessons cannot be learned from other occupations and professions.
The theory-evidence disconnect, and relationship with other occupations, is addressed by comparing and contrasting research on teachers with research on other occupations.
The article synthesizes and analyses past discussions of the nature of teaching and empirical analysis of the predictors of teacher effectiveness. A similar review is provided for other occupations, and the two bodies of research are analyzed together.
First, four models of teaching are identified—labor, profession, craft, and art—each with its own (often implicit) objectives and theories about how learning takes place. However, the age-old theory-evidence disconnect remains because empirical analyses still almost never mention theory, and vice versa. This problem is much less pronounced in research on other occupations and professions in which theory and empirical analysis are appropriately intertwined. Although disconnect in teacher research is partly due to disagreement about the objectives and nature of teaching, and there is greater agreement on these grounds in other occupations, it is shown that clear theories and models of teacher effectiveness can be developed and tested for each of the four models of teaching.
Second, there is considerable similarity between the teacher characteristics that predict teacher effectiveness and those predicting worker effectiveness in similarly complex occupations and professions. Specifically, cognitive ability and experience predict effectiveness for both groups, whereas personality and education are not predictive.
These specific findings are informative for developing specific models of effectiveness. More generally, the similarity across teaching and other complex occupations suggests that teaching, although different, is not completely unique and that lessons can be learned from research that extend beyond teaching.