How Do Pre-Service Teachers Learn? Using Rigorous Research Methods to Inform Teacher Preparation Policy

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Krishnamachari, Anandita, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia

Wong, Vivian, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

Teacher quality is the most important educational factor predicting student achievement (Darling-Hammond, 2000), and a large proportion of training effective teachers occurs during the preparation phase (Goldhaber, 2019). It is widely acknowledged that teacher preparation programs are tasked with providing pre-service teacher candidates with the skills and knowledge they need to effectively teach in future classroom contexts, although the extent to which this happens is debated (Greenberg & Jacobs, 2009). The literature suggests that novice teachers consistently report feeling underprepared and overwhelmed when they first begin to teach in a classroom environment (Goldhaber, 2018), and largely learn “on the job”.

To improve the current state of teacher preparation, there needs to be a greater understanding of how preparation programs affect pre-service teachers’ knowledge, skills and beliefs about teaching requires researchers and teacher educators to incorporate rigorous data collection and analyses into program structures. Although there is more quantitative research on teacher preparation in the last two decades than previously, these studies are plagued by “the quality of research design in the majority of these studies, including problems with small sample size, lack of control or comparison group, and subjective outcome measures” (Mitchel & King, 2016). Overall, there is a need for more quantitative research that uses larger sample sizes, captures variation in program elements and teacher candidates, and more longitudinal research and multi-site studies that can causally link program components to teacher effectiveness. Measuring and using candidates’ skills and knowledge during the preparation phase can bolster continuous improvement efforts at the program level and provide researchers with a better understanding of how prospective teachers learn during the preparation phase.

This dissertation seeks to address the challenges highlighted above in the current landscape of teacher preparation using rigorous quantitative research methods. The findings across chapters presented in this dissertation have important implications for how teacher preparation programs are designed, implemented and evaluated and contribute much-needed, rigorous quantitative evidence on how pre-service teachers learn to teach during the preparation phase. Together, the three chapters provide much needed evidence on the role of personal beliefs, attitudes and perceptions in how pre-service teachers learn during the preparation phase, the efficacy of providing them with targeted supports while they are learning and the promise of using robust data and rigorous research designs to inform teacher preparation policy.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Teacher preparation, Quantitative methods, Education policy
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