Teacher Education Effectiveness: Quality and Equity of Future Primary Teachers’ Mathematics and Mathematics Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Apr. 02, 2011

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 62(2), p.154-171. April, 2011.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examined across 15 countries to what extent primary teacher education can be regarded as effective and the possible reasons for inequity.

The effectiveness of teacher education was examined by taking two indicators into account: future teachers’ mean achievement on a paper-and-pencil test as an indicator of quality, and the variability of teacher achievement due to background characteristics as an indicator of equity.
Specifically, the effects of gender and language on mathematics content knowledge and mathematics pedagogical content knowledge were examined.

The authors were interested to learn
1. about the level of mathematics content knowledge )MCK) and mathematics pedagogical content knowledge(MPCK) of future primary teachers, assessed with a paper-and-pencil test at the end of their training (quality);
2. to what extent differential effects of demographic characteristics on the acquisition of MCK and MPCK exist (equity);
3. whether these differences in MCK and MPCK are in fact due to direct effects of these demographic characteristics or were mediated—at least partly— by differential choices of teacher education programs(indirect effects); and,
4. to what extent similarities and, differences in these effects exist across countries.

Study Design
In 2008, future primary teachers from 15 countries (Botswana, Chile, Germany, Georgia, Malaysia, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and United States) were tested on their MCK and MPCK with a standardized paper-and-pencil assessment.

All countries had to meet the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) quality requirements.


Quality of Teacher Achievement
Based on the mean achievement of future primary teachers as a first indicator of teacher education effectiveness, it is possible to infer that the systems in Taiwan and Singapore were particularly effective, and this with respect to MCK as well as to MPCK.
The achievement of future teachers from Switzerland (on both sub-dimensions of teacher knowledge( as well as from Norway and the United States (only on MPCK( was well above the international mean, too.

Equity of Teacher Achievement
In most countries, significant achievement differences existed in favor of male compared with female future teachers.
The gender effect on MCK was the largest in Poland, whereas only in Malaysia, the Philippines, Botswana, and Germany did no significant differences occur.

In contrast, with respect to MPCK, the authors found significant achievement differences in favor of male future teachers only in Poland, Norway, Spain, and Thailand. In most countries, including the United States, the difference between male and female future teachers was not statistically significant.

Gender effects varied not only by knowledge dimension but also by country.
This latter difference indicates that teacher achievement reflects cultural patterns but not properties inherent to gender.
People in many countries, including those in the United States, may have gotten used to girls’ disadvantages in K-12 mathematics and recognize this phenomenon now with respect to future primary teachers’ MCK.
However, the results reveal that such disadvantages do not occur in all countries.

Language was the second background characteristic examined in this article.
In Germany, the United States, and Thailand, differences of high practical relevance occurred in MCK as well as in MPCK.
The differences were always in favor of those future primary teachers whose first language matched the official language of instruction in teacher education.
It seems that the education systems in these countries set students with a different language at a disadvantage.

Decomposing Background Effects
It was possible to decompose gender and language effects into primary and secondary effects.
Overall, direct background effects were much more important for the gender- and language-related variability of the TEDS-M results than were indirect effects due to program choice.



The authors conclude that none of the TEDS-M countries was successful on both indicators of teacher education effectiveness with respect to background characteristics, gender, and language.
Singapore and Taiwan may be regarded as the most effective teacher education systems, with high achievement and gender equity on MPCK and high achievement and language
The United States had relatively high achievement and gender equity on MPCK but failed with respect to gender equity on MCK and with respect to language equity on both sub-dimensions.

Updated: Dec. 25, 2013