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Session I The Influence of Dispositions of Effective Middle School Teachers on Teacher Behavior: Implications for Teacher Preparation Programs Pamela.

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Presentation on theme: "Session I The Influence of Dispositions of Effective Middle School Teachers on Teacher Behavior: Implications for Teacher Preparation Programs Pamela."— Presentation transcript:


2 Session I The Influence of Dispositions of Effective Middle School Teachers on Teacher Behavior: Implications for Teacher Preparation Programs Pamela K. Hill, Ed.D Fitchburg State College Fitchburg, Massachusetts Please fill out the survey as you wait for the session to begin. These will not be collected.

3 Rationale for Dispositions A Nation at Risk tougher high school graduation requirements and rigor in the curriculum “[a]ll, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost”

4 No Child left Behind calls for a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom and accountability linked to sanctions close the achievement gap between economically advantaged children and those who are from different socio-economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, and including students with disabilities President George W. Bush writes: “Taken together, these reforms express my deep belief in our public schools and their mission to build the minds and character of each child from every background, in every part of America”

5 Two Schools of Discourse at Odds: The Academic Discourse vs. The Human Development Discourse

6 The “Academic Achievement Discourse” is grounded in the belief that “[a]cademic content and skills are the most important thing to be learned”, that a desirable curriculum is “rigorous, uniform, and required for all students”, and that “[m]easurement of achievement occurs through grades and standardized testing” (Armstrong, 2006, p. 10-12).

7 The “Human Development Discourse” holds that “[b]ecoming a whole human being is the most important aspect of learning”; that a desirable curriculum “is flexible,... individualized, and... gives students meaningful choices”; and that “[e]valuating the growth of a whole human being is a meaningful, ongoing, and qualitative process that itself involves human growth” (Armstrong, 2006, p. 39- 41).

8 Is there a middle ground at which both schools of thought can meet? I contend this middle ground lies with certain teacher dispositions—those dispositions of effective teachers, which influence teachers to demonstrate concern for both the academic and social development of their students.

9 Dispositions: A Definition a perceptual way of thinking that has become a habit of mind so that individuals may not even be aware of why they behave in a certain way. These dispositions are formed by attitudes, beliefs and values about teaching and learning that ultimately become convictions that are deeply internalized. They establish a proclivity to act in a certain way. They determine consistent behavior. As such, they govern the way we think, make choices, and interact. They are so much a part of who we are that being forced to act outside of our dispositions can cause internal strife.

10 Whose Dispositions: Three Sources Current research about effective teaching practices and the underlying dispositions What students tell us they desire in their teachers What teachers value as desirable dispositions

11 Review of Literature suggested three disposition themes: Caring Viewing Students as Capable Learners and Taking Responsibility for Their Learning: High Expectations for All Professionalism

12 The Study: A Mixed-methods Approach an urban middle school and suburban middle school surveys case studies observations formal interviews and informal interviews written artifacts



15 The Student Survey a Likert-scale items section and an open-ended response section administered to 224 sixth graders, 274 seventh graders, and 506 eighth graders at the study sites (one urban and one suburban site)

16 Open-ended Responses: Over 9,000 Responses

17 The Staff Survey a Likert-scale items section and an open-ended response section administered to 33 staff members at the urban site and 33 staff members at the suburban site

18 Staff Open-ended Responses: Over 592 Responses

19 How these Dispositions Look in Action: The Subjects Trudy: Seventh grade math teacher in an urban middle school with 6 years experience. Tonya: Seventh grade language arts teacher in the urban middle school with 14 years experience. Marcy: Eighth grade language arts teacher in the urban middle school with 7 years experience. Karen: Sixth grade math teacher in the suburban middle school with 16 years experience. Debbie: Sixth grade social studies teacher in the suburban middle school with 15 years experience. Tom: Sixth grade science teacher in the suburban middle school with 8 years experience.

20 Caring In their interviews, the concept of “caring about kids” came up most frequently. Tom believed that the number one thing to do as a teacher is “care about the kids” –that everything stemmed from this. Tonya believed that nurturing was in her genes. One of the main reasons she went into teaching was to play an important role in a child’s life. Marcy viewed herself as a strong advocate for children, and she believed that a major role of her work as a teacher was to influence the lives of children in a positive way. Debbie believed that “the most important part of my job is connecting with my students.” Trudy believed it is all about “The kids, kids, kids... if one person can make a difference.” Karen believed her work was to care for the students she teaches and to influence their lives in positive ways.

21 Caring Actively listened Got to know students Sense of humor and enthusiasm Unconditional acceptance Commitment to the social development of students Created a safe environment for learning, one in which students felt they could take risks

22 Viewing Students as Capable Tonya believed the most important aspect of her job was to raise the bar for her students. As she put it: “It is my job to make sure all my students do their best.” Trudy believed that her students could “get” just about any math concept, given the right opportunities in class. Marcy believed her students to be capable of making their own decisions about their learning. She was particularly keen on self- assessment. Tom believed in challenging students and encouraging them to take risks for optimal learning. He felt that all of his students could master anything, given the right circumstances, though he humorously admitted he didn’t always know what that was. Karen saw all of her students as capable. She told me that each class came in with their own personality and their own unique way of learning. She found it a challenge to “read” them each day and figure out what it would take to help them succeed that day and each day. Debbie had a high regard for her students’ capabilities. After one session I observed and the students had left the classroom, she turned to me and said, “Aren’t they amazing?”

23 Viewing Students as Capable Affirming view of students High and clear expectations Motivate students Integrate student background, strengths, and interests Responsibility for students learning

24 Professionalism Debbie believed that a desire for knowledge and learning was essential in a teacher. According to Debbie, “A good student makes a good teacher. Teaming was paramount to her. Tom, likewise, believed a teacher should never stop learning. He viewed being a lifelong learner essential to putting oneself back into the role of the student. He believed a teacher must constantly reflect and improve. Tom considered teaming a way of making individual teachers stronger and a way to take care of all students. Marcy regarded the most important aspect of her teaching to be reflecting and making changes. She saw it as important in all aspect of her profession. The two things that kept Tonya teaching were her students and her colleagues. For her, the professional adult community was essential for her success with children and her professional and personal well being. Trudy, likewise, saw the adult community essential to her success and continued growth as a teacher. She believed that it was her responsibility to keep up with the latest research in the field and took numerous workshops and received professional coaching to help her grow as a professional. Karen was open to new ideas and, similar to the other subjects, she believed that her team members—the adults she worked with consistently— to be paramount to her success with her students.

25 Professionalism Demonstrated characteristics of professionals Possessed a contagious passion for learning/ lifelong learners. These teachers read and traveled Viewed themselves as members of a larger learning community “with responsibilities that extend beyond their classrooms, including responsibility to shape a healthy culture in their school” (NBPTS, 2001, p. 61). Committed team members Reflective Commitment to the philosophy of the middle school concept Support student wellness Valued families Viewed the community as a resource

26 Conclusions Data from the middle school students, the subjects, and the research on effective teaching consistently identified qualities, attributes, and behaviors that demonstrated Caring, Viewing Students as Capable, and Professionalism.

27 Conclusions (cont.) Observations, in-depth interviews, casual conversations, and written materials of the subjects also correlated with the other data. Time and time again, the subjects exhibited the behavior of effective teachers.

28 Conclusions (cont.) These data and the fact that tenth grade students and staff of the research sites identified the teachers to participate in the study suggest that there is a common perception we hold in regard to the dispositions (qualities and attributes, as well as beliefs, attitudes, and values) of effective and accomplished middle school teachers.

29 Conclusions (cont.) If we all seem to agree on the dispositions and share a common perception of what the accompanying teacher behaviors are, why, then, aren’t there more of these teachers? Is it possible to develop more teachers like the teachers of this study and put them into the field? Or, as Check (2001) posed: “Are their particular traits that assure success for one [teacher], failure for another? Or does every candidate for teaching possess innate traits that can be developed to the extent that everyone can become an effective teacher?” (p. 326).

30 Recommendations Directly teach and stress dispositions throughout the program and provide opportunity for candidates to practice them (Stewart & Davis, 2004). Integrate this approach into syllabi across all teacher preparation programs.

31 Recommendations Provide consistent faculty modeling of the desired dispositions (Helm, 2006). Where faculty have a problem in this area provide professional development. Approach faculty development, using the desired dispositions. Ultimately, hire for dispositions (Wasicsko & Wirtz, 2007).

32 Recommendations Identify, screen, and train supervising practitioners in the field who will model the desired dispositions and who will assess the teacher candidates in regard to these dispositions. Establish a cadre of exemplary practitioners who meet regular to discuss dispositions and the mentoring of teacher candidates. Establish formal partnerships with schools or developing a Professional Development School. Provide compensation of some sort.

33 Recommendations Assess candidate dispositions throughout the program of study. Develop, field test, and revise dispositions assessment instruments. Calibrate faculty and supervising practitioners in the use of this instrument. Provide remediation when needed. Counsel a candidate out of the program if appropriate progress is not made.

34 Final Thoughts With the standards movement choke-holding our schools and accreditation organizations doing the same to teacher preparation, it is more paramount than ever that teacher preparation programs develop teachers who can navigate both the “Academic Achievement Discourse” and the “Human Development Discourse.” Without the critical dispositions that influence a teacher to care about more than content, we will lose generations of young people. The influence of a single teacher is far greater than any other element of schooling. Teacher preparation programs need to emphasize the dispositions of effective teachers and guarantee that the teachers they place in the field possess them. It will not be an easy task, but is one worth taking.

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