Effective Teachers and Effective Teaching

“Not all teaching situations are equal,” states Kent Seidel, Associate Professor at DU’s Morgridge College of Education, “kids do the work of learning and it is the teacher’s job to understand their students, understand what they need to learn and be responsive to support their students.” Seidel has been working alongside Kathy Green, Research Methods and Statistics professor, and Derek Briggs, CU-Boulder, co-principal investigators, and 13 additional faculty and graduate research assistants on an IES (Institute of Education Sciences) funded grant to investigate the relationships among student outcomes and teachers’ Core Competencies measured with surveys of new teachers, beginning teachers, faculty in teacher preparation programs, teacher classroom observations, and review of program documents. This three-year mixed-method, state-wide study involves surveys, observations, and data from 1,200 novice 3rd-8th grade teachers and their students with a specific focus on mathematics, reading and writing.

The United States has been chasing the achievement gap for decades, trying time and time again to create equal educational opportunities and promote academic success for all students from all backgrounds. “We are hoping that our research can help bridge a lot of those gaps, to do good, meaningful research on how to help kids who aren’t doing well in the system”, Seidel affirms. Even with current improvement efforts, evaluations, and assessments in place, there are a lot of disconnects in the current education system: disconnects between districts and schools, between schools and policy-makers, between teachers and administration and sometimes between teachers and their students. Seidel explains: “It comes down to alignment – we need to be effectively supporting our teachers to be prepared for all students, whether in a context that is a classroom of gifted learners, or English Language Learners, or any specific group of kids.”

By focusing their study on the Core Competencies of novice teachers, Seidel and his colleagues’ research is rigorous in looking at a full range of program and teacher variation, where much of earlier research focused on teacher effectiveness has included a limited sampling of  teachers, often selected as “high-quality” by principal referrals. The study of novice teachers takes into account teacher preparation programs, as well as students, classrooms, and other challenges. Seidel clarifies: “We are interested in improving preparation for teachers to be ready for the kids that they will be teaching, not to see which teacher prep program is producing more effective teachers. We are looking to find what helps [teachers] be as strong and effective as possible as early as possible – to understand what is necessary to help a teacher motivate and support every kid.”

Kathy Green, co-leading the measurement, data, and statistical analysis portion of the Effective Teachers and Effective Teaching project remarked, “The entire grant, from a statistical view, is measurement – validation and how you define what helps teachers be better prepared for students. We are working as methodologists sorting through massive amounts of data, looking at where these benchmark definitions hold true and understanding the context of school and how it relates to how to measure these things.” Green adds, “This first year has been very technical, developing pilot surveys and refining them and cross-analyzing them across multiple sources. We are looking at a lovely trove of data: survey data from multiple groups, quantified document review, and observational data, linked to student achievement data.”

With more than a year and a half left in the research study, results are only in early preliminary stages. Stay tuned to see the findings of this groundbreaking research and the possible effects it will have on changing the scene of education.

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