The Role of Opportunity to Learn in Teacher Preparation: An International Context

Mar. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 62(2), 138-153.
(Reviewed by the Team Portal)

The present article set out to examine the issue of whether opportunity to learn (OTL) was related to mathematics and mathematics pedagogy knowledge for future middle school mathematics teachers and for future elementary teachers who will likely teach mathematics.

Specifically, the authors asked what sort of balance is provided for course work across the areas of mathematics content, mathematics pedagogy, and general pedagogy?

The authors used data from 81 randomly sampled U.S. public and private institutions as well as international data from top-achieving countries.
Participating countries in addition to the United States included Germany, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Botswana, the Philippines, Chile, Georgia, and Oman.
They examined the nature of the differences in OTL between the United States and those countries whose future teachers statistically significantly outperformed U.S. future teachers.

Data from U.S. participation in the recent international Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M) are explored against international profiles.
TEDS-M designed and developed two sets of assessments—mathematics content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge—for future teachers at each of the two levels of preparation.
The authors measured the opportunities individuals had in their teacher preparation programs by surveying the students’ experiences related to mathematics and pedagogy.

The authors characterized the K-12 curriculum for the top-achieving countries, calling the result the A+ curriculum, which was then used as an international benchmark by which to compare the U.S. curriculum.
Those countries that performed like the U.S. and the group of countries that the United States statistically significantly outperformed.
As a result, Taiwan, Singapore, and Switzerland serve as the A+ group of countries for the elementary future teachers, whereas Taiwan, Russia, Singapore, and Poland serve this role for lower secondary teachers.


The results showed major differences in course taking between the A+ countries and the United States, especially for lower secondary preparation programs.
Clearly, within the United States there is little agreement as to what constitutes teacher preparation across the many colleges and universities that educate lower secondary or middle school teachers.

Related to these differences, in OTL there is also substantial variation in what teachers know upon completion of their formal schooling.
That variation results in some U.S. institutions where the average performance is at a level commensurate with institutions in the top-performing countries but also in some where the average performance is at the level of institutions in developing countries such as Botswana.
The prior mathematics knowledge of these future teachers is only adjusted for in terms of controlling for institutional differences related to differences in admissions standards for public and private institutions.

Similar conclusions are relevant to preparation programs designed for elementary teachers. There, however, the differences between the A+ countries and the United States are not as pronounced as they are for the middle school programs.
However, the variation in OTL across the 81 public and private institutions preparing elementary teachers was also very large.
At this stage in the analyses related to the U.S. TEDS-M data, the implications are strikingly similar to what was found in TIMSS—that curricular differences in terms of content coverage are related to achievement.

In the case of TEDS-M, this implies that the course work offered, required, and taken has a relationship to the professional competencies in terms of knowledge that future teachers have upon completion of their preparation programs.

Updated: Jan. 01, 2014