The Missing Link: Research on Teacher Education

Aug. 01, 2012

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Volume 34, Issue 3, 2012, p. 249-261.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article seeks to understand how teacher preparation makes a difference in classroom instructional quality that leads to student learning.
It reviews the research that has been conducted on the fundamental practices of teacher education and how they affect student learning.


This article shows repeatedly that the link between teacher education programs, effective teachers, and student learning is missing in research on teacher education.

The article indicates the complicating factors of making causal connections between teacher education and student learning.
The first hurdle to studying teacher education's impact on student learning is the difficulty of connecting student outcomes to the teacher education program.
There are many variables that play a role in student learning.
Another difficulty in studying teacher education is the fact that there is a lack of variance in teacher qualifications.
It is difficult for researchers to isolate the difference in teacher effects based on teacher qualifications because teachers, for the most part, have met similar requirements for entry into the profession.
This includes, at minimum, a college degree with substantial amount of content courses.
A lack of variance in easily measureable teacher characteristics creates difficulties in making causal connections to teacher education.

The placement of teachers in schools for their first job is also problematic for making causal connections between teacher education and student learning.
Teachers are not randomly placed in teacher education schools or into classrooms once they complete their training.
Specifically, teachers that have strong academic credentials, graduate from the most selective colleges and universities, and are fully licensed tend to teach in the highest achieving schools.
This is problematic in comparing different teacher education programs because they do not place teachers in similar schools.

Additionally, there is a lack of sufficiently large and detailed data sets that allow for the connection of student outcomes to teacher education programs.
Furthermore, much of the teacher education faculty at research universities take on heavy teaching loads.
This leaves little time for these faculty members to engage in rigorous, large-scale research projects.
A consequence of this lack of time and money is a lack of longitudinal, national data sets that link teachers to their preparation programs and student outcomes further complicates conducting research that analyzes the causal effects of teacher education.

This review also focuses on research that attempts to link program characteristics to student learning.
It found that there is very little research regarding the impact of subject-matter preparation on student achievement.
Furthermore, while there is research on pedagogical preparation within teacher education programs, it does not provide the necessary link to student learning.
Field experiences are very important to the growth of preservice teachers.
However, the research on what form of student teaching or how many field experiences are required to effectively prepare a teacher education student for professional teaching.

The last area of teacher education research to address is how teacher education programs effect the placement of graduates in their first jobs.
The schools would also likely be high poverty schools and have high percentages of minority students.
Research consistently shows that teachers with the highest qualifications gravitate to the highest achieving schools.


In conclusion, researching teacher education is a very complicated endeavor.
It is difficult for researchers to isolate teacher education programs' impact on student achievement.
However, researchers have begun to make these connections.
The research does agree that teachers are very important to student learning.
Therefore, it is very important that researchers begin to understand exactly how teacher preparation matters for student achievement.
To begin with large, longitudinal databases need to be created or identified that track teacher progress through teacher education programs and for several years in the classroom.

Furthermore, there is a lack of comprehensive understanding of the shape and nature of teacher education nationally.
Although much research has been conducted on teacher education, there is considerable work to be done.
Creating effective teachers that make a difference in student learning is far too important.
There is a need for a clear understanding of how teacher education programs can prepare the best teachers for the classroom.

Updated: Apr. 13, 2015