Eric.ed.gov – Principals’ Perceptions of the Causes of Teacher Ineffectiveness in Different Secondary Subjects

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With issues of teacher quality in the spotlight, it has been suggested that teachers of mathematics and science too often lack content knowledge in the subjects they teach. Accordingly, research is needed to determine whether teacher ineffectiveness in these subjects is more frequently caused by deficiencies in content knowledge or in pedagogical knowledge, and whether teachers of mathematics and science are more often content-deficient relative to other teachers. Research as such requires that teacher performance be assessed, but this assessment has proven contentious. Use of principals’ evaluations to assess teacher performance, while hardly foolproof, has the advantage of providing school-level managers’ perspective on whether content knowledge or pedagogical knowledge constitutes the more frequent perceived cause of teacher ineffectiveness in secondary schools, especially in mathematics and science. Research was conducted in which 251 principals responded to a survey asking them to rate the frequency with which teacher ineffectiveness has, in their experience, been caused by five components of teacher quality, including content knowledge and four types of pedagogical knowledge (“lesson-planning skills” and three skills requiring interaction with students–“lesson-implementation skills”, “ability to establish rapport with students”, and “classroom-management skills”). When data from the five secondary subjects were aggregated, perceived threats to teacher quality could be ranked on three levels, with deficiencies in student-interactive pedagogical skills (especially classroom management) as most problematic, deficiencies in lesson-planning skills in the middle, and deficiencies in content knowledge as least likely to cause teacher ineffectiveness. These results are highly similar to ones obtained in previous research conducted by Torff & Sessions. The present study also examined causes of teacher ineffectiveness broken out by secondary subject (English, mathematics, science, social studies, and languages other than English). But very little variation across subjects was found, yielding the conclusion that principals judged the causes of teacher ineffectiveness to be similar in the five secondary subjects. Hence, the aggregated-subjects results obtained in this study and in prior research did not appear to be an artifact of strong effects associated with individual subjects. Teacher ineffectiveness in mathematics and science, as in other subjects, was rated as more often produced by deficiencies in pedagogical knowledge than deficiencies in content knowledge. And teacher ineffectiveness was rated as no more likely to stem from content deficiencies in mathematics and science compared to other subjects. Results as such suggest that principals do not agree with claims that content deficiencies comprise the exigent threat to teacher quality in schools. The results also suggest that principals do not judge content deficiencies to be the exigent teacher-quality problem in math and science or to cause teacher ineffectiveness more frequently in these subjects than in other ones, as has been asserted. (Contains 2 figures and 5 tables.)

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Troels Gannerup Christensen

Jeg er ansat som adjunkt hos Læreruddannelsen i Jelling, hvor jeg underviser i matematik, specialiseringsmodulet teknologiforståelse, praktik m.m. Jeg har tidligere været ansat som pædagogisk konsulent i matematik og tysk hos UCL ved Center for Undervisningsmidler (CFU) i Vejle og lærer i udskolingen (7.-9. klasse) på Lyshøjskolen i Kolding. Jeg er ejer af og driver bl.a. hjemmesiderne www.lærklokken.dk og www.iundervisning.dk, ggbkursus.dk og er tidligere fagredaktør på matematik på emu.dk. Jeg går ind for, at læring skal være let tilgængelig og i størst mulig omfang gratis at benytte.

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