Rockville, Md. – If we want students to be successful, we need teachers to be successful. A new study commissioned by the U. S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and conducted by Abt Associates and partners looks at preparation experiences that might help teachers more effectively help students.
Prior research indicates that a teacher’s effectiveness is the largest in-school factor affecting student achievement. Research also shows that new teachers are less effective than more experienced teachers, and they frequently begin their careers in high-poverty schools, where students are most in need of effective instruction.
Understanding whether certain ways of training teachers are more effective than others could lead to improved preparation for new teachers. Better-prepared teachers can lead to better student results that can help close the achievement gap.
Abt surveyed nearly 3,300 novice fourth, fifth and sixth grade teachers from 242 districts in 18 states. Teachers were asked about their experiences learning specific instructional strategies in two broad categories: Creating a Productive Learning Environment and Promoting Analytic Thinking Skills. Teachers then rated the extent to which, during their preparation program, they had experiences with the instructional strategies through each of four ways of learning: coursework, observation, practice and feedback. The study related teachers’ preparation experiences to their effectiveness, which was measured using student test scores.
The study found that having more preparation experiences focused on practicing strategies related to Creating a Productive Learning Environment was associated with greater teaching effectiveness in English Language Arts and Math. These findings suggest that a promising approach to improving teacher preparation would be to provide teacher candidates with more clinical practice opportunities related to creating productive learning environments.
However, more preparation experience with strategies for Promoting Analytic Thinking Skills was not associated with greater teaching effectiveness through any of the four ways of learning. Research suggests that a student’s ability to employ higher-order thinking skills is a predictor of overall academic success, so more research is needed to better understand this relationship.
“This study is an important addition to our understanding of features of teachers’ preparation experiences that are related to their instructional effectiveness,” said Abt lead author, Barbara Goodson. “We think the findings from this descriptive study will provide directions for future research in the teacher preparation field.”
Study partners included Pemberton Research, Bench Group, LLC and Education Analytics.
The full report is available at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20194007/ .
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is an engine for social impact, dedicated to moving people from vulnerability to security. Harnessing the power of data and our experts’ insights, we provide research, consulting and technical services globally in the areas of health, environmental and social policy, technology and international development. http://www.abtassociates.com