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Engaging Asset-based Education: Practicing What We Preach in Multicultural Education Courses

 

 ARTICLE PDF

 

Dr. James L. Hollar

hollarj@cwu.edu

Assistant Professor

Educational Foundations and Curriculum

Central Washington University

“Engaging Asset-based Education: Practicing What We Preach in Multicultural Education Courses”

Abstract:

This article centers on one teacher educator’s experiences and observations in teaching a Multicultural Education course to pre-service teachers at a teacher preparation program in the Northwest. The author asserts that, although the course intends to convey the positives of asset-based teaching and the negatives of deficit-based thinking, it is possible both the teacher educator and implicit messages within the course structure itself send the opposite message to pre-service teachers. One example of this contradiction lies in the language of the course description. In centering the course on “the development of cultural competence,” the implied assumption is that pre-service teachers are somehow culturally incompetent upon entering the classroom. Thus, teacher educators’ efforts to encourage asset-based perspectives may be read as hypocritical by the pre-service teachers. After examining how such a mismatch between theory and practice occurs, the author offers ideas towards helping other teacher educators emphasize asset-based teaching with their pre-service teachers.

  1. Introduction

The issue I discuss here is one I not only see in Teacher Education programs in general, but within my own specific work as well. Thus, I am writing for myself as much as for others. It is not an accident that I am drawn to put all of this down at a time when I am preparing myself for another year of teaching. Simply put, I want to avoid the mistakes I always seem to recognize after-the-fact as the academic year progresses. More specifically, I have recognized deficit-based thinking in my own teaching (and the teaching of others) too often and am using this writing as a way to think seriously about how to shift away from such dispositions permanently.

However, I also want to “talk back” against a strain in education research, as well as the publications that follow, that seem to require a deficit-first kind of thinking. This kind of thinking shows up in teacher educators because we invariably look for research opportunities in the courses we teach. Simply put, we need to identify a problem and a possible solution to it and then, of course, write and publish from it. As with my admission above though, I am as much a part of this pattern as my fellow teacher educators. You could even say that this is exactly what I am doing now.

However, to play with the always instructive Shakespeare: the fault is not in our students, but in ourselves. The translation being that we need to avoid a deficit-first mindset toward our students because such thinking leads us away from understanding fully our role in the classroom. Additionally, I also hope to provide teachers with a way to think about the dispositions they bring with them into the classroom every September. My purpose is not to chastise fellow teacher educators, but to challenge all of us to practice what we preach in hopes our students become the kinds of teachers we know our schools need.

To dig into these issues with some specificity, I want to limit my discussion to the Multicultural Education course I teach as a part of the Teacher Education program at a university in the Northwest. After a discussion of some deficit-based assumptions I see as built into this course, I will discuss a few ideas towards engaging in more asset-based teaching in terms of both pedagogy and curriculum.

  1. Defining Terms: Deficit and Asset-based Thinking

My understanding of deficit-based thinking is drawn specifically from Angela Valenzuela and Richard R. Valencia’s work. For example, in Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring, Valenzuela writes of U.S.-born Mexican students being subjected to the “uncaring student prototype” (1999). Valenzuela’s work details teachers who find deficits in how their students undervalue education, but are unwilling to question how such attitudes could be simply a defense mechanism. In her work we see many instances where deficit thinking is inscribed on low-income students and students of color. Although tremendously persuasive work has been done to show how deficit thinking infects our schools (Valencia, 1997) as well as pre-service teachers (Ladson-Billings, 2006), one crucial point still can be made: teacher educators are susceptible to the dull simplicity of deficit thinking as well.

However, before I discuss how deficit thinking exists in the Multicultural Education course, I must define asset-based teaching. Such work begins with understanding how students come to school with “funds of knowledge” from their communities and homes (Moll et al., 1992). A teacher focused on asset-based dispositions and practices will assume students arrive with “assets that need to be recognized, validated, and used in the educational process” (McKenzie & Scheurich). Moreover, it is crucial for the asset-based teacher to connect these “funds” to the learning that takes place in the classroom. Again, significant work has been done to make these connections relevant and authentic (Ladson-Billings 1994, Gay 2000). The irony here is that within the course where students learn about deficit and asset-based thinking, teacher educators can easily fail to see these “funds” and tie them to the new learning.

III. Is “Cultural Competence” an Insult?

The following is the course description for the Multicultural Education course I teach: “Exploration of marginalized groups and the implications for change in education. Examination of foundational elements of and approaches to Multicultural Education as the underpinning to the development of cultural competence.” My contention is that implied in this “development of cultural competence” of pre-service teachers language is the deficit-based notion that students are culturally incompetent on the first day of class. We then spend the rest of the term trying to convince our pre-service teachers of the importance of avoiding cultural deficit thinking and championing more asset-based dispositions.

Before continuing to discuss how I critique “cultural competence” with my students, I will provide a brief account of two ways in which the concept has been contested previously. One such critique, particularly relevant to my work, is voiced by Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. It is Jacob’s contention that teacher educators like myself should focus more on instructional strategies and not “soft skills” like learning how to meet children’s social needs. She said, “We need to make sure the exposure is on content and pedagogy” (Karp & Harris). As an example, The National Council on Teacher Quality group released a report in 2010 critical of schools and colleges of education in Illinois for their lack of rigor. In such critique, we see how those focused on data-driven identification of teacher preparedness are concerned that “cultural competence” is something more difficult to categorize. Although I could “talk back” against this particular vein of critique, it is perhaps more important for me to wonder if, in offering my own critique of “cultural competence,” am I offering cover for those who seek to judge my work in ways I find objectionable?

Another strain of critique makes the case that “cultural competence” should be replaced by more overt language, such as “critically cultural awareness” (Furlong & Brown). In this case, I agree that a shift in language may help our students see this dispositional development as less a comment on deficiency within them and more a necessary growth away from the perspectives they currently inhabit. To make their case to change this language, Furlong and Brown question the “dubious notion that cultural competence is an attitude, skill and/or knowledge that can be simply added onto the practitioner’s current stockpile.” They worry that, “if cultural competence can be ‘packaged’ and ticked-off as a box that can be, or has to be, filled in, this is worryingly associated with assumptions that non-indigenous culture has that expertise as a neutral, impersonal commodity.” Amazingly, here we see a kind of dialogue occurring between both manners of critique in regards to “cultural competence.” One the one hand, we have those who seek to deemphasize the term based on its lack of quantifiable objectivity, and on the other, we have a concern that when we do look at that way, we neuter the power of the ideas this kind of thinking can embody.

Regardless of how this concept has been and will continue to be contested, my current concerns deal with how this language relates to the real resistance pre-service teachers often show in the classroom and in coursework necessary to any multicultural education course. The mistake teacher educators make is to identify this “resistance” as a poor disposition and suddenly we have a “problem” to work with, as opposed to understanding that we helped create it in the first place.

In fact, I have seen such perspectives expressed in articles for this very journal. Instead of blaming my colleagues for such perspectives, my intent is to stress this area as a focus for concern and improvement for teacher educators dedicated to the critical work of helping their students understand educational equity and culturally relevant teaching practices. This article looks at how to teach such courses in a way that advances asset-based dispositions in pre-service teachers by teaching them from those same asset-based dispositions.

For example, on the first day of every Multicultural Education course, my students and I read the course description and I ask them to unpack terms like “marginalized” and “cultural competence.” In our discussion, I inevitably draw students’ attention to this implied assumption of incompetence. I stress however that I do not consider them incompetent. I also tell them that I have higher expectations than mere “competence” when it comes to understanding how culture impacts education. To get there, I tell the students that the other night my wife told me “I was competent at making dinner” and I say that I felt pretty good about such a compliment. They look at me incredulously until they get the joke. For me, beginning this way helps students understand the course as less an effort to reduce their incompetence in terms of being more tolerant of some ill-defined set of “marginalized others,” and instead more about expanding their knowledge of their own cultures and how schools (and society) interact with our cultures in complex ways.

Although this introduction takes all of ten minutes, I am confident my students benefit from a discussion that asks them to consider the implied assumptions often embedded in language and are better prepared for later discussions, like our discussion of our assumptions concerning who “good” students are and how such a definition immediately leads to defining the opposite – “bad” students.

  1. Teaching to Assets

Along with setting the bar above a disposition of cultural competence, another struggle for teachers of Multicultural Education courses is to provide pre-service teachers with the knowledges and skills to implement a complete vision of multicultural education in their future classrooms. For example, although all five of Banks’ dimensions of multicultural education are discussed, the dimension of content integration can often represent the first and last manner in which pre-service teachers come to understand the place multicultural education has within their particular content area or certification area. To delve more deeply into the four remaining dimensions (knowledge construction, equity pedagogy, prejudice reduction, and empowering school culture), I have found it helpful to connect these dimensions to the students’ earlier course work. For example, we focus on connections between constructivism and knowledge construction as a way to understand a progression from theoretical foundations to a notion of critical practice based on equity and excellence. Although students find these other four dimensions more difficult to implement than content integration, the habit of seeing the material itself as an asset to their teaching is another step in refusing to believe that content integration is all they can know.

Another area teacher educators can struggle with is responding to the great diversity of certification areas and content levels of the students in each class. Our first goal must be to critically consider how we think about diversity ourselves within the classroom space. Instead of focusing on the different subject area majors and grade levels my students are becoming certified to teach as a problem, I stress how we benefit from such variety. To do so, I create two different groupings within each section: the first, organized students within similar certification areas while the second was constructed to ensure a diversity of these areas so students can practice talking about the material across disciplines. Students commented that they appreciated the chance to speak with classmates in both these settings. I also use a diversity of content levels and/or certification areas within the classroom by both encouraging cross-discipline ideas of implementation as well as more content/certification-specific discussions of practice. For example, instead of having students work in content specific groups (for various assignments and their final exam), I encourage students to work in groups of mixed content areas.

One particular mixed content group worked on creating a lesson plan that used all five of Banks’ dimensions of multicultural education as their final exam presentation. The four students came from the following content areas: Family & Consumer Sciences, Secondary Math, and Physical & Health Education. After the quarter ended, I asked each student to respond to questions regarding their process of making lesson plan with such a diversity of content areas. Below I share my questions and the responses I received from one of the four students:

How did your group come up with the lesson plan in terms of fitting in different content and certification areas?

“We started with the overall idea of using a nutrition unit to integrate the content areas of health and math. In a prior nutrition class…I participated in a project that required us to go to the store and calculate food items on a food stamp budget. It was very informative and eye opening to the food systems in America and the millions of people that struggle. Our group came together to create a version of the food stamp challenge that students in a high school setting could do. The lesson required a lot of calculations with food budgeting, which made it easy to combine nutrition and math.”

How did your lesson plan fit with the content of our class?

“Our lesson plan gives students the opportunity to experience what its like for many families in America, to shop and feed their families on a limited budget. Students are informed about government funded food programs and the realities many people face within the limited food budget. This lesson plan gives insight to some of the issues with food systems in America, for example the pricing of produce and other nutritional dense foods versus empty calorie foods. Students will be able to experience and understand the difficulties of healthy eating on a food stamp budget. Through their grocery shopping experience and reflection of the lesson students will witness and experience first hand that healthy eating isn’t always a choice. Students will work with their peers to develop a grocery-shopping list from two separate stores. After the shopping experience each group will be required to reflect and discuss the experience through a set guided questions.”

Such grouping will certainly make some of their work more complex, but will underscore the notion that classroom diversity is an asset to be used to enliven their learning, not a deficit to their learning.

Understanding diversity as an asset is crucial in helping my students begin to practice asset-based perspectives as a skill. I hope that continued mixing of content areas underscore ways of thinking about diversity in the classroom to avoid deficit paradigms and assist my students in seeing their own students’ diversity as assets to learning.

Another way to encourage asset-based thinking in my students is to ask them to write letters to the next set of students at the end of the quarter. Before I detail this idea, some background is helpful. As a high school English teacher and community college instructor in Wisconsin, teaching in semesters was all I had ever known. Although some semesters seemed longer than others, structuring a syllabus in terms of 15 weeks had become second nature. When I arrived at Washington State in 2012 however, I had to adapt to teaching courses on the quarter system. The adjustment has been a difficult, both in terms of curricular shrinkage and because I felt the Multicultural Education class I was teaching exclusively at that point was the most important class I had yet to teach. Simply put, as soon as I felt the class and I were making real progress on the thorny issues of equity and diversity in schooling, the quarter was almost over and I had to prepare a final assessment to a course only three quarters-cooked.

At the start of my second year of university teacher education, I decided to ask my Fall quarter students to write a letter to students in my Winter quarter classes as a way to bring their knowledge of the course and me forward into the next quarter as an asset often lost as one group of students replaces the next. Specifically, I asked them to respond to the following:

  1. What will you need to do to be successful in this class?
  2. What will you need to know about Professor Hollar?
  3. What should you make sure Hollar does the same and/or differently?

To encourage an honest accounting, I asked students to write their letters anonymously. A student was then elected to collect these letters in a large envelope and keep them until the next quarter began. When it had, I sent the student an email asking them to hand deliver the envelope to my new students during the first week of classes. The new students then each took a letter, read it, and passed them around their table until they had read three or four different letters. We then discussed what they had learned, paying particular attention to any comments they could share that re-voiced what they had just read. Not only did I gain valuable insight into my teaching, but my new students had an opportunity to become a “community of learners” with my old students, which is a central concept to multicultural education.

My next brainstorm concerning this process occurred at the end of the following quarter. I asked students to retain at least one letter until they wrote a letter of their own, but this time with the added responsibility of responding to the initial one they read. I then collected those letters and distributed them in the same manner as before. Students in the following quarter were able to read what amounted to a dialogue, call and response accounting of my Multicultural Education course over the span of two quarters. With these letters, I hoped to hit the ground running. My point here is, by creating this dialogue between different sets of students, I emphasized the value of what they had learned and considered that learning important enough to ask them to pass it along.

  1. One Last Asset Idea?

One obvious issue ignored so far is how complex discussions of race and racism are considered in the Multicultural Education course, especially when the majority of my students are White (as am I). Much has been written about the negative attitudes White students display in response to such discussions. In the space I have here, I wish to structure my comments on this issue in the form a one last asset-orientated idea when addressing the concept of white privilege with these demographics.

My approach is to begin our discussion of White privilege with an episode from Season Three of the television comedy 30 Rock titled “The Bubble.” The episode centers on the protective “bubble” that a character, played by Jon Hamm, enjoys as an extremely handsome man. Here are a few examples of the privileges he benefits from: he doesn’t have to wait for a table at a busy restaurant; he thinks you can cook salmon with Gatorade; and he gets out of parking tickets by flashing his blue eyes. The comedy is built less on how nice it is to have such privileges, and more on how ignorant the character is of them. In the end, after his “bubble” is popped and he understands why he people treat him the way they do, he is still unwilling to give up the privileges.

My students laugh at the character’s final piece of dialogue of speaking gibberish, but thinking it’s French. However, because he is also a White male, the transition to White privilege is easy for students to grab hold of. I am sure to tell them that as White, nondisabled, middle-class, heterosexual man, I walk around with a whole host of privileges. I challenge them to consider how true these privileges are for them regardless of how they identify themselves using those same descriptors. I ask how these privileges may benefit their everyday lives and, more specifically, how those privileges may have impacted their education.

They understand the idea that some people walk around in many different kinds of bubbles; yet, some do not. I see this understanding as an asset worth focusing on because discussion of White privilege often can become a repeat of the culturally incompetent assumption from above. The asset-based belief is that they also understand intuitively how harmful it is to ignore such privileges once you are aware of them. Simply, they understand the Jon Hamm character would make an awful teacher. Taking the next steps into what privileged people should do once the bubble has been burst are more difficult. However, by beginning in this way, I hope to offer a way for students to think about privilege more deeply.

  1. Now What?

Although I find the issues I raise here critically important, I assume I am not really breaking new ground. Like myself, my fellow teacher educators are aware when they are thinking about their students from a deficit-based perspective. How could we not know? The more crucial issue for me, as with “The Bubble” episode, is what we do when we see ourselves from this new perspective? Do we keep going in this same way and hope our students, soon to be teachers, don’t notice the contradiction? My guess is that too many of us continue to think about our students in deficit terms: I suppose such thinking is both human nature and the nature of the profession of teacher educators. But, can we do better? Although I hope others find a challenge here, this article is my way to demand better from myself.

As I write these last words, the beginning of this new quarter is much closer than when I began. In a few days I will meet 90 pre-service teachers, 60 of whom will take one of two Multicultural Education sections I teach. On the advice of a colleague, I plan to use this article as an initial reading and discussion starter during the first week of class. Hopefully, the discussion will encourage students to consider how “practicing what we preach” involves a commitment to not only self-reflection, but teacher-student dialogue as well.

References

Furlong, M. & Brown, R. (2008). The goal of ‘Cultural Competence’: Contesting the premise that technical skills should be privileged above ‘Culturally Critical Practice.’ Paper presented at Psychology and Indigenous Australians Conference in July 2008.

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.

Karp, S and Harris, R. (March 15, 2011). Teacher Colleges Emphasizing ‘Cultural Competence.’ Education Week, Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/03/15/26catalyst_culturalcomp.h30.html

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The Dreamkeepers: Successful teaching for African-American students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). It’s not the culture of poverty, it’s the poverty of culture:The problem with teacher education. Anthropology & Education Quarterly. 37(2).104-109.

McKenzie, K. B. & Scheurich J. J. (2004). Equity traps: a useful construct for preparing principals to lead schools that are successful with racially diverse students. Educational Administration Quarterly. 40(5). 601-32.

Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & González, N. 1992. Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice. 31(2). 132-41.

Valencia, R. (1997). The Evolution of Deficit Thinking: Educational Thought and Practice. London: Falmer Press.

Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive Schooling. New York: State University of New York.

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The Importance of Managing Expectations: A Challenge for Teacher Preparation Programs

The Importance of Managing Expectations: A Challenge for Teacher Preparation Programs

 ARTICLE PDF

Jeremy Delamarter

Assistant Professor

Northwest University

jeremy.delamarter@northwestu.edu

Abstract

Pre-service teachers often enter teacher preparation programs with rigid expectations of what teaching will be like. Unfortunately, these expectations are often misaligned with reality, and pre-service teachers often imagine a world in which the emotional or affective outcomes of their work will take precedence over content-based student learning outcomes. Unfortunately, this inspiration/content dichotomy is often reinforced by popular representations of teachers. If unchecked, these misaligned expectations can lead to practice shock, the disorienting, disillusioning, and sometimes traumatic identity crisis that often accompanies the first year of teaching. The challenge for teacher preparation programs is to create intentional and structured reflective spaces in which pre-service teachers can confront and revise their expectations of teaching before they enter the field.

The Importance of Managing Expectations: A Challenge for Teacher Preparation Programs

I recently asked an undergraduate in our teacher preparation program what she imagined her future classroom would be like. “I want my students to feel comfortable to ask questions when they don’t understand something,” she replied. “I don’t want my students to feel pressured or discouraged. My classroom will be a place where my future students will feel that they can do anything they put their mind to and be successful.”

I am grateful for her response, though I am troubled by it. By her own admission, this candidate has “always wanted” to be a teacher. Like many of her classmates, she tells stories of lining up her dolls and playing classroom as young girl, and she’s sought out every opportunity she can to place herself in the role of a teacher, whether that means leading Sunday school or working as a camp counselor. Though she has not yet begun her field experiences, she has spent hours imagining what her classroom will look like, what she’ll say to her students, and how they’ll respond to her. She’s envisioned scenario after scenario, interaction after interaction, and, as a result, she’s developed a firm and resolute understanding of her role and relationship with her students. She knows what her classroom will be like, and, perhaps more importantly, she knows exactly how she will be in her classroom.

Misaligned Expectations

Unfortunately, the world that this candidate has imagined does not exist. Specifically, she has constructed a world in which the emotional or affective outcomes of her work will take precedence over content-based student learning outcomes, in which what her students can do won’t be nearly as important as what her student feel. This separation of teaching into opposing outcomes is called the inspiration/content dichotomy (Delamarter, 2015). It divides education into binary categories: teachers can either inspire – that is, address the emotional and subjective domains of the heart – or they can teach content – the intellectual and objective domains of the mind. Furthermore, emotional outcomes are to be privileged over the merely academic. In fact, according to this construct, content-based instruction sometimes operates at cross-purposes with the true aims of education. Remember: the classroom is a place for students to “feel like they can do anything they put their minds to.”

In extreme form, the inspiration/content dichotomy creates a condition in which emotional and academic outcomes are mutually exclusive. The teacher who focuses on content delivery necessarily abandons her ability to nurture her students’ hearts and souls, just as the emotionally-focused teacher must first jettison content-heavy curricula in order to “make a difference” in students’ lives. Thus, in many of our candidates’ minds, the world is divided into inspiration or content, the emotional or the academic.

Unfortunately, these divisions are reinforced by popular representations of teachers. For example, decades of popular Hollywood teacher movies have foregrounded the role of emotions in the classroom while downplaying the role of academics. In Dead Poets Society (Haft, Henderson, Witt, Thomas, & Weir, 1989), English teacher Mr. Keating claims to be at war against “armies of academics,” battling not for students’ minds but for their “hearts and souls.” After literally shredding the content-based curriculum prescribed by the administration, he reveals his true purposes. “In my class,” he tells his students, “you will learn to savor words and language.” Savoring – that is, taking “lingering pleasure or delight in” (Savor, Def 5c) – is more important than studying; the emotional response trumps intellectual inquiry. As a result, Mr. Keating’s students never analyze meter, form, allusion, rhyme scheme, or any other formal poetic elements. Instead, their interaction with poetry is solely emotional, designed not to make them think but rather to make them feel. But this is as it should be, because Mr. Keating’s learning targets are emotional, not academic; and, according to the film, that’s precisely what makes him a good teacher.

By and large, Hollywood teacher films promote a version of good teaching based more on inspiration and emotional catharsis than on content delivery and measurable student learning (Barlowe & Cook, 2015; Dalton, 1995, 2010; Rehm, 2015). In this model, good teachers are agents of transformation, exposing and upending the social structures that keep their students locked in cycles of dysfunction. They view official or sanctioned knowledge as an acculturating tool that is irrelevant at best and oppressive at worst, and their “goodness” is first established when they abandon the curriculum.

Thus, Mr. Holland from Mr. Holland’s Opus (Cort, Duncan, Field, James, Kroopf, Nolin, Teitler, & Herek, 1995), isn’t a good teacher until he stops teaching classical music and starts teaching rock and roll just as Mrs. Gruell in Freedom Writers (Devito, Durning, Glick-Franzheim, Levine, Morales, Shamberg, Sher, Swank, & LaGravenese, 2007) doesn’t connect with her students until she stops teaching grammar and starts teaching them how to stand up against race-based social injustice. In Mona Lisa Smile (Goldsmith-Thomas, Schindler, Schiff, Konner, Rosenthal, & Newell, 2004), Katherine Watson abandons her art history curriculum on the second day of class and embarks instead on a mission to help her 1950s female students escape the shackles of patriarchal expectations. In each of these cases, the teachers are champions of their students’ liberty and self-fulfillment. Consequently, they are perpetually at odds with administrators, parents, and other status-quo representatives who would keep students in their place. Their fitness as teachers is determined not by their students’ newfound knowledge and skills but rather by the degree to which their students are socially and emotionally empowered.

Pre-service teachers are right to value emotional empowerment. Many educational theorists (e.g. Friere, 2000; hooks, 1994) have highlighted the emancipatory goals of education, citing the teacher’s special role in creating a classroom space of liberation and full-participation. In such spaces, students are invited and encouraged to transgress inherited boundaries, to be co-participants in the ongoing creation of society. Such activities require emotional engagement, and, in this sense, our pre-service teachers are correct when they expect that they will be able, and that they ought to endeavor, to “change students’ lives.”

They are wrong, however, when they divorce “teaching to transform” from teaching content, and they are wrong when they conclude that “changing students’ lives” can somehow be separated from the nuts and bolts of effective, content-based instruction. Unfortunately, like the candidate quoted at the beginning of this essay, they expect to be able to teach students to “feel” successful without simultaneously giving them the skills to actually be successful. And, when they enter preparation programs, they bring these expectations with them.

The Impact of Misaligned Expectations

The fact that pre-service teachers enter preparation programs with pre-existing and rather solidified conceptions of what good teachers do and are in the classroom is an underexplored topic in teacher education. Nevertheless, these pre-conceived notions of teachers and teaching play a powerful role in pre-service teachers’ experiences both in preparation programs and in the early years of their careers. For example, students begin constructing an image of the “good” teacher during their time in K-12 classrooms (Britzman, 2003). Unfortunately, these constructs are based on incomplete knowledge of a teacher’s work and internal life. Students remain unaware of the teacher’s instructional decision-making processes, the way she balances curricular demands with student interest, or what it takes to negotiate building level politics. Instead, “the ability to enforce school rules, impart textbook knowledge, grade student papers, and manage classroom discipline appear to be the sum total of the teacher’s work” (p. 4). Thus, students form incomplete images of “good” teaching based on partial and one-sided knowledge of a teacher’s work.

But images of “good” teaching are also received through cultural transmission, such as the aforementioned teacher movies. Weber and Mitchell (1995) note that images of teachers and teaching are “passed on from one generation to the next” (p. 5). These images, which can be found in every type of media, “infiltrate all arenas of human activity…and affect the word and professional self-identity of teachers” (p. 5). Thus, by the time candidates enter teacher preparation programs, their attitudes towards and expectations of teachers and of the profession have been shaped not just by their own one-sided experiences in the classroom but also by the constant stream of teacher-representations with which they have been bombarded. These expectations can have a profound impact on them, and, unfortunately, that impact is often negative.

We know, for example, that pre-service teachers’ expectations of teaching are often rigid and “fixed” (Chong & Low, 2009, p. 61), and we know that these rigid expectations and beliefs often bear little resemblance to the lives and activities of professional teachers (Cole & Knowles, 1993). Consequently, when pre-service teachers enter the field, they often experience “practice shock,” the disillusioning and painful identity crisis that sometimes accompanies the first year of teaching (Meijer, De Graaf, & Meirink, 2011). As a result, early career teachers are often forced to confront not only the difficult realities of their classrooms but also the cognitive dissonance brought about by their misaligned expectations, a process that is “conflict-laden” (Bullough, Knowles, & Crow, 1992, p. 6). Ultimately, the psychological and emotional upheaval caused by misaligned expectations can result in “disappointment, frustration, anger, guilt, and hurt” (Hastings, 2010, p. 211).

Pre-service teachers’ expectations can play an important role in their long-term career development, as well (Cooper & He, 2012; Kirbulut, Boz, & Kutucu, 2012; Sexton, 2008). Ultimately, those teachers who begin their careers with mismatched expectations and rigid identities are more likely to leave the profession early (Chong, Low, & Goh, 2011). In contrast, pre-service teachers whose expectations were more closely aligned with reality are better able to adjust to the unexpected and use it as an opportunity for personal and professional growth (Cole & Knowles, 1993).

Transformational Learning

The two-fold imperative for teacher preparation programs is clear: 1) we must acknowledge that candidates enter our programs with pre-conceived schema and expectations of teaching; and, 2) we must create space for candidates to confront, reflect on, and revise their expectations. Unfortunately, preparation programs are, by and large, ill-equipped to programmatically support pre-service teachers through the process of examining and revising their teaching expectations (Sutherland & Markauskaite, 2012), and pre-service teachers’ pre-existing expectations of teaching are rarely addressed (Mertz & McNeely, 1991). This must change.

Pre-service teachers do not enter preparation programs as tabula rasa. Instead, they bring with them expectations that have been formed by years spent in classroom and by a steady stream of teacher images and misrepresentations. Given an opportunity for structured reflection, pre-service teachers’ misaligned expectations might be transformed from liabilities to assets (Delamarter, 2015). Indeed, confrontations with the unexpected can be fertile ground for transformative learning (Meijer et al, 2011), and programs that provide space for candidates to “reflect critically” on the nature of their assumptions and “participate freely” in the discourse surrounding them enable candidates to transform their misaligned expectations into the building blocks of future growth (Mezirow, 2009, p. 94).

The challenge for preparation programs, then, is to build structures that create this kind of reflective space. As teaching becomes increasingly professionalized and technically oriented, it becomes more and more important for preparation programs to acknowledge and address their candidates’ emerging ways of being in classroom. The more we can do to help our candidates confront and revise their expectations before they are faced with a disorienting reality, the more resilient and adaptable their professional – and personal – identities will be. By normalizing the ongoing push and pull of identity negotiation, and by intentionally facilitating candidates’ conversations between themselves, their expectations, and the realities with which they will be faced, we will help equip them not only to survive in their new roles as teachers, but perhaps even to thrive.

 

References

Barlowe, A. & Cook, A. (2015). From blackboard to smartboard: Hollywood’s perennially misleading teacher heroes. In Liston & Renga (Eds.), Teaching, learning, and schooling in film: Reel Education (pp. 25-40). New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.

Britzman, D. (2003). Practice makes practice: A critical study of learning to teach. New York, NY: SUNY Press.

Bullough, R. V., Knowles, J. G., & Crow, N. A. (1992). Emerging as a teacher. New York, NY: Routledge.

Chong, S., & Low, E.-L. (2009). Why I want to teach and how I feel about teaching — Formation of teacher identity from pre-service to the beginning teacher phase. Education Research, Policy, and Practice, 8, 59-72.

Chong, S., Low, E., & Goh, K. (2011). Emerging professional teacher identity of pre-service teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(8), 50-64.

Cole, A. L., & Knowles, G. (1993). Shattered images: Understanding expectations and realities field experiences. Teaching and Teacher Education, 9(5/6), 457-471.

Cooper, J. E., & He, Y. (2012). Journey of “becoming”: Secondary teacher candidates’ concerns and struggles. Issues in Teacher Education, 21(1), 89-108.

Cort, R.W., Duncan, P.S., Field, T., James, J., Kroopf, S., Nolin, M., Teitler, W. (Producers), & Herek, S. (Director). (1995). Mr. Holland’s opus [Motion picture]. Burbank, CA: Hollywood Pictures.

Dalton, M. M. (1995). The Hollywood curriculum: Who is the ‘good’ teacher? Curriculum Studies , 3(1), 23-44.

Dalton, M. M. (2010). The Hollywood curriculum: Teachers in the movies. New York, NY: Peter Lang International Academic.

Delamarter, J. (2015). Avoiding practice shock: Using teacher movies to realign pre-service teachers’ expectations of teaching. Australian Journal of Teacher Education (40)2.

Devito, D., Durning, T., Glick-Franzheim, J., Levine, D., Morales, N., Shamberg, M., Sher, S., Swank, H. (Producers), & LaGravenese, R. (Director). (2007). Freedom writers [Motion picture]. Hollywood, CA: Paramount Pictures.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York, NY: Continuum.

Goldsmith-Thomas, E., Schindler, D., Schiff, P., Konner, L., Rosenthal, M. D. (Producers) & Newell, M. (Director). (2004). Mona Lisa smile [Motion Picture]. Culver City, CA: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.

Haft, S., Henderson, D., Witt, P.J., Thomas, T. (Producers), & Weir, P. (Director). (1989). Deadoets society [Motion picture]. Burbank, CA: Touchstone Pictures.

Hastings, W. (2010). Expectations of a pre-service teacher: Implications of encountering the unexpected. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 38(3), 207-219.

hooks, bell (1994). Teaching to transgress. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kirbulut, Z. D., Boz, Y., & Kutucu, E. S. (2012). Pre-service chemistry teachers’ expectations nd experiences in the school experience course. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(2), 41-57.

Meijer, P. C., De Graaf, G., & Meirink, J. (2011). Key experiences in student teachers’ development. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 17(1), 115-129.

Mertz, N.T, McNeely, S.R. (1991). Cognitive constructs of pre-service teachers: how students think about teaching before formal preparation. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Chicago, IL.

Mezirow, J. (2009). An overview on transformative learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning (pp. 91-105). New York, NY: Routledge.

Rhem, J. (2015). The teacher archetype in the movies. In D. Liston & I. Renga (Eds.), Teaching, learning, and schooling in film: Reel education (pp. 9-24). New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.

Savor [Def 5c] (2012). Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/171485?result=2&rskey=ooq6yL&

Sexton, D. M. (2008). Student teachers negotiating indentity, role, and agency. Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(3), 73-88.

Sutherland, L., & Markauskaite, L. (2012). Examining the role of authenticity in supporting the development of professional identity: An example from teacher education. Higher Education, 64, 747-766.

Weber, S., & Mitchell, C. (1995). ‘That’s funny, you don’t look like a teacher!’: Interrogating images, identity, and popular culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

What is a “Good Teacher”? Does “Good” resonate with the edTPA?

  ARTICLE PDF

Dr. Dia Gary

Assistant Professor

Department of Education and Professional Studies

Central Washington University

garyd@cwu.edu

diaruthgary@yahoo.com

 Abstract

  • This study is multi-faceted. The research evolves from the perspective of eight individuals involved in educational settings as either parents or educators. These individuals represent cultural diversity with educational backgrounds from seven different countries. Participants responded to two questions based on what constitutes “good” in “good teacher” and a third question focused on the components of teacher-candidate training. Primarily, the study foci are on the identifying characteristics of an effective teacher. Second, it establishes the components necessary in training programs to produce the effective teacher. Third, an analysis is conducted on the components of the Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), to determine if passage of the edTPA will produce “good” teachers. Are the conclusions from the eight participants congruent with the elements identified in the edTPA of planning, instruction, and assessment?

Introduction

The teacher-candidate sat across the desk, eyes glazed, a teardrop glistening on her cheek. Contained in the 11-page text were her efforts to prove her readiness for teacher certification. The composite score blazed in a single word. Resubmit. Not good enough. The young teacher candidate reflected on the last four years, and considered the delay before trying again. She reflected on the faces that greeted her each morning. Yes, she would try again; “they” were worth the time, energy, and perseverance needed to accomplish the goal.

Literature Review

The above scenario is not uncommon. As of January 2014, The Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) is consequential in the State of Washington. The edTPA is a performance assessment process for teacher candidates to demonstrate three core classroom functions of planning, instructing, and assessing student learning. It was adopted as part of education reforms focusing on placing highly qualified teacher-candidates in the field ready to teach. Successful passage of the edTPA ensures that teacher–candidates who qualify for teaching certificates are equipped with the tools and knowledge from the start.

Although the edTPA is not the only criteria for obtaining teacher certification in Washington State, it is one of the latest and perhaps the most controversial in recent years. Madeloni, coordinator of the Secondary Teacher Education Program at the University of Massachusetts Amhurst, posits concerns that the edTPA is too narrow in scope, requiring teacher-candidates to answer specific prompts that limit the possibility of answers (Hayes & Sokolower 2013). Currently, the state of Washington is requiring the passage of the edTPA as a prerequisite to teacher certification.

Although improving education in the United States has been a priority since the legislation of No Child Left Behind (Lohman 2010), creating a performance-based teacher assessment has only been in the planning stages. Recently, teacher training has come to the forefront with the unveiling of the edTPA (Sawchuk, 2013). The American Federation of Teachers applauds the new reform stating that such efforts will strengthen the teaching profession, with net results producing life long and successful learners (Gabor 2013). However, with any change in education there are those who would oppose such endeavors.

Students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst refused to participate in a pilot process of the edTPA because of confusion about the scoring procedures. The students queried whether or not the performance assessment evaluators were trained adequately. They had doubts that the evaluators would devote sufficient time when scoring each portfolio, which resulted in a $75.00 dollar stipend for each evaluation (Gabor, 2013). Dangler, Vice President for Academics at United University Professions, also questions the validity of the edTPA. She inferred that the edTPA was introduced without adequate input from the teachers employed in the K-12 arena (Lucas, 2014). She proposed that positive change in improving the delivery of knowledge and skills to teacher-candidates must involve those who work directly with K-12 students so that outcomes are beneficial to all stakeholders.

The prominent question is whether the edTPA ensures that teacher-candidates who obtain a passing score and receive a teaching license are truly “good teachers.” Speculation and a crystal ball can only surmise that successfully passing the edTPA might produce good teachers. That evidence may be found in the teacher-candidates’ planning of a lesson segment of 3-5 consecutive lessons, teaching and video tapping one or more of those lessons, and evaluating the lesson segment on the appropriateness and depth of student learning. Scores are generated by 18 rubrics employed to evaluate the collection of evidence.

At the time of this research teacher-candidates were required to complete all requirements within the first four weeks of student teaching and submit for external review via an online platform to Pearson Publishing who has the contract for Washington State’s assessment materials, online technology, program resources, and other support to teacher candidates that’s required for multi-state use of edTPA performance (AACTE, 2014). Will the edTPA separate the sheep from goats, or the chaff from the wheat?

Russell, a principal of a public middle school in Harlem, has concerns that the performance assessment will keep out minorities (Gabor 2013). She proposes that those individuals who were not raised in native English speaking homes or who were educated in communities where African American dialects were the norm may be at a disadvantage when completing commentaries focused towards individuals from native English speaking homes. She strives to ensure that her staff is representative ethnically and linguistically similar to enrolled students. She concludes that the edTPA may discriminate against those who are culturally diverse. She posits as do others that the edTPA will not be an adequate measure to ensure that teacher-candidates receiving certification have what it takes to be considered a “good” teacher (Grabor, 2013, Hayes & Sokolower, Lucas 2014).

The quest to define what “good” in “good teacher” prescribes is difficult to quantify. Is it a genetic disposition, an environmental interaction, or elements of both? Locke might have determined it is taught, yet Rousseau would have countered with a thunderous shout that it is environmental (Crain, 2011).

Strong, Ward, and Grant (2011) reflect that affective qualities, such as caring about students positively correlate with higher student achievement levels. Phillips (Hirsch 2011), Director of Education, College Ready for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, shares that teachers want to teach effectively and make a positive difference in students’ lives. Is it possible to quantify effective teaching or making a positive difference with students? Is the “good” in “good teacher” quantified by the implementation of nine educational strategies as suggested by Marzano (2012), or is it much more than composite data? Is it obtaining a passing score on the edTPA? Is it being genetically endowed with a disposition that exhibits caring and empathy? This study endeavors to explore the relationship between “good” in “good teacher” and the foundational elements of planning, instruction, and assessment as evaluated in the edTPA.

Purpose of the Study

 This study investigates whether the rigor and major foundational elements of the edTPA are concurrent with the characteristics of a “good” teacher, as well as the essential components that are the cornerstones of an effective teacher-candidate training program. The study represents the opinions of eight adults who were deeply involved in the education system as parents and as educators. Participants were educated in seven diverse countries and each contemplated and analyzed the questions: (1) What do you think a good teacher is? (2) What components are essential in teacher training institutes? (3) Can you reflect on a teacher you had who exemplified the characteristics and dispositions of a good teacher?

The study further develops analyses of the characteristics and dispositions of a good teacher and effective teacher-candidate training programs and compares those essential elements to the major foci and rigor of the edTPA.

Method

 The survey questions were structured and clustered around the theme of effective teaching. The survey contained three questions because of the limited time of the participants. Survey questions were completed in person or through E-mail. The questions were as follows:

  1. What do you thing a good teacher is?
  2. What do you think would be the “ideal” teacher-training situation?
  3. Describe a teacher that you had that was excellent.

A single E-mail was sent, and seven personal interviews were conducted during a four-week period. A qualitative evaluation was conducted for all the participants’ responses and coded according to the key phrases “good teacher, care, fun, empathy, sense of humor, knowledge, passion, zeal, and love.” At the time of the interviews, seven of the eight participants lived in Mainland China, with one respondent residing in the United States. Pseudonyms have been used for anonymity.

Participants

 Tavis was an elementary teacher, 32 years of age. Originally from Australia, his teaching

experience included teaching in both public and private elementary schools in China and Australia for over a decade.

Marnie was an ethnic Chinese female, educated in a rural farming area in Mainland China. Her teaching experience included teaching advanced Chinese in the Chinese Public School System. The class size that she had instructed was never below 50 students. She was accustomed to teaching in a direct instruction format.

A middle-aged female educated in Taiwan was Wanda. Her experience with educators resulted from volunteering in various public and private schools in China, Taiwan, and Britain.

Kim was born and educated in India, and thirty-five years of age. She was a volunteer in a private school in China but her volunteer experience also included India.

The United States was the home of Samantha who was a substitute teacher in Oregon. At the time of the interview she was in her early sixties. Her employment background was spent primarily teaching at the first grade level in a rural public school.

Tom was a citizen of Canada, male, and in his early thirties. His teaching experience included Canada, Thailand, and China.

Canada was also the native country of Dave. At the time of the research he was in his early fifties, and employed as an assistant professor by a community college in British Columbia.

Finally, Jan was raised and educated in Guam. Her classroom consisted of her own three children adopted from China, Viet Nam, and Guatemala. At the time of the survey she was home schooling her children but had been employed as both teacher and principal in Japan. She attended Guam public schools for grammar school and Japan for secondary school.

Results

 The first question on the survey asked what do you think a good teacher is? All respondents answered this question. Three main themes were recognized in the answers. Being knowledgeable about subject matter, individualizing instruction, and having a passion for teaching were the dominant threads. Empathy for students and being a student guide followed.

The foremost theme in the respondents’ answers was the importance of good teachers being knowledgeable in the content area they teach. Shulman refers to the lack of knowledge concerning subject area as the missing paradigm (Shulman 2004 p. 194). One native Chinese speaker replied, “her (the teacher) knowledge is like a deep sea that her students can drink from to nurture their brains.” Jan shared that “a good teacher is a person who knows the subject matter.” Individualizing instruction was also high on the list of expectations for a good educator. Based on the respondent’s answers, 75 % indicated that teachers must individualize instruction and meet all academic levels of the students. Jan reflected:

They (the teacher) can relate their current lesson content to other subjects in the curriculum; and make lessons their own by changing, combining, and adding to them according to their students’ needs and their own goals. They can quickly see something in the classroom, which will affect the teaching and learning of a subject and can guess what types of errors a student might make. They understand how to make students successful and can quickly think of the best way to help a student.

The third theme stemming from the first question was passion. More than 50% interviewed believed that a passion for teaching was a prominent value. Tom reported “good teachers give a sense of meaning in what they do. They are able to draw or at least assign meaning to their job as teachers.”

When presented with the question of what an ideal teaching training program should consist of, respondents offered three main foci. The top priority was authentic classroom teaching, followed by studies in educational theory, and finally multiple hours spent observing students.

Authentic and practical experience dominated all answers. Jan answered the question with the specific number of hours that should be spent in the actual classroom. She reported, “Four months of practice teaching under a veteran teacher in the home country with daily reflective logs required. Four months of clinical teaching service in a third world country with daily reflective logs should be required.” The requirement of reflective logs is comparable with Shulman’s thoughts concerning case studies. Shulman stated, “I believe that the admonition that practitioners should reflect on their own practice is both absolutely correct and painfully demanding” (2004 p. 463).

Reflective journals would also help professionals remember their successes and failures and enable them to organize these successes and failures into case studies to be analyzed at a later date. Shulman asserted that the challenge for the educator was to hold experiences in memory in a form that would later be information that would be helpful in determining future practices (2004 p. 464).

Samantha agreed with the above respondent by replying, “I learned a lot in classes when I was training to be a teacher but it didn’t really prepare me for the classroom. There’s nothing that compares to the REAL classroom.”

Participants reported that classroom theory was important in training a teacher. Jan explicit answered, “Thorough academic preparation in the foundations of psychology, psychology of learning, special needs identification and remediation, public relations, conflict resolution, educational pedagogy, how the brain works, nutrition, and emotional intelligence.” Dave felt that those instructing in institutions of higher education sometimes have no formal pedagogical training with the exception of those in the education faculty. His assumption was that higher education professors may have the subject content knowledge, yet lack in delivery styles and techniques of delivering information in interactive engaging ways. All respondents felt that some theory classes were essential with most reporting that the ideal teacher-training program would involve both classroom theory and authentic classroom experience.

The third and final question asked participants to reminisce about an excellent teacher they had experienced. These answers were both reflective and rich with meaning. The overriding theme came boldly to the surface. The care, concern, and personal attention teachers gave each participant was remembered and mentioned more than any other theme. Direct transcriptions are included because of the richness and powerfulness of the responses. Pseudonyms have been used for anonymity.

Kim

I liked my history teacher a lot when I was in school. For her, all students were alike. She liked to spend her days in the pursuit of studies.

Marnie

 A teacher impressed me deeply when I was a little child. Sometimes he is just like a father, who is extremely strict in his class. If you are careless with your studies or did not concentrate, he talked to you. His stern face is like the heavy cloud that would make your heart beat fast. You will feel sorry for not trying to do your best to learn. Sometimes he is just like a mother. He taught us volleyball in the spring and skating in the winter. Joyful laughing and good memories were left in our playground. He convoyed us in snow day and spent his salary for math materials for us. When I disliked steamed bread that my mama brought me for lunch, he took it away silently and then returned with a delicious crisp piece of bread. I learned from him; learned to study, learned how to have fun.

Dave

A teacher I thought was effective was a philosophy professor in my third year at the university. He was knowledgeable, very passionate about his subject, well-organized, and implemented instructional strategies that were varied and supported learning. He was clear in expectations for all activities and assignments. He gave prompt feedback and all assignments were reflective of the course material. He also had a great sense of humor and rapport with the class. Most importantly he KNEW my name.

Jan

 I cannot narrow it down to one. There are three absolutely, outstanding teachers I have had in my life. First, my mother was an excellent teacher. She taught me to tirelessly seek for answers and the truth; a love of literature, how to live a creative life, serve mankind for its betterment, and to have courage. She did this through: 1) example, 2) providing me with copious, thought provoking literature, 3) taking me around the world many times to experience many different countries and cultures, 4) asking me to make her bulletin boards in her first grade classroom, hang the alphabet on the classroom walls yearly, and discussed students’ problems daily at the dinner table. I also joined her in shopping for classroom supplies to enhance student learning. When I was in the second grade at a parochial school with 65 students per class, my teacher used to “lose it” every Friday. She would scream at the misbehaved boys all day. I cried and was upset every Friday evening. So, my mother’s solution was, “You can stay at home or go to your father’s music company and do what you like every Friday.” I am eternally grateful to her for this. I loved being at home or at my father’s music company. I drew pictures, played with my younger brother, watched my father repair musical instruments (and thereby learned how to fix many things), and learned to play the accordion and the clarinet.

Second, was Mrs. Rosa. I grew up on Guam Island in the days when English was not the people’s first language, hence I spoke English better than many of my teachers. The Chamorro teachers were gentle and kindly – always wanting the best for me. So, they told me, “You can sit here and read the textbook by yourself”. At first, I thought they were terrible teachers. I wanted somebody to teach me. Then I realized they were excellent in that they guided me to learn to teach myself! Mrs. Rosa was my ninth grade English teacher. Ironically, she could barely speak English. She allowed me to spend each class period in the library reading any book I wanted. Oh, how wonderful this was! The library became my haven. Wonderful books! I still remember that I started with O’Henry’s short stories. Mrs. Rosa further engrained in me a love of literature and being a life long learner.

Third was Mr. Beach, my high school chemistry instructor. He made chemistry exciting and interesting. We really learned it because he never announced tests. He said we must know the subject matter inside and out. We spent each class period doing experiments. It was a joy to be in his class and so interesting! We all learned and we all made A’s on his tests. He taught me to learn for learning’s sake and for the joy of learning.

Tavis

 In grade 10, I had an English teacher named Mr. Lament who was passionate about life and showed a genuine care for his students. He didn’t try to be our friend but stayed in the role of teacher while still relating to us extremely well. His classes were always interesting and often fun. I learned a lot from him about life as well as the basics of literature and essay writing.

Wanda

 Suzanne is the teacher that influenced me the most. When I asked her questions, she didn’t answer me directly most of the time. She always led me to think of the answer by myself. Once I got it, it was with me forever. While I encountered difficulties, she always said it’s normal not to know, no need to be embarrassed. That’s the reason we learn. If we know so much, then we can teach. Yes, I am not afraid of learning any more. I have the right not to know, but I don’t have the right not to ask. I carry that spirit with me all the time now.

Samantha

 I don’t know if I ever had an “excellent” teacher but there is one that I remember and grew to respect. Her name was Mrs. Thomas and she was my fourth grade teacher. I don’t remember all the details, but one time I got angry with her and tore up her picture. It was one she had given me. I remember that we had a talk about what I had done and she gave me another picture to replace it. Whenever I came to town, I would go visit her because I respected her and appreciated her patience with me.

 Conclusion

In conclusion, my research findings suggest that it is imperative that effective teachers have an intrinsic desire to serve the community through educating children and youth. From the reflections of those surveyed, passion for the teaching profession seemed to be the overriding theme. The study’s participants concluded that the three main characteristics of effective teachers were (1) knowledge of subject matter, (2) individualizing instruction, and (3) having a passion for educating. Shulman addresses all those values when he says “these are ways of talking, showing, enacting, or otherwise representing ideas so that the unknown can come to know, those without understanding can comprehend and discern, and the unskilled can become adept” (2004 p. 227).

This research suggests that an ideal teacher-training program should involve constructivism (hands-on) methods with “real” children in authentic classroom settings, partnered with a healthy dose of theory as the cornerstone. Over 50% of the respondents stated that authentic practical experience was more important than knowledge of the theoretical, but that there was a place for learning theory in the context of the training institute.

The third and final question asked respondents to anecdotally express the characteristics of a teacher they had who was excellent. The heart-rendered responses were a good reminder that we must respect students and demonstrate care through a genuine sincerity for students’ physical and mental efficacy. They also remind us that what students find characteristic of good teaching can and does vary widely. This finding suggests that, for students, good teaching is contextual to time, place, and personal needs.

Does the successful completion and passage of the edTPA measure up to the “good” in “good teacher?” On the surface, the edTPA represents a set of skills demonstrated by a teacher-candidate who is ready to teach. Those skills as demonstrated by the passage of the edTPA are skills that every teacher should demonstrate from the first day of student teaching to the final day before retirement. Evidence of the ability to plan a lesson, reflect on it, video tape it, and develop deep analytical decisions about the quality of student learning are key components to the foundational framework of the edTPA. The controversial question of whether teacher licensure should be based on a passing score on a performance assessment or if the edTPA really determines the worth of a teacher-candidate as a “good” teacher is an emotional and heated topic of conversation at the present (Gabor, 2013; Sanchez, 2013; Sawchuk, 2013).

The education faculty associated with a Midwestern state university chose to complete the edTPA themselves to investigate if the edTPA is really an effective tool that gives evidence of teachers who are competent and ready to address the challenges of a teaching career. Five faculty members who represented five different teacher preparation departments volunteered to complete the edTPA themselves. Their findings included fears that the edTPA would interfere with their autonomy of instruction resulting in losing control of current courses taught. Another area of possible conflict led to the realization that the education classes offered at the Midwestern University need to be redesigned to ensure that teacher-candidates were adequately prepared.

The need to redesign courses was also a concern for those attending a recent breakfast meeting at the annual American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) 66th annual meeting. Those in attendance were concerned with “teaching to the test,” curriculum resources, and the edTPA dominating all other courses resulting in content that may not be taught because of time limitations. Other discussions prevailed around the lack of predictive validity research, lack of small group instruction, and the shortage of scorers (AACTE, 2014). The final criticism revolved around supporting English language learners who would need support and scaffolding to complete the commentaries that reflect that teacher-candidates not only have contextual understanding of theory, but also an in-depth understanding of syntax, grammar, and writing structure.

As presented earlier in this research Russell, a principal in Harlem, showed deep concern that persons of diverse ethnicity would be at a deficit when completing the writing components of the edTPA (Grabor, 2013). Continued controversies involve the number of high stakes tests necessary for teacher licensure. Mirisola-Sullivan, a graduate student in education at the University of Illinois-Chicago, posits that failed attempts to pass the edTPA profit large companies such as Pearson, because of resubmission costs. Pearson Publishing stands to make millions administering and controlling the edTPA (Sanchez, 2014).

In a contrasting view, Robinson (2013) defends the edTPA sharing that the intent is to “increase learning opportunities for the nation’s students by setting high and manageable standards for the teachers who will serve them.” Darling-Hammond (2012) concludes that the successful passage of all three elements of the edTPA shows evidence that the first-year teacher has proven he or she is “ready.” However, the participants surveyed in this research project conclude that teacher-candidates who fail to demonstrate passion for the teaching profession will not make the grade even though they successfully demonstrate successful passage of all components of the edTPA. Samantha stated

Passion is what drives the profession; those without passion should never enter the profession as an undergraduate student. To do so violates responsibility as citizens to educate a society that thinks deeply, shares freely, and gives back to better the community. Those who look to the teaching profession as just a way to earn an income are irresponsible and should never be given the honor of the title “teacher.”

Although the results of this research are limited to the experience and opinions of eight individuals involved with the educational system, their opinions are certainly worthy of consideration. Moreover, they represent diverse backgrounds yet their conclusions are consistent. Passion is what makes the “good” in good teacher.

Will successful passage of the edTPA result in teacher-candidates who are passionate? Will the sheep be separated from the goats, or the chaff from the wheat? Time will be the judge.

References

AACTE. (2014). edTPA Breakfast meeging at AACTE’S 66th annual meeging. Retrieved 5/27, 2014, from https://secure.aacte.org/apps/rl/res_get.php?fid=1119&ref=edtpa/edtpa.aacte.org/faq

AACTE. (2014). edTPA. Retrieved 2/17, 2014, from http://edtpa.aacte.org/faq

Crain, W. (2011). Theories if Devlopment: Concepts and Applications. Boston: Prentice Hall.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2012). The right start: Creating a strong foundation for the teaching career. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(3), 8-13.

edTPA. (2014). Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA). Retrieved February 18, 2014, from http://www.ewu.edu/cale/programs/education/teacher-performance-assessment-(edtpa)

Furness, S. (2013). Teacher educator know theyself; Lessons learned from completing the edTPA. Teacher Education Journal of South Carolina,(Winter 2013),44-52

Gabor, A (2013, January 13). Will a bar exam for teachers improve student performance? Gotham Gazette. Retrieved from http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/education/4173-will-a-bar-exam-for-teachers-improve-student-performance

Hayes, N. & Sokolower, J.( 2013, February 5). Stanford/Pearson test for new teachers draws fire. Rethinking Schools. Retrieved on May 5, 2014 from http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/27_02/27_02_hayes_sokolower.shtml

Hirsh, S. (2011). What makes a good teacher? Journal of Staf Development,32(6), 18-22.

Lohman, J. (2010). Comparing no child left behind and race to the top. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from http://www.cga.ct.gov/2010/rpt/2010-R-0235.htm

Lucas, D. (2014). UUP calls for supension of edTPA certification mandate. Retrieved on April 26,2014 from, http://wamc.org/post/uup-calls-suspension-edtpa-certification-mandate.

Marzano, R., J. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works. Alexandria: ASCD.

Robertson, D. L. (2008). Thriving in academe: Reflections on helping students learn. NEA, 25(6), 6-9.

Robinson, S. (2013). The who, how, and why of edTPA: Clarification for critics and colleagues. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from http://aacte.org/news-room/the-presidents-perspective/the-who-how-and-why-of-edtpa-clarification-for-critics-and-colleagues.html

Sanchez, M. (2014). Teacher- candidates to face new performance assessment. Catalyst Chicago. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from, http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2014/04/22/65874/teacher-candidates-face-new-performance-assessment

Sawchuk, S. (2013). Performance key on teacher tests. Education Week, 33(13), 1-22.

Stronge, J.H. , Ward, J., & Grant, L.W. (2011). What makes good teachers good? A cross-case analysis of the connection between teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Journal of Teacher Education,62(4), 339-355

Shulman, L. S. (2004). The Wisdom of Practice: Essays on Teaching, Learning, and Learning to Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Empowering Learners as Teacher

ARTICLE PDF

Empowering Learners as Teachers

 Teresa Day Walker

 Central Washington University

 walkert@cwu.edu

Abstract

A letter of recognition, a professional reflection from a former student, provided a heartwarming prompt for another reflective experience. Beyond trophy, together we celebrated our learning and teaching. It is a pleasure to empower learners as teachers, especially when they serve in-kind. Learning the art of reflective practice is a gift for the soul; using it serves society. Once novice teachers graduate, we hope they continue to learn and grow. We also hope that we have truly incited a passion for learning. It is a profound opportunity to be invited to share in their continued journey and to, yet again, learn from our students. Such moments embody the cycle for teaching and learning.

Keywords: learning, reflection, recognition, differentiation, Montessori, novice teacher

Empowering Learners as Teachers

Email opened one autumn morning with a special gift of connection and an opportunity rich with reflection. A heartfelt thank you, from recent alum, Tami, recognizing our work together as learners and teachers became significantly more.

Dear Terri,

You’ve been heavy on my mind for the last two years. I have always held your words of wisdom close to me. Your early childhood classes have stuck with me and I thank you so much for everything you’ve taught. The biggest Takeaway I’ve had from any of your classes is: “if you’re tired from prepping/working until the middle of the night, know that you’re doing it to yourself.” You always stressed that the students should take charge of their learning and be heavily involved with every process of an activity, including the preparation.

I am now a Montessori teacher and holy smokes!!!!! I have fallen deeply in love with Maria Montessori and her theory of learning.

I struggled with this until last year, but now I can confidently say that the only work I take home is planning for the next day/week. These kiddos are amazing me every single day with what they can do! I’ve always looked at the limitations of children: what they can’t do. This caused me to frantically over-prep for EVERYthing. You were the first woman to open my eyes to what young children CAN do! I have witnessed 2 and 3 year olds cutting (with real knives) apples, juicing oranges, peeling cucumbers, shine tarnished silver, do dynamic addition with manipulatives, grind coffee, cut out patterns, carefully glue, etc!!

I’ve noticed that when a child does something from start to finish they hold their head up higher and walk taller. This sense of accomplishment and pride resounds deep inside of my students. I want to thank you for helping me see in children what I wouldn’t have seen on my own.

Oh I hope to see you again so I can tell you in person how big of an impression you’ve made on me. Thank you for everything, T-Walk!

Love,

Tami _______

2012 Graduate

As I read her message I thought about our time together, about others before her and after, and about the profession we share. I smiled at remembrance and celebrated the recognition with reflective thought. Recognition, accepted humbly, offers time to think and the fodder necessary for doing so. Hubris attached to recognition renders limited depth of understanding.

For example, when my son was young, he would purchase trophies from yard sales, because his concept was simply that a trophy was the “prize” and that he was a proud owner, but he did not understand what a trophy represented below its glitz and glamor. Superficially, a trophy signifies accomplishment. It is the “what” and “how” a trophy is earned that is held in esteem, that holds meaning. A trophy becomes a placeholder for nostalgia, an object designed to call up memories of the dedication and hard work that went into a moment of fulfillment. In similar sprit I offer our trophy letter, part-by-part, complete with my own personal reflective comments.

Tami is a 2012 graduate of Central Washington University having majored in Elementary Education with a minor in Early Childhood Education. She composed and sent a thank you letter to me in the fall of 2014, the beginning of her third year teaching. Her letter is really a reflective summary of her developing perspective as a lightly-seasoned teacher. The Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument (Danielson, 2013) highlights reflecting on teaching as a professional responsibility and suggests productive outlets for doing so. “Teachers may reflect on their practice through collegial conversations, journal writing, examining student work, conversations with students, or simply thinking about their teaching” (p 60). Tami has used collegial conversation, through correspondence, to summarize her own thinking about her teaching. Reading Tami’s letter spurred my own reflective thoughts as an educator. Sections of her letter are separated and followed with my own reflective comments.

Dear Terri,

You’ve been heavy on my mind for the last two years. I have always held your words of wisdom close to me. Your early childhood classes have stuck with me and I thank you so much for everything you’ve taught.

Teaching teachers has its challenges especially since the time to independent application of theory, ideas, and concepts can seem so far in the future. How do novice teachers know what will be important in their future? They likely don’t, so it is important to elicit personal values, attitudes, interests, strengths, and challenges in an effort to encourage information to seep into the crevices of their minds – a place where concepts can be stored until needed. As educators we can intentionally create opportunity and schedule time to wrangle with the import of personal implicit and explicit bias.

A student who begins early childhood education courses with a bias against a content area, or more than one, needs opportunity to rediscover the wonder within that area or those areas. Students with a passion and predisposition for a particular subject need to understand what it means to struggle with a concept, especially within an area of expertise. Similarly, social biases also need attention, time for discovery, analysis, and restructuring or re-prioritizing personal values, attitudes, and beliefs to create an inviting presence and openness to others.

The biggest takeaway I’ve had from any of your classes is: “if you’re tired from prepping/working until the middle of the night, know that you’re doing it to yourself.” You always stressed that the students should take charge of their learning and be heavily involved with every process of an activity, including the preparation.

It is refreshing and daunting to wonder what learners will take with them from our experiences together. It is even more spine chilling to find out from them what they found valuable. What if their perception was misinterpreted? What if Tami thought she heard something like, “teaching is easy, you don’t really need to plan for it?” Her message might be interpreted by some that very way. But, because I know the background story, I believe Tami received the intent of my communication shared with the class. It is important that as professional teachers we understand how to value and utilize our time efficiently and effectively. One way to do so refers to the total amount of output effort by teachers as it relates to the intended learning value by students. We discuss the idea of cost-benefit analysis.

The initial example I share comes from working with teachers who spent countless hours doing things for children that were superfluous or, worse, detrimental to learning. Most graphically, teachers would cut out busses from yellow construction paper, apples from red, and pumpkins, you guessed it, from orange. All this work was in an effort to prepare children for easel painting. The thematic implication was likely the white noise of learning, and the creative process began with limitations of both shape and color. The developmentally appropriate alternative requires little adult preparation, have paper available for painting; if you want to knock yourself out and be a great teacher, have different sizes. The beauty of this solution continues, there is nothing to lug home from school and back, and stocking the paper can be a child-centered responsibility. Students can monitor inventory, shelve, and order more stock as needed. How might they estimate how many sheets are needed? Is there a size that is most popular? How could they find the answer? Maybe students could conduct a survey of user preference, or maybe a research project to determine daily use overtime, either complete with interpretation and dissemination of their collected data. Different students could work on each of the two ideas (or more) and compare results. Yes, I believe she recognizes the importance of meaningful work as a teacher, as well as, how crucial it is for students.

I am now a Montessori teacher and holy smokes!!!!! I have fallen deeply in love with Maria Montessori and her theory of learning.

In the interest of continuous program improvement, our students would benefit greatly from more involvement opportunities, especially those demonstrating theory to practice. After all, seeing is believing, but experiencing is so much more. At least the incorporation of field trips to schools based in foundational beliefs, such as Montessori and Waldorf would offer a chance to see interpreted theory in action. Although some students do get these types of experiences, it is not institutionalized within the program. This “what?” offers room for change, room for improvement.

I struggled with this until last year, but now I can confidently say that the only work I take home is planning for the next day/week. These kiddos are amazing me every single day with what they can do! I’ve always looked at the limitations of children: what they can’t do. This caused me to frantically over-prep for EVERYthing. You were the first woman to open my eyes to what young children CAN do! I have witnessed 2 and 3 year olds cutting (with real knives) apples, juicing oranges, peeling cucumbers, shine tarnished silver, do dynamic addition with manipulatives, grind coffee, cut out patterns, carefully glue, etc!!

First, I think about my personal interpretation of teacher development. Years of working with novice teachers as an administrator for Head Start and Washington State’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) has afforded opportunity to observe teachers and, with each, construct individual professional development plans. I have personally found that emphasis during the first three years is complete but developmentally unbalanced. That first year is primarily about the individual as a teacher. It is an egocentric phase, unless it is more than a state and actually a personality trait. Some refer to it as survival, because there is so much to learn and juggle. Children are the major emphasis of course, but first-year teachers are realizing the import of family partnership, faculty team membership, and the administrative responsibilities that accompanies a classroom of learners.

During their second year, curriculum takes the spotlight. The teacher has completed a full year, is aware of pacing in some capacity, knows his or her own strengths and challenges and has experienced a variety of learning interpretations by students the previous year. There is no one-size-fits-all lesson. Finally, during the third year, it is as if a light is turned on. Suddenly teachers notice the room is full of individual children, and typically know themselves and the curriculum content well enough to venture beyond the obvious. Therefore, the third year is a year to focus on the need for individualization and hopefully accept the challenge to differentiate.

While each of the three components is present each of the first three years of teaching, this overgeneralization is used to call attention to developmental needs and expectations of beginning teachers. Early career development is as much about the teacher as it is the students they teach. I think about Tami’s words and how her development has progressed. I believe she is following a similar and progressive path. “Indeed, practitioners themselves often reveal a capacity for reflection on their intuitive knowing in the midst of action and sometimes use this capacity to cope with the unique, uncertain, and conflicted situations of practice” (Schön, 1983, p viii).

I’ve noticed that when a child does something from start to finish they hold their head up higher and walk taller. This sense of accomplishment and pride resounds deep inside of my students. I want to thank you for helping me see in children what I wouldn’t have seen on my own.

Welcoming a child and family advocate to our profession, for me, is the greatest measure of success as an educator. That is a grand champion trophy, the purple ribbon of empowering learners as teachers.

Oh I hope to see you again so I can tell you in person how big of an impression you’ve made on me. Thank you for everything, T-Walk!

While seeing Tami again would be a personal and professional pleasure, it is not a necessity. Her words to me, in my opinion, offer celebration of her own accomplishments in the learning journey. The fact she shared it with me is a bonus. My responsibility now is to use Tami’s words to foster my own learning and somehow share the impact of today’s information to benefit others.

Love,

Tami _______

2012 Graduate

The salutation is an indication of a well-built, long-lasting relationship, a personally designed learner outcome. Making connections strengthens learning. Love is evidence of reciprocity, and its recognition is also graciously accepted.

Tami has shared such a gift. Now I have peace of mind that Tami understands and uses her reflective skills. She also offered a prompt for my own reflection in thinking about what she learned in the recent past, and what current students may be learning. I thought about how our program has changed in its total make over; that, as a student, Tami heard about more than she experienced; ways in which my own focus has changed since Tami was in class; and how our desire to embed critical elements of the edTPA within our program has impacted our current students as compared to our past graduates. Would Tami’s reflection be different somehow if she had experienced the fruits of these efforts, or our work to implement professional growth plans aligned with the Washington State Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP)? “Over time, this way of thinking both reflectively and self-critically and of analyzing instruction through the lens of student learning— whether excellent, adequate, or inadequate—becomes a habit of mind, leading to improvement in teaching and learning” (Danielson, 2013, p 60). Habits we can both celebrate as educators.

Historically, I have used the idea of teaching experience to introduce the concepts of single-loop and double-loop learning (Argyris, 1993). For example, non-reflective teachers are single-loop thinkers who may have taught for 3, 5, 10 years or more, but may only have 1 year of experience that they have repeated. While the example is tongue-in-cheek, these teachers continue to make the same or similar mistakes without significant personal or professional growth. Contrarily, double-loop thinkers, reflective teachers, have cumulative experience over the years. They also make mistakes, but see them as challenges and use them as learning opportunities. I believe Tami is well on her way into her third year of experienced teaching, and I am thankful for her work with young children and their families.

In addition, I appreciate that Tami offered fuel for my own learning in the past, and again with this letter. To say I teach teachers implies a one-sided relationship. Empowering learners as teachers is a two-way street, where both parties learn from one another and we seasoned teachers continue our quest as learners.

I will gently place Tami’s letter near my dollar bill from Cotton, a kindergartener who lost his first tooth. Initially I denied acceptance, but when I called Cotton’s Mom, she passionately and emphatically confirmed that he indeed wanted me to have his dollar from the Tooth Fairy, “because he loves kindergarten.” While that was nearly a quarter century ago, my first token object of recognition, I remember the import like it was yesterday, how building relationships is foundational to learning. It is an honor to accept another trophy of such significance.

References

Argyris, C. (1993). Knowledge for action: A guide to overcoming barriers to organizational change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Danielson, C. (2013). The framework for teaching evaluation instrument. The Danielson Group.

Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York:   Basic Books.

Dispositions and Applications for Classroom Management: Pre-Service Teachers Build a Community of Learners

ARTICLE PDF

Dispositions and Applications for Classroom Management:

Pre-Service Teachers Build a Community of Learners

 

Jan Byers-Kirsch, Ed. D.

Central Washington University

jbkirsch@cwu.edu

Kimberlee Bartel, Ph. D.

Central Washington University

bartelk@cwu.edu

Abstract

This empirical study discerns whether candidates’ dispositions and applications of classroom management strategies change after completing the university classroom management course and whether their views are aligned with current research on effective techniques. A voluntary, confidential, ongoing survey was offered to candidates completing the course over a period of two years at least one quarter after they completed the course. Beginning with the second year, candidates will given a short survey the first week of the course to more clearly ascertain dispositional changes from the beginning of the course to the end, as well as after they have teaching opportunities to practice their skills. The preliminary results from the first year confirm the benefits of creating effectual classroom management plans and identifying the basis for their future success as classroom teachers. This study substantiates the importance of a research-based course in teacher preparation programs with future implications for further study.

Introduction

Classroom teachers have all witnessed or can visualize the following scenario. An enthusiastic beginning teacher has spent hours planning a wonderful, innovative lesson on state standards with engaging instructional strategies, and an aligned assessment. The teacher begins teaching the lesson, and it becomes rapidly apparent that many students in the class are disengaged, talking, or displaying inappropriate behavior. The teacher asks for attention several times and calls on students who are not paying attention without successfully regaining control of the class or the lesson. The teacher is feeling frustrated, anxious, and vulnerable. Finally, the teacher stops the lesson and invokes some type of consequence or punishment on the entire class. The students (and the teacher) are angry and resentful; what went wrong? The scenario doesn’t have to end this way, but of greater significance: the teacher isn’t teaching and the students aren’t learning. How can we provide support for new teachers to be successful before they enter the classroom?

Theoretical Framework

Our K-12 colleagues and veteran teachers know that effective classroom management skills are an essential component for beginning teachers to become successful, yet they often lack the confidence or ability to implement them appropriately. The research shows that effective classroom management is “preventative rather than reactive”; it is important that educators model, identify, and effectively teach desired classroom behavior (Emmer & Stough, 2001). With the emphasis on improving student academic achievement linked with teacher evaluation, mastery of these strategies becomes a critical factor in teacher longevity. The significance of supporting teachers’ professional growth and practice in implementing research-based practices to improve academic and behavioral outcomes for all learners has been demonstrated (Algozzine, Wang, & Violette, 2011; Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andrée, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009; Emmer & Stough, 2001; Greenwood & Abbot, 2001; Horner, R. H., Sugai, G., Smolkowski, K., Eber, L., Nakasato, J., Todd, A. W., & Esperanza, J., 2009, Wong & Wong, 2009). What can we do to better prepare our neophyte teachers to be effective classroom managers?

Having been classroom teachers and now teacher educators, many university professors understand how inextricably linked the salient components of classroom management are to effective instruction and student achievement. Many of us experienced the scenario described above as student teachers, convinced we were going to be dismal failures, all due to a lack of appropriate techniques. Until recently, many undergraduate programs did not offer a classroom management course; new teachers learned on their feet, by trial and error, which was a stressful and ineffective method.

University instructors can hopefully prevent our novice teachers from experiencing this agonizing situation by providing them with some “tools in their toolbox” to manage the students in their classroom without coercion and punishment, which is largely ineffective in changing student behavior. Attention and nurturing should be given to all students, and teacher praise can be a useful tool in achieving essential objectives ((Sprick, Garrison, & Howard, 1998; Marchant & Anderson, 2012). Teacher education programs should introduce classroom management strategies along with lesson planning to prospective teachers. Teacher candidates learn when creating a positive learning environment, they must construct a classroom in which learning consistently occurs (Young & West, 2008), and which is characterized by an apparent focus, high expectations, a warm environment, and predictable routines and consequences (Latham, 1998; Sprick et al., 1998; Young & West, 2008).

Our university graduates approximately 400 teacher candidates a year. We have a quarter system requiring teacher candidates to take a senior undergraduate course on classroom management for 10 weeks. The most effective way to develop successful classroom management skills is to create one’s own personalized plan using the most current and relevant information available (Charles, 2014), which our teacher candidates do. They work in groups to analyze and synthesize the development of modern discipline strategies based on major researchers in the field, view various classroom videos of teachers demonstrating techniques, and relate learning to observations of or interviews with real classroom teachers in prior field experiences.

Wong and Wong (2009) state effective teachers are good classroom managers and have positive expectations their students will be successful. Teacher candidates develop several papers based upon various interrelated topics, including their philosophy of student behavior, their personal management style, and expectations. Identification of classroom management style is important to promote more democratic, humanistic, and positive styles for interventionists (Chambers and Hardy, 2005). Teacher candidates determine their seating chart, procedures, rules, rewards, consequences, and how they will communicate with stakeholders. Training in specific key strategies can provide teachers with the resources to prevent problem behavior and manage disruptions without the use of reactive consequences. Teachers can devote more time to instructional activities rather than on reactions to problem responses that rarely contribute to positive long-term outcomes (Ducharme & Shecter, 2011). The teacher candidates also analyze how to integrate specific classroom management in developing each Task in The Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA, 2013), which is Washington’s required performance-based assessment for pre-service teachers that is completed during student teaching.

The final “Classroom Management Plan” is a compilation of their personal research, theory, and practice; it is a professional document in APA format, “published” for future use during student teaching, employment interviews, and in their first teaching position. Many students comment they how extremely proud they are of their enormous effort in creating and publishing their plan.

Method

Participants

We received university Institutional Review Board approval to conduct educational research. An anonymous, online, ongoing survey was created and consisted of 27 questions to collect data over a period of two years. It was disseminated in stages to 170 senior level teacher candidates who enrolled in this course during four university quarters (one year) following restructuring the course using their university email addresses through the web-based tool Qualtrics. Data collection and analysis are ongoing and still in process. Teacher candidates’ verbal and written feedback indicates their perceptions changed and the content learned was very valuable after taking the course. The anecdotal comments are wonderful, but insufficient; we were still curious specifically how their perceptions changed from before taking the course to after creating their Classroom Management Plan. Beginning with the second year, candidates will be asked during the first week of class to answer five questions in one or two sentences about the meaning and purpose of classroom management. These narrative responses will be compared to the results from the survey at the end of the second year.

Procedure

The first six questions identified the participants’ demographic information: gender, age, year graduated, teaching level (EL, MS, HS), current position, and number of teaching opportunities. The remaining 21 questions were based on understanding and applying the research-based strategies learned in the course in teaching situations as well as how their disposition towards management changed as a result of the course. The responses were recorded on a Likert-like scale from 1 = “Strongly Disagree” to 10 = “Strongly Agree” (see Appendix). Responses were downloaded, quantified, and aggregated by question. The survey will remain open until June 2015 to allow all participants an opportunity to complete their coursework and student teaching before completing the survey.

            In our professional education program sequence, some candidates complete their student teaching the quarter after completing this course, and some still have coursework to complete. We prefer that participants complete their student teaching before they participate in the survey; therefore, we decided to wait one or two quarters after the participants completed the course to distribute the survey instrument. Most candidates also participate in practica experiences or work as substitute teachers giving them other opportunities to work with K-12 students as well as a basis for responding to the survey questions if they choose to take it prior to student teaching.

Results

At the beginning of the course, most candidates equate classroom management with rules and punishment or disciplinary methods and have no concept of how to structure their classroom, based on verbal comments in class. Ashley stated that her students will be high school age and should know how to behave, so she shouldn’t have to tell them what to do. They have not considered that management largely involves teaching students daily routines and procedures to achieve an orderly, structured learning environment. Joette stated that she participated in a mock interview before taking this course and, when asked a question about classroom management, she had no idea how to answer it. After she completed the course, she felt comfortable describing her management plan and strategies. Pre-service teachers rank classroom and behavior management highly in what makes an effective teacher (Minor, Onwuegbuzie, Witcher, & James, 2002; Lee, Tice, Collins, Brown, Smith, & Fox, 2012). These “ah-ha” reflections are incredibly rewarding for course instructors.

Steven went directly from taking the course to student teaching in high school history and shared his method for knowing students:

Having to think about what we would do in these situations has definitely helped. Obviously, I have not memorized everything I wrote (in my plan), but taking the time to think about it has been valuable. The first few days I implemented “I-messages” and proximity with a high level of success. I pass back papers in class each day, so I wanted to make it a priority to learn their names quickly. When I pass back papers, I ask students questions and associate their names with the story. Whenever I had the chance I would look at the seating chart and learn one row at a time, rhyming their name to help learn faster. It looks like I’m talking to myself as I go through the roster, but it’s how I learned them. Once I feel comfortable with the name I make sure to use it as often as possible with the student.

Mary shared how her strategies were tested the second day of student teaching in middle school physical education:

I became the emergency sub on my second day of student teaching when my teacher got sick, and they couldn’t find a sub. I learned A LOT being on my own so fast! In the fifth period class (the most difficult one), I had a girl “de-pants” another girl right in front of me. The whole class stopped and looked at me to see what I would do. The “popular girl” who did the “de-pantsing” asked if I was going to tell the teacher (the day before, all the classes got the speech that I am no different than any other teacher and that I have earned that right. Any problem with me, and it will be an immediate referral, no lunch suspension). When asked if I was going to speak to the teacher when she returned, all I said was, “Of course, that is totally unacceptable.” I just continued the class like nothing happened. At the end of class, the popular girl had her swarm of friends around her protecting her and glaring at me. I sent them all in to get dressed and asked her to come to my office when she was finished changing. The air was thick. I sat in the office wondering what the heck I was going to say or do about this awful incident. AHHHH, WONG CAME TO MY MIND! HA! I couldn’t believe it! I had just a few minutes to reflect on his “My Action Plan” before the student arrived. When she sat down, we totally went through the scenario of what went wrong and why it was wrong and what other places her hands should be. We both agreed that her choice to keep her hands to herself would be a great choice. We opted to leave this conversation and agreement between us and start over fresh with a new agreement…MOORISH! She was relieved, and I got to be the cool teacher and write her an excused tardy slip for her next class. She and I have been cool ever since. It was soooo great to experience that! It really does work! Anyway, it made me smile, and so relieved that I took your class and had all those theorists drilled in my head. It is so important to have a game plan because students are going to test you from day one (or two, in my case!).

The teacher candidates’ responses from the first group are shown in the Tables 1 and 2. Table 1 shows the first six questions, which identify the participants’ demographic information: gender, age, year graduated, teaching level (EL, MS, HS), current position (student, student teacher, teacher, not teaching), and number of teaching opportunities. The characteristics indicate a traditional university of undergraduate students majoring in education. Table 2 shows the percentage of respondents who selected a response of five or higher (on a scale of 1-10), with 10 being “Strongly Agree.”

Teacher candidates indicated the course concepts learned were useful in their overall success as a teacher, as shown in Table 2. The preliminary survey results suggest a strong positive connection between the Classroom Management course content learned and application of the strategies to classroom teaching with 90% of respondents reporting the course was an integral component of the professional education program. Ninety percent of the survey participants also reported the Wong (2009) textbook was valuable (question 16), the skills learned for the first day of class helped them set the tone for the classroom environment (question 22), and they learned how to encourage positive behaviors (question 24). More than 80% of the respondents stated they applied the philosophical foundations developed and honed as well as techniques and strategies learned throughout the course in managing classroom behavior (questions 10 & 17). About 75% of respondents stated they gained confidence (question 12), and about 66% to 75% communicate effectively as a result of the completing the classroom management course (questions 18-21).

The responses showed candidates felt some areas of the course were not as important as others in preparing them to successfully teach. Only about half of the respondents stated their perceptions about student teaching changed significantly (question 11), which wasn’t surprising because they already know the expectations. Only 60% of the respondents stated the course content gave them insight for successfully completing the Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA, 2013), which is completed during student teaching (question 27). The candidates completed an assignment during the course in which specific classroom management strategies learned were effectively implemented in each of the edTPA (2013) Tasks. As previously stated, not all respondents have completed their student teaching; therefore, not all have completed the edTPA (2013). We expect the positive responses to increase as candidates who completed the course in the second year show the benefits of instructors’ experience teaching the course, more emphasis on field experiences, and making course modifications based on candidate feedback.

Discussion and Implications

The trend that teacher candidates are reporting shows they are effectively implementing the strategies learned in the classroom management course as they begin teaching in the classroom. Their disposition changed and their confidence increased as a result the curricular content covered, contributing to their overall success as a teacher. Teacher candidates discovered that classroom management involves building a community of learners in their classroom by bonding with and supporting their students, rather than using discipline, coercion, and punishment to achieve optimal behavior. Ongoing survey dissemination and analysis will further generalize these results. Offering candidates the pre-course survey will provide valuable insight into how their perceptions changed as a result of the aptitude they gained. The research discusses the importance of classroom management skills for beginning teachers, and many university teacher preparation programs require their teacher candidates to learn and implement management strategies as part of their foundational coursework. Classroom management expertise necessitates effective teaching and learning in K-12 classrooms, thereby increasing teacher success and personal satisfaction, which concomitantly has a significant positive impact on their students’ well-being and academic achievement.

The findings are summarized in the following list:

  1. Candidates use the strategies learned in the classroom management course effectively when teaching students.
  2. Candidates find the resources provided useful and practical in the classroom.
  3. Candidates’ perceptions about how to effectively manage a classroom changed as a result of the course.
  4. Candidates gained confidence in their ability to plan and implement instruction based on the context of their classroom.
  5. Candidates learned skills to manage undesirable behaviors and promote positive behavior in their classroom.

The survey results suggest a strong positive connection between the Classroom Management course content learned and application of the strategies to classroom teaching (questions 7-10, 13-17, and 22-24, 26). We presented these findings at the NWATE Conference in June, 2014. Most participants were university or college instructors, some of whom offer a classroom management course, and some who don’t. There was keen interest in developing and implementing cogent, research-based coursework for pre-service teachers as an integral component of teacher preparation programs. We would like to continue this research study through 2014-15 to ascertain cogent trends and strategies that can be extrapolated to undergird the basis of university classroom management courses.

 

References

Algozzine, B., Wang, C., & Violette, A. S. (2011). Reexamining the relationship between academic achievement and social behavior. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 13(1), 3-16.

Chambers, S. M. & Hardy, J. C. (2005). Length of time in student teaching: Effects on classroom control orientation and self-efficacy beliefs. Educational Research Quarterly, 28(3), 3-9.

Charles, C. M. (2014). Building classroom discipline (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Inc.

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R. C., Andrée, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). State of the profession: Study measures status of professional development. Journal of Staff Development, 30(2), 42-50.

Ducharme, J. M. & Shecter, C. (2011). Bridging the gap between clinical and classroom intervention: Keystone approaches for students with challenging behavior. School Psychology Review, 40(2), 257–274.

edTPA. (2013). Teacher performance assessment for Washington. Retrieved from http://edtpa.aacte.com

Emmer, E. T., & Stough, L. M. (2001). Classroom management: A critical part of educational psychology, with implications for teacher education. Educational Psychologist, 36(2), 103-112.

Greenwood, C. R., & Abbot, M. (2001).The research to practice gap in special education. Teacher Education and Special Education, 24, 276-289.

Horner, R. H., Sugai, G., Smolkowski, K., Eber, L., Nakasato, J., Todd, A. W., & Esperanza, J. (2009). A randomized, wait-list controlled effectiveness trial assessing school-wide positive behavior support in elementary schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 11(3), 133-144.

Latham, G. I. (1998). Keys to classroom management. Logan, UT: P & T Ink.

Lee, J., Tice, K., Collins, D., Brown, A., Smith, C., Fox, J. (2012). Assessing student teaching experiences: Teacher candidates’ perceptions of preparedness. Educational Research Quarterly, 36(2), 3-19.

Marchant, M. & Anderson, D. H. (Spring, 2012). Improving social and academic outcomes for all learners through the use of teacher praise. Beyond Behavior, 22-29

Minor, L., Onwuegbuzie, A. J., Witcher, A. E., & James, T. L. (2002). Preservice teachers’ educational beliefs and their perceptions of characteristics of effective teachers. The Journal of Educational Research, 96(2), 116-127.

Sprick, R., Garrison, M., & Howard, L. M. (1998). CHAMPs: A proactive and positive approach to classroom management. Eugene, OR: Pacific Northwest Publishing

Wong, H. K., & Wong, R. T. (2009). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.

Young, K. R., & West, R. P. (2008). Building positive relationships and social skills: A nurturing pedagogy approach. Provo, UT: Positive Behavior Support Initiative, Brigham Young University.

Appendices

Table 1

 Classroom Management Candidates’ Demographics

Question                                                                           % of Highest Response

  1. Gender                                                                                                             71% = Female
  2. Age                                                                                                                   88% = 18-27
  3. Year of Graduation                                                                                            59% = 2014
  4. Current or anticipated teaching grade level                                                      59% = MS/HS
  5. Current position (student, student teacher, teacher, not teaching)                   56% = ST/T
  6. Number of teaching opportunities                                                                     56% = 1-5

 

Table 2

Classroom Management Candidates’ Selected Responses of Five or Higher

 Question                                                                                                                     % Agree

  1. Course provided useful techniques to use…………………………………………………..83
  2. Strategies learned in the course are applied when instructing students………………..83
  3. Course changed perception about effectively managing a classroom………………….73
  4. Philosophical foundations of classroom management are applied when instructing students…………………………………………………………………………………………..80
  5. Course helped in gaining confidence as a teacher………………………………………..70
  6. Perceptions about student teaching changed significantly……………………………….53
  7. Course positively affected personal classroom management skills……………………..80
  8. Course created confidence in ability to plan/implement instruction based on
    learner characteristics & context of school and community……………………………..83
  9. Charles textbook used in course was valuable…………………………………………….70
  10. Wong textbook used in course was valuable……………………………………………….90
  11. Philosophy of classroom management developed in course is applied…………………87
  12. Course prepared how to communicate effectively with students………………………..77
  13. Course prepared how to communicate effectively with parents……………………….. 67
  14. Course prepared how to communicate effectively with colleagues…………………….67
  15. Course prepared how to communicate effectively with administrators…………………67
  16. Skills learned for the “first day of class” are applied to set the tone and the
    classroom environment………………………………………………………………………..90
  17. Plan developed is applied for how to manage undesirable classroom behaviors……..83
  18. Plan developed is applied for how to encourage positive classroom behaviors……….90
  19. Video examples for implementing strategies helped develop personal
    behavior management plan……………………………………………………………………70
  20. Course was extremely important component of overall professional education program…………………………………………………………………………………………..90
  21. Course provided valuable insight for completing a successful edTPA…………………..60

Classroom Management Survey

Please check the appropriate category for each of the questions below:

  1. Gender: Male, Female
  2. Age: 18-22, 23-27, 28-32, 33-37, 38-45, over 45
  3. Year of Anticipated Graduation: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  4. Current Status: CWU student, Student Teacher, Certified Teacher Teaching, or Certified Teacher Not Teaching, None of These Options Apply to Me
  5. Teaching Level: Pre-K, Elementary, Middle School, High School
  6. Number of Teaching Opportunities or Positions: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, more than 15, Not Applicable

For each of the following questions, please select the location on the spectrum that best represents your response. (Scale was provided under each question).

             Strongly Disagree                                                                                      Strongly Agree

1           2           3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

7. The classroom management course provided useful techniques for me to use.
8. I apply the strategies learned in the course when instructing students.
9. This classroom management course changed my perception about effectively managing a classroom.
10. I apply the philosophical foundations of classroom management that were learned when instructing students.
11. This classroom management course helped me gain confidence as a teacher.
12. By completing this course, my perceptions about student teaching changed significantly.
13. This course positively affected my own classroom management skills.
14. Because of the content of this course I am confident in my ability to plan and implement instruction based on learner characteristics and the context of the school and community.
15. The research-based textbook used in this course, authored by Charles, was valuable to me.
16. The research-based textbook used in this course, authored by Wong, was valuable to me.
17. I apply the philosophy of classroom management that I developed in this course.
18. Because of this course, I am better prepared to communicate effectively with students.
19. Because of this course, I am better prepared to communicate effectively with parents.
20. Because of this course, I am better prepared to communicate effectively with colleagues.
21. Because of this course, I am better prepared to communicate effectively with administrators.
22. I apply the skills learned in this course for the “first day of class” to set the tone and classroom environment.
23. I apply the plan I developed in this course for how to manage undesirable classroom behaviors.
24. I apply the plan I developed in this course for how to encourage positive classroom behaviors.
25. The video examples for implementing classroom management strategies helped me develop my own classroom behavior management plan.
26. This course was an extremely important component of the overall professional education program.
27. This course provided valuable insight for completing a successful edTPA.

Idaho Teacher’s Attitudes about Child Abuse and/or Neglect: Trends and Implications of Reporting

ARTICLE PDF

   Idaho Teacher’s Attitudes about Child Abuse and/or Neglect: Trends and Implications of Reporting      

Leah Meredith Huff

Master’s Student

leah.huff@yotes.collegeofidaho.edu

The College of Idaho

Abstract This mixed-methods study investigated problems impeding teachers and, in particular, Idaho elementary teachers in fulfilling their responsibility to report child abuse and neglect (CAN) as mandated by law. Teachers were asked about their desires to know more about child protective services (CPS) and its court process. Quantitative data was gathered from a sample of 25 teachers using an adapted version of Teachers and Child Abuse Questionnaire (ECAQ). Qualitative data was obtained from teacher interviews. Both sets of data were analyzed separately and compared providing triangulation. Teachers reported uncertainty about education adequacy pertaining to CAN. Teachers wanted to know more about CPS and the CPS court process to help fulfill their mandated duties. The researcher’s recommendations include building relationships between CASA personnel and educators to assist teachers’ self-confidence in reporting cases of CAN. Federal intervention should give consistent educational guidelines within CAN laws to improve CAN education regarding teacher’s mandated duties.                              

Overview of Study In the United States in 2012, there was a nationally estimated rate of 686,000 victims of child abuse and neglect resulting in approximately 1,640 child fatalities (National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect [NDACAN], 2012). During 2013-2014, I conducted a mixed-methods study to discover why Idaho teachers were struggling to fulfill their duties as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect (CAN). The following four research questions guided my study:

  1. How adequate is teacher pre-service and post-service training for helping make teachers aware of mandated reporting of CAN?
  2. What complications impact teacher preparedness and willingness to report suspected cases of CAN?
  3. What professional supports do teachers feel are needed regarding CAN?
  4. What further information do teachers want about Child Protection Services (CPS) and the court system’s procedures that children and families must go through?

During the quantitative part of the study, I used an adapted version of the Teachers and Child abuse Questionnaire (ECAQ), which had been previously used in other child abuse studies (Kenny, 2001; Kenny 2004) to survey twenty-five elementary school teachers from three elementary schools in southwest Idaho. I organized survey responses according to my four research questions. During the qualitative part of my research, I conducted, recorded, and transcribed three interviews. The three teachers I interviewed were a purposeful sample; one teacher was interviewed from each of the three elementary schools, additionally, the interviewees were chosen according to the responses from the ECAQ survey. I performed cross-case coding between the interviews to find the common interview themes. Common interview themes and survey themes were analyzed and compared. I called the themes established between both sets of data recurring themes. These recurring themes generated the findings for this study.

Study’s Findings

The purpose of this article is to better make sense of my research study. Specifically, I wish to explore what the five findings of this study (based upon the recurring themes) suggest for future practice. The five findings from my research are listed below:

  1. Professional obligations: Participants cared about protecting their students from CAN and believed it was their professional obligation to report such cases.
  2. Education Adequacy: Participants felt unsure about their pre-service and post-service training adequacy about how to deal with CAN a teacher. Participants desired further education and support about CAN and how to deal with it as a teacher.
  3. Reporting Policies: Participants believed they were correctly fulfilling their mandated duties to report CAN by following their school’s reporting policies. However, the reporting policies for the three schools studied did not allow the participants to self-report cases of suspected CAN.
  4. Contact with CPS system: Participants contact with social workers was rare.
  5. CPS Knowledge: Participants wanted to know more about the CPS system and its court process.

Explanation of Findings What do the five findings of this study mean, and what questions and concerns do they raise? How do they coincide with the past research concerning teachers reporting CAN? Finding #1. Professional Obligations: Teachers in this study were accurate in believing they are professionally obligated to report suspected cases of CAN. Starting in 1974, The Child Abuse and Treatment Act, Law 93-247 (CAPTA) was the law that helped paved the way for educators to become mandatory reporters of CAN in all fifty states (Kenny, 2001; Bruno & Hinkelman, 2008; Crosson-Tower, 2003). Furthermore, educational personnel have played a pivotal role in recognizing and preventing future episodes of abuse. Teachers may spend as much or perhaps even more time with a child than the actual parent or guardian, allowing them to build strong teacher-student relationships, which gives students support and guidance, while also being valuable advocates for elementary children who are especially vulnerable to abuse (Riggs & Evans, 1979; Hinkelman & Bruno, 2008; Abrahams, Casey & Daro, 1992). Knowing the critical role teachers play for abused and/or neglected elementary aged children, it is important that teachers know what to do if they suspect CAN; and, to suspect CAN, teachers must be educated about their role as mandated reporters of CAN. Finding #2. Education Adequacy: The participants in this study did not feel adequately prepared to deal with cases of CAN and wanted to learn about how to handle CAN as a teacher. This finding is not uncommon. A common research theme is that, although school professionals commonly report child maltreatment, they lack enough knowledge about CAN to help identify and report potential cases (Levin, 1983; Haase & Kempe, 1990; Abrahams, Casey & Daro, 1992; Kenny 2001; Zellman & Fair, 2002; Kenny, 2004; Webster, O’Toole, O’Toole & Lucal, 2005; Hinkelman & Bruno, 2008; McKee & Dillenburger, 2012; Krase, 2013). Numerous studies have found that most teachers are unaware of the indications of specific types of abuse especially because some symptoms and indications can be subtle (Hinkelman & Bruno, 2008; Crosson-Tower, 2003). Other studies indicate that teachers may ignore symptoms or simply not understand that the symptom “i.e., the very quiet child” is masking deeper abuse (2008). The lack of education that teachers are receiving about their duties to report CAN is worrisome and the consequences can be catastrophic for an abused and/or neglected child. For example, The Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4) (Sedlak et al., 2010) (a congressionally mandated periodic research report) found that, although school personnel are known to make the most reports of CAN, reports made by schools receive the fewest CPS investigations. The NIS-4 (2010) stated that these low investigation rates might be explained from some school policies barring teachers from making direct reports to CPS. Conversely, it is also known that when teachers are allowed to make direct reports to CPS agencies, they account for the fewest reports made to CPS agencies compared to staff of other agencies (e.g. health agencies and law enforcement) (2010). It is clear that teachers are struggling with aspects of reporting cases of CAN: as a result of teachers not reporting suspected cases of CAN in a sufficient manner, abused and/or neglected children may never receive the help they desperately need. Finding #3. Reporting Policies: Most teachers in this study did not self-report suspected cases of CAN as Idaho CAN law mandates (“Idaho Statutes 16-1605”) and seemed unsure what reporting suspected CAN entailed. Why might these teachers not have known or understood what Idaho law mandates? Haase and Kempe (1990) explained, there is a lot of “legal confusion” (p. 261), especially when it comes to knowing when and how to report CAN. They also noted a lack of “Clear, written procedures or guidelines within the schools system for reporting” (p. 261). These ambiguities in CAN state’s laws can cause confusions about teacher’s legal obligations (Haase & Kempe, 1990; Foreman & Bernet, 2000, p. 190). My study suggests that teachers might unknowingly be acting in opposition to the law when reporting suspected cases of CAN. Teachers who fail to self-report cases of CAN have been a concern discussed by other researchers in the past (Kenny, 2001; Kenny, 2004; Alvarez et al., 2005, Abrahams et al., 1992; Sedlak et al., 2010). Barring teachers from self-reporting CAN has dire consequences. Kenny (2001) and Abrahams (et al., 1992) explained that, if teachers make their reports to other school personnel, such as counselors, nurses, or principals and fail to directly report to CPS agencies and/or law enforcement, many cases go unreported and/or not able to be investigated. Such a policy may continue to place a child at risk for further CAN. My findings suggest the importance of noting that procedures that bar teachers from making direct reports to CPS might be in opposition to states’ CAN mandated reporting laws and hinder the ability of CPS and law enforcement agencies to initiate investigations of reports of suspected CAN. Finding #4 & Finding #5. Contact with the CPS and Knowledge about the CPS system: Although participants had little to no contact with social workers, the majority felt it was important to learn more about the CPS process and its court system. Little to no attention has been given to teachers and the idea that they should obtain knowledge about the CPS court system. Many education programs are designed to help teachers increase reporting cases of CAN and focus on obtaining knowledge about the symptoms abused children show (Yanowitz, Monte & Tribble, 2003). Should teachers know about the CPS court process? Crosson-Tower (2003) wrote the manual titled The Role of Educators in Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect. This document is alone in detailing information for educators about what happens once a report is made to CPS. It also explains that some “educators may be asked to appear in court as witnesses” (p. 36). The manual then gives information known as “tips” for the educator to adhere to when going to court and explains that notes can be subpoenaed for a CPS court system. These “tips” and information may help a teacher navigate the critical features of the CPS court system that they may find themselves part of. However, recommendations from recent research state that teachers and CPS workers should build working relationships to help teachers understand their mandated duties to report CAN and create the needed rapport between both professionals (Sedlak et al., 2010; Haase & Kempe, 1990; Alvarez, Kenny, Donohue, & Carpin, 2004; Sinanan, 2011). Additionally, working relationships between teachers and CPS workers are critical to develop because teachers have been known to believe that CPS does not help abused and/or neglected children (Krase, 2013). Distrust between these two professionals have been known to arise from the “mysterious elements” teachers have been said to have felt surrounding the disappearance and lack of knowledge about the cases they reported (Haase & Kempe, 1990; Crosson-Tower, 2003; Alvarez et al., 2004). Having little to no contact with CPS workers may impede ways for teachers to build trust with CPS workers.

Implications of Findings

The following section presents four recommendations derived from the five study findings already discussed.

  1. Consistent Educational Guidelines: Findings from my study suggest that most teachers want to fulfill their role as mandated reporters of CAN, but lack the education to properly do so. A lack of awareness exists regarding the issue that teachers are receiving little to no education about their mandated duties as reporters of CAN. The federal government must become more aware that most states have CAN laws that lack a specific law mandating teachers to be given the proper resources to be able to follow the law; no federal law makes education about CAN laws mandatory.

My research compels me to believe the federal government should give education requirements for all fifty states to follow. These education requirements should give teachers the information needed to properly fulfill their mandated duties to report CAN. Education requirements within every state’s CAN laws would create fewer ambiguities and more knowledge about teacher duties as reporters of CAN.

  1. School Districts Evaluating School Policies: Past research concluded that educational personnel seemed unknowledgeable about reporting procedures (Abrahams et al., 1992; Kenny, 2001; Kenny, 2004; Levin, 1983, Dillenburger & Mckee, 2012) and school policies surrounding them might not be in compliance with state and federal reporting laws (i.e. not letting a teacher self-report a case of CAN) (Kenny, 2001; Alvarez et al., 2005; Sinanan, 2011). Because teachers are mandated reporters of CAN at the state and federal level in the United States, lacking knowledge of the legal faultiness reporting procedures within in their schools may practice puts teachers at a disadvantage. The federal government should require school districts to evaluate individual school policies regarding reporting CAN in their districts and make sure they accord to their state’s CAN laws.
  2. Teacher Education with CASA and CPS Workers: Teachers in my study felt unsure and undecided about the adequacy level of their CAN training; specifically, they did not know whether it prepared them to report CAN as educators. Such uncertainty with their preparedness to report cases of CAN is worrisome in light of past research that found a positive relationship between teachers having higher self-confidence levels and having better abilities to report potential cases of CAN (Walsh, Farrell, Schweitzer & Bridgestock, 2005; Kenny 2004; Yanowitz et al., 2003).

Teachers may want to report cases of CAN, but obstacles such as the lack of education about CAN laws and reporting CAN and school policies barring staff from making direct reports of CAN leave teachers underperforming at the advocacy levels they wish to and as mandated by federal and state laws. I have come to believe that all undergraduate colleges should educate soon-to-be teachers about the warning signs of CAN. Undergraduate programs must focus on teaching educators about the state and federal laws concerning CAN they must adhere and how to handle suspected cases of CAN. I also believe undergraduate programs should create working relationships with local CPS workers (Hinkelman & Bruno, 2008; Sedlak et al., 2010) and build stronger relationships between teachers and CPS workers during undergraduate years. Furthermore, the growing distrust between the CPS system and teachers might be prevented if educators built relationships with the CASA program. Both professionals have one unique duty that sets them apart from other professionals: to advocate for what is in the best interest of the child (About Us. – CASA for Children, n.d.). Therefore, teachers and CASA workers may relate to and perhaps trust each other more than an educator and CPS worker may. Support from a CASA to an educator can bring teachers a sense of comfort about the CPS system, which may help them gain the confidence needed to report more cases of CAN. The school district also plays an important role between building working relationships with local CPS workers and teachers (Sedlak et al., 2010; Hinkelman & Bruno, 2008). Most study participants wanted more education and support about CAN. School districts must become aware of the increasing need for relationships between CPS workers and other such professionals to develop trust and education that their district’s need to report more cases of CAN. A professional development day could include CASA and CPS representatives and create a safe environment where teachers ask important questions that have been revealed only through practice. It is crucial that school districts provide resources to teachers by giving them annual updates about the ever-changing CPS system and their mandated duties as reporters of CAN.

  1. Teacher Training Programs Incorporating the CPS System and its Court Process: Teachers in my study wanted to know more about the CPS system and its court process. Teachers have a professional duty to know how they can support their student during a court process and be given information about the role they may play during a CPS court process (Crosson-Tower, 2003).

Additionally, because of the inadequacy of knowledge teachers acquire about the signs of CAN (McIntyre, 1990; Abrahams et al., 1992; Tite, 1994; Kenny, 2001; Kenny, 2004), confidence issues existing about reporting cases of CAN (Yaniowitz et al., 2003; Goldman, 2007; McKee & Dillenburger, 2012), the legal ambiguities teachers are facing when reporting suspected cases of CAN (Levin, 1983; Haase & Kempe, 1990; Abrahams et al., 1992; Foreman & Bernet, 2000; Kenny, 2001; Kenny, 2004; Goldman, 2007; Sinanan, 2011), and confidentiality laws and policies that usually surround follow-up of reported cases of CAN (Haase & Kempe, 1990; Crosson-Tower, 2003; Alvarez et al., 2004), it becomes easier to see why many teachers are experiencing distrust for the CPS system. However, such distrust for the CPS system may dwindle if the CPS system were not a mysterious entity for most educators as it currently is (Haase & Kempe, 1990; Crosson-Tower, 2003; Alvarez et al., 2004). Teachers maintaining distrust for the CPS system is a serious dilemma. Teachers will forever be on the front lines of reporting suspected CAN because of the strong teacher-student relationships that form within their classrooms. Consequently, teachers often acquire firsthand knowledge and observations of the suspected CAN of their students (Riggs & Evans, 1979; Hinkelman & Bruno, 2008; Abrahams, et al., 1992), conceivably making them one of the most influential advocates for their students enduring suspected CAN. Such powerful advocates for abused and/or neglected children must be better heard and incorporated within a CPS court process instead of feeling mystified by it. Once training programs for teachers include information about their sometimes essential and professional involvement with the CPS system/court process, teachers may become more empowered and motivated to learn how to use their direct knowledge and observations about suspected CAN and develop into more involved and valuable members of a child’s advocacy team during a CPS court process. Training programs for teachers learning about their mandated duties to report CAN would benefit teachers, CPS workers, the CPS system/court process, and students by including information about the CPS system and its court process that their students and teachers themselves might become a part of.

Summary

If teachers were equipped with knowledge to fulfill their roles as mandated reporters of CAN, they could better protect and advocate for students who might be suffering from CAN. Particular attention should be paid to this study’s recommendations detailing fostering relationships between personnel at CASA programs and teachers and establishing training programs for teachers that incorporates information about the CPS system/court system process that teachers may find themselves and their students involved in. Findings from my study strongly suggest that the federal government create consistent and firm educational guidelines every state must follow and incorporate into the CAN laws. Only then would teachers find the help and support they deserve to have to fulfill their mandated duties as reporters of CAN.                                        

References

About Us. (n.d.). – CASA for Children – National CASA. Retrieved June 20, 2014, from http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.5301303/k.6FB1/About_Us__CASA_for_Children.htm Abrahams, N.,Casey, K., & Daro, D. (1992). Teachers’ Knowledge, Attitudes, And Beliefs About Child Abuse And Its Prevention. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16(2), 229-238.

Alvarez, K., Kenny, M., Donohue, B., & Carpin, K. (2004). Why Are Professionals Failing To Initiate Mandated Reports Of Child Maltreatment, And Are There Any Empirically Based Training Programs To Assist Professionals In The Reporting Process? Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9(5), 563-578.

Alvarez, K. M., Donohue, B., Kenny, M. C., Cavanagh, N., & Romero, V. (2005). The process and consequences of reporting child maltreatment: A brief overview for professionals in the mental health field. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10(3), 311-331. Crosson-Tower, C. (2003). The role of educators in preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Foreman, T., & Bernet, W. (2000). A Misunderstanding Regarding the Duty to Report Suspected Abuse. Child Maltreatment, 5(2), 190-196. Goldman, J., Wolcott, D., & Kennedy, K. Y. (2003). A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice. A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice Jill Goldman Marsha K. Salus with Deborah Wolcott Kristie Y. Kennedy 2003 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration ,114.

Haase, C. C., & Kempe, R. S. (1990). The School and Protective Services. Education and Urban Society, 22(3), 258-269. Hinkelman, L. & Bruno. M (2008). Identification And Reporting Of Child Sexual Abuse: The Role Of Elementary School Professionals. The Elementary School Journal, 108(5), 376-391. Idaho Statutes 16-1605. (n.d.). Statutes. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title16/T16CH16SECT16-1614.htm

Kenny, M. C. (2001). Child abuse reporting: teachers’ perceived deterrents. Child Abuse & Neglect, 25(1), 81-92.

Kenny, M. C. (2004). Teachers’ Attitudes Toward And Knowledge Of Child Maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 28(12), 1311-1319.

Krase, K. S. (2013). Educational Personnel as Reporters of Suspected Child Maltreatment. Children & Schools, 35(3), 147-154.

Levin, P. G. (1983). Teachers’ perceptions, attitudes, and reporting of child abuse/neglect. Child Welfare: Journal of Policy, Practice, and Program, 62(1), 14-20.

McIntyre, T. (1990). The Teacher’s Role in Cases of Suspected Child Abuse. Education and Urban Society, 22(3), 300-306.

Mckee, B. E., & Dillenburger, K. (2012). Effectiveness of child protection training for pre-service early childhood educators. International Journal of Educational Research, 53, 348-359. National Data Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. (2012). User guide. Retrieved from http://www.ndacan.cornell.edu/

Riggs, R. S., & Evans, D. W. (1979). Child Abuse Prevention -Implementation Within the Curriculum. Journal of School Health, 49(5), 255-259.

Sedlak, A.J., Mettenberg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., & Spencer, L. (2010). Fourth national incidence study of child abuse and neglect (NIS-4). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sinanan, A. N. (2011). Bridging the Gap of Teacher Education about Child Abuse. Educational Foundations, 25, 59-73.

Tite, R. (1994). Detecting the symptoms of child abuse: Classroom complications.. Canadian Journal of Education, 19(1), 1-14.

Walsh, K., Farrell, A. M., Schweitzer, R., & Bridgstock, R. S. (2005). Critical factors in teachers’ detecting and reporting child abuse and neglect: implications for practice : a project funded by the Abused Child Trust. Kelvin Grove, Qld.: Queensland University of Technology.

Webster, S. W., O’Toole, R., O’Toole, A. W., & Lucal, B. (2005). Overreporting And Underreporting Of Child Abuse: Teachers’ Use Of Professional Discretion. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29(11), 1281-1296.

Yanowitz, K. L., Monte, E., & Tribble, J. R. (2003). Teachers’ beliefs about the effects of child abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27(5), 483-488.

Zellman, G., & Fair, C. (2002). Preventing and reporting abuse.. the APSAC handbook on Child Maltreatment, 0, 449-475.

Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes and Beliefs Towards Different Types of Bullying and The Likelihood They Will Intervene

ARTICLE PDF

Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes and Beliefs Towards Different Types of Bullying and The Likelihood They Will Intervene

 

 

 

 

Jennifer R. Banas, MPH, MSEd, EdD

Assistant Professor

Northeastern Illinois University

5500 N. St. Louis Ave

HPERA Department

5500 North St. Louis

Chicago, IL 60625

j-banas@neiu.edu

Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes and Beliefs Towards Different Types of Bullying and The Likelihood They Will Intervene

Abstract

To increase the likelihood a preservice teacher would intervene into a bullying situation, it is necessary to understand their attitudes towards and beliefs about different types of bullying. Results from this study indicate preservice teachers respond to different types of bullying in different ways. They are more likely to rate bullying directed towards one’s sexual orientation as serious and important in which to intervene; however, compared to other types, they are more likely to intervene into physical bullying. The attitudes and beliefs that most greatly predicted the likelihood of intervention included empathy towards the victim, believing it was important to intervene, and having the self-efficacy to do so. Suggestions for how professional preparation programs can use this information to design learning experiences that better prepare preservice teachers’ and increase the likelihood they would intervene into bullying are shared.

 

Keywords: preservice teachers, bullying, bullying intervention and prevention, attitudes and beliefs


Introduction

Bullying is an unfortunate occurrence in schools nationwide. A survey of 5,064 teachers and educational support staff revealed 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% at least twice per week (Bradshaw, Waasdorp, O’Brennan, & Gulemetova, 2011). Other surveys revealed 20% percent of high school students and 37% of sixth grader students were bullied within the last 12 months (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010; Robers, Kemp, Truman, & Snyder, 2013). Also, 26% of elementary school students heard others make homophobic bullying remarks (GLSEN & Harris Interactive, 2012).

Bullying is not without consequences. Swearer, Espelage, Vaillaincourt, and Hymel (2010) cite short- and long-term complications for bullies and victims including academic problems, psychological issues, and social relational problems. Victimization is linked to illness, school avoidance, poor academic performance, suicide ideation, and long-term difficulties with self-esteem, anxiety, and depression (McDougall, Vaillancourt, & Hymel, 2009). Being a witness to bullying is associated with damaged relationships, social mistrust, and anxiety (Carney, Jacob, & Hazler, 2011).

Making an impact on bullying requires making an impact on future teachers. In the current study, I investigated preservice teachers’ attitudes towards and beliefs about different types of bullying situations and the likelihood they would intervene. I also studied the relationship between attitudes and beliefs with likelihood of intervention. As a teacher educator, my hope is this research will help professional preparation programs design learning experiences that influence the likelihood a preservice teacher would intervene into or work towards the prevention of bullying in a future school setting.

 

Literature Review

Bullying Defined

Bullying is “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated” (Gladden, Vivolo-Kantor, Hamburger, & Lumpkin, 2014, p. 7). Direct bullying is aggressive behavior that occurs in the presence of the target. Conversely, indirect bullying is directed at a target not present. Types of bullying include physical, verbal, and relational. Physical bullying includes behaviors such a punching, pushing, tripping, and spitting. Verbal bullying includes communication such as threats, taunting, name-calling, offensive hand gestures, or degrading notes and electronic messages. Relational bullying includes behaviors intended to harm relationships or reputation by way of ignoring, isolating, or exclusion from activities (Gladden et al., 2014).

Teachers intervening into bullying

Teachers play a pivotal role in the prevention of bullying (Bauman & DelRio, 2005). Frey, Jones, Hirschstein, and Edstrom (2011) found direct links between teachers’ empathy and assertiveness behaviors and students’ responses to bullying. When teachers intervened, students were less likely to endorse the bullying. Teachers who quickly respond to bullying send a message that bullying is unacceptable, thus creating an anti-bullying environment (Doll, Song, Champion, & Jones, 2011). When teachers take the perspective that bullying is just “kids being kids,” higher levels of bullying exist (Holt, Keyes, & Koenig, 2011).

Not all teachers intervene into or work towards the prevention of bullying. Although most school staff are willing to intervene, less than 40% are involved in its prevention (Bradshaw et. al, 2011) and reasons why vary widely (Yoon, Bauman, Choi, & Hutchinson, 2011). Gender (Hirdes, 2010), perceived severity of the situation, empathy towards the victim, efficacy to respond (Boulton, 1997; Yoon, 2004), type of bullying (Yoon & Kerber, 2003), knowledge and skills (Milburn & Palladino, 2012), and lack of administrative support (Meyer, 2008) have been linked to teachers’ response.

Preservice teachers’ knowledge about, attitudes towards, and beliefs about bullying

Preservice teachers’ responses to bullying also vary. Moreover, Bauman and DelRio (2005) contend preservice teachers’ lack of knowledge about bullying may result in ineffective and even harmful interventions. Bauman and Del Rio (2006) and Craig, Henderson, and Murphy (2000) found more preservice teachers took action when bullying was physical as compared to verbal or relational. Also, Craig, Bell, and Leschied (2011) found preservice teachers rated physical bullying more serious than homophobic, relational, or cyber-bullying. Finally, Boulton, Hardcastle, Down, Fowles, and Simmonds (2014), found perceived seriousness, ability to cope, and empathy towards the victim predicted preservice teachers’ likelihood of intervention.

Research Questions

Given the literature, there is value in studying one’s own preservice teachers’ attitudes and beliefs to conduct better matched professional preparation. To that end, my research questions were:

RQ1: Do preservice teachers’ attitudes towards, beliefs about, and intentions to intervene into a bullying situation vary depending on the type of bullying?

RQ2: Do preservice teachers’ attitudes towards and beliefs about a bullying situation predict the likelihood they will intervene? Which attitudes and beliefs predict?

Methods

Participants and Recruitment

With Institutional Review Board approval, participants were a sample of convenience as they were students recruited from one of my courses for three semesters between 2011-2012. The course, Organization and Administration of School Health Programs, is required for preservice teachers working towards their health education endorsement. Participation was voluntary; all participated.

Study Design and Procedures

I administered the survey during the second week of the course. To avoid bias, my colleague provided participants with the survey link while I was out of the room. To maintain confidentiality, participants did not provide names.

Measures

The assessment contained 28 items. Two questions were demographics (age and gender); 24 were the same six questions presented after four different scenarios. In the scenarios, a power imbalance exists between two students and the victims are left feeling angry, miserable, and/or isolated. Each scenario presented a different type of bullying: verbal, verbal but directed towards sexual orientation, relational, and physical. Scenario 1 is identical to one appearing in Bauman, Rigby, and Hoppa (2008); the others were patterned off the first. The scenarios are as follows:

  1. A student is being repeatedly teased and called names by another, more powerful student. The more powerful student has successfully persuaded other students to do the same as much as possible. (Verbal bullying.)
  2. A student is being repeatedly teased and called slang names referring to sexual orientation by another, more powerful student. The more powerful student has successfully persuaded other students to do the same as much as possible. (Verbal bullying – sexual orientation focus.)
  3. A student repeatedly excludes certain other students from both play and classwork group activities. This student, who appears to be perceived as popular, also has successfully persuaded other students to do the same as much as possible. (Relational bullying.)
  4. A student, who appears to have a powerful social influence, repeatedly pushes and trips another student. Sometimes the student threatens to beat up the other student. (Physical bullying.)

After reading each scenario, participants rated their agreement, on a scale of 1 to 7, with attitudinal and belief statements. Questions related to the seriousness of the situation, importance of intervening (i.e. duty), empathy towards the victim, efficacy of intervening, self-efficacy to intervene, and likelihood of intervening (See Appendix). Respectively, the questions made up these six variables: seriousness, duty, empathy, intervention efficacy, self-efficacy, and intervene.

Results

Data Analysis

I used Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) Version 20 to analyze the data. Reliability analysis revealed a Cronbach alpha value of .87 for the attitude, beliefs, and likelihood of intervention questions as a whole. Alpha values for the seriousness, duty, empathy, intervention efficacy, and self-efficacy variables across the four scenarios were .54, .52, .74, .68, and .84, respectively. The alpha value for the likelihood of intervention was .74.

Participants

There were 67 participants. Ages were grouped in 5-year segments. The majority (92.5%) fell into the 18-22 years old (35.8%), 23-27 years old (41.8%), and 28-32 years old (14.9%) brackets. Gender was split fairly even; 56.1% (n=37) were male, 43.3% (n=29) were female, and .6% (n=1) did not indicate. Education levels were high school (38.8%), associate’s (37.3%), bachelor’s (16.4%), master’s (4.5%), and no reply (3%).

Attitudes, Beliefs, and Likelihood of Intervening into Different Situations

I used a one-way, repeated measures (or within subjects) analysis of variance (ANOVA) to explore differences in attitudes, beliefs, and intentions for the different scenarios. There was a significant effect for the type of bullying on seriousness, Wilks’ Lambda = .54, F (3, 64) = 17.90, p < .0005; duty, Wilks’ Lambda = .77, F (3,64) = 6.30, p < .001; empathy, Wilks’ Lambda = .68, F (3, 64) = 10.28, p< .0005; intervention efficacy, Wilks’ Lambda = .48, F (3, 64) = 23.10, p < .0005; and intervene, Wilks’ Lambda = .88, F (3, 64) = 2.70, p = .05. Partial eta-squared values were .46, .28, .33, .52, and .11 respectively. See Table 1 for descriptives.

Using guidelines proposed by Cohen (1988) (.01 = small, .06 = moderate, and .14 = large effect), these results suggest large effect sizes. There was not a significant effect for the type of bullying on self-efficacy. These results suggest the type of bullying did not have an effect on most of the preservice teachers’ attitudes towards, beliefs about, and intentions to intervene into a bullying situation. Because there were statistically significant differences, paired samples t-tests were used to make post hoc comparisons between the scenarios, using the Bonferonni test, for five of the six variables.

Seriousness. I found significant differences between scenario 1 (verbal) and 2 (verbal – sexual orientation focus), scenario 1 and 3 (relational), and scenario 1 and 4 (physical). A scan of mean scores in Table 1 reveals participants rated scenario 2 as more serious than any of the others. This means participants perceived bullying directed towards sexual orientation as the most serious. General verbal bullying was rated lowest.

Duty. I found significant differences between scenario 2 and 3, and scenario 2 and 4. Table 1 reveals participants rated scenario 2 more serious than any other scenario. Relational bullying was rated lowest. This means participants believed it was more important to intervene into bullying that was sexual orientation in nature, compared to relational.

Empathy. I found significant differences between scenario 1 and 4, scenario 3 and 4, and scenario 2 and 3. Table 1 reveals participants rated scenario 4 as the highest and scenario 3 the lowest. This means they would more likely have empathy towards a victim of physical versus relational bullying.

Intervention efficacy. I found significant differences between scenario 1 and 4, scenario 2 and 4, and scenario 3 and 4. Table 1 reveals participants rated scenario 4 as the highest and scenario 1 the lowest. This means participants believed intervening into physical bullying, compared to verbal, would more likely resolve the situation.

Intervene. I found significant differences between scenario 2 and 3, and scenario 3 and 4. Table 1 reveals participants rated scenario 4 the highest and scenario 3 the lowest. This means participants would more likely intervene into physical versus verbal bullying.

Ability of Attitudes and Beliefs to Predict Likelihood of Intervention

I averaged participant responses for each variable across the four scenarios to investigate whether attitudes and beliefs, in general, predicted intentions to intervene. A multiple regression analysis, via the enter method, was conducted. Performing a multiple regression analysis assumes lack of multicollinearity. Multicollinearity exists when more than two predictors correlate very strongly. When this happens, it creates biased estimates between variables. Collinearity diagnostics were performed and did not reveal violations. In accordance with Pallant (2010), tolerance values were high (above .10) and variance inflation factor (VIF) values were low (below 10), both suggesting the likelihood of multicollinearity (and biased estimates) was low. Moreover, bivariate correlation values were below .70, therefore omission of variables was not considered (Pallant, 2010). Correlations appear in Table 2; tolerance and VIF values appear in Table 3.

The regression analysis revealed participants’ attitudes towards and beliefs about different types of bullying situations predicted the likelihood they would intervene. The total variance explained by the model was 56.1%, F = (5, 61) = 15.57, p < .001. Duty (beta = .30, p < .01), empathy (beta = .38, p = .001), and self-efficacy (beta = .31, p = .001) predicted significantly. Seriousness and intervention efficacy did not predict. (See Figure 1 and Table 4) This means participants’ belief that it was important to intervene (i.e. duty), empathy towards the victim, and self-efficacy to intervene influenced whether or not they would intervene. Given the high correlations between these factors, this finding is no surprise. The findings also mean whether intervening will resolve the situation or the seriousness of the situation is not important,

Discussion

Attitudes, Beliefs, and Likelihood of Intervening into Different Situations

Results indicate the preservice teachers reacted differently to different types of bullying. Specifically, they judged it was important to intervene (i.e. their duty) or it was serious when the bullying was verbally directed towards sexual orientation. Conversely, they held empathy towards the victim, believed intervening would make a difference (i.e. intervention efficacy), and indicated they would intervene when bullying was physical.

Findings regarding sexual orientation bullying contrast with previous literature. Perez, Schanding Jr., and Dao (2013) found teachers rated physical bullying related to sexual orientation or gender identity as less serious. Also, teachers were less empathetic towards the victim and less likely to intervene. Similarly, Craig et al. (2011) found preservice teachers rated homophobic bullying less serious compared to physical. Reasons why the current study participants rated this type of bullying as more serious and important in which to intervene were not investigated. Reasons could relate to the diversity of the participant’s university or its urban surroundings. A popular media source recognized the university as one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation. Also, its urban setting might have provided a more supportive environment. Goodenow, Szalacha, and Westheimer (2006) indicate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth in urban communities face less hostile school climates because of the wider array of social niches to which students may belong.

Regarding empathy, intervention efficacy, and likelihood of intervening, participants rated physical bullying the highest. Similarly, Craig et al. (2000) and Duy (2013) found teachers’ indicated greater likelihood to intervene into physical bullying compared to verbal or relational bullying. Likewise, Bauman and DelRio (2006) and Yoon and Kerber (2003) found preservice teachers had less empathy for relational bullying victims and were less likely to intervene into such incidents. These latter results, however, might not reflect the increase in public acceptance, tolerance, in the years since the studies were published.

Ability of Attitudes and Beliefs to Predict Likelihood of Intervention

Results indicate participants’ attitudes towards and beliefs about bullying predict whether or not they are likely to intervene. Of the five variables studied, empathy towards the victim, importance of intervening (i.e. duty), and self-efficacy predicted likelihood to intervene. Seriousness of the situation and intervention efficacy did not predict. Similarly, Yoon (2004) found efficacy and empathy towards the victim predicted teachers’ likelihood to intervene. Also, Craig et al. (2000) found preservice teachers’ empathy predicted likelihood of intervention, a finding that reflects Mehrabian and Epstein’s (1972) seminal research on empathetic tendencies and helping behavior.

Limitations

There are at least three major limitations to the findings in this study. First and foremost, the situations presented in the scenarios were hypothetical; therefore, there may be discrepancies between how a preservice teacher would respond in a real situation. Exposing preservice teachers to real bullying situations via video could be a way to gather data that more closely resembles how they would respond. Second, the participants in this study attend a diverse university in an urban setting. Additional research should compare responses of preservice teachers from different types of settings. Third, the sample size was modest. A larger sample size could potentially reveal different or more accurate results. Despite these limitations, results from the current study reinforce findings in the literature and point to areas in need of attention.

Research into Practice

Previous research and the current study can point professional preparation programs in the right direction when it comes to educating preservice teachers about bullying. Differences in attitudes, beliefs, and likelihood of intervention based on type of bullying, indicate a need for instruction on the damaging effects of bullying, particularly relational bullying, which can be equally or even more damaging (Kawabata, Crick, & Hamaguchi, 2013). Findings also suggest preservice teachers need learning experiences that foster empathy towards individuals involved in bullying, promote the importance of intervening, and develop their self-efficacy to intervene. Specific ways to carry out these experiences are describe next.

Developing empathy.

According to Barrett-Lennard (1959), there are at least four components of empathy: 1) understanding another person’s actions and feelings, 2) wanting to understand another person, 3) being able to communicate that understanding, 4) experiencing what another person feels. Cultivating these components could serve as training goals with preservice teachers.

To develop an understanding of another person and the desire to understand, mentoring-based learning experiences could help. Fresko and Wertheim (2006) found appointing preservice teachers as mentors to at-risk children increased sensitivity towards this population. Professional preparation programs could replicate this training via service learning projects matching preservice teachers with children who are both similar and dissimilar to them and who have been involved in bullying. A similar impact could be made via guest speakers, reading young adult literature in which the character(s) have been bullied (Pytash, 2013), and video game avatars (Chen et al., 2012; Shrier, 2012).

To develop empathy-related communication skills, professional preparation programs could incorporate peer counseling using bullying case scenarios with students from different backgrounds. Among preservice teachers, Lasseigne and Martins (1979) found peer counseling improved empathy and expression of empathy. Arizaga, Bauman, Waldo, and Castellanos (2005) multicultural sensitivity and interpersonal skills training lead to an improvement in empathetic listening skills.

Developing the ability to experience someone’s feelings, the last of the four empathy components, is complicated. In a meta-analysis, Lam, Kolomitro, and Alamparambil, (2011) concluded empathetic behaviors could be expressed with or without the feeling. Also, they were uncertain whether empathy developed in trainings extends to the natural environment. This does not mean empathy training is pointless, but training expectations should be realistic and focus on empathy skills that can be observed.

Cultivating a belief that intervening is important.

To cultivate the belief that intervening into a bullying situation is important, professional preparation must provide a basic overview of bullying. They should also discuss professional and legal obligations to advocate for students’ safety. A basic introduction would cover the definition of bullying, causes, short and long-term consequences, and methods of prevention linked to research. Recognized training programs such as Bully Busters (Horne, Bartolomucci, & Newman-Carlson, 2003), Bully Proofing Your School (Bonds & Stoker, 2000), or the Olweus school-based bullying intervention program (Olweus, 1978) can help. Instruction related to legal obligations should include child protection laws and opportunities to practice processes for reporting abuse (Weimer, 2012).

Cultivating self-efficacy to intervene.

Self-efficacy is influenced by four main sources: 1) mastery experiences, 2) vicarious experiences provided by social models, 3) social persuasion, and 4) somatic and emotional states (Bandura, 1992). This means preservice teachers need opportunities to practice bullying intervention skills, to observe others successfully intervening, to be exposed to positive messages about prevention, and to redirect stress in a positive direction. Benitez, Garcia-Berben, and Fernandez-Cabezas (2009) and Newgent, Higgins, Lounsbery, Behrend, and Keller (2011) found significant improvements in preservice teachers’ self-efficacy, knowledge and skills to confront bullying after receiving intervention strategy training. In my own research, I found authentic learning exercises rooted in professional standards lead to an increase in preservice teachers’ self-efficacy to perform bullying prevention activities Banas (2014). Activities included reviewing and revising bullying policies, designing bullying-related faculty trainings, and planning for an anti-bullying school health council. In all of these studies, role-playing, case studies, and self-reflection were a regular instructional strategy.

Conclusion

Results from this study indicate preservice teachers respond to different types of bullying in different ways. They are more likely to rate a bullying situation directed towards one’s sexual orientation as serious and important in which to intervene; however, they are more likely to intervene into a physical bullying situation. Overall, the attitudes and beliefs that most greatly predicted the likelihood of intervention included empathy towards the victim, believing it was important to intervene, and having the self-efficacy to do so.

Professional preparation programs can play a pivotal role in the reduction of bullying. Findings from this study highlight opportunities for professional preparation programs to positively influence preservice teachers attitudes towards and beliefs about bullying. In end, the goal should be to foster appropriate attitudes and beliefs and to empower preservice teachers to make bullying intervention related decisions based on sufficient, reliable, relevant, and valid information.

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Table 1

Descriptives for Attitudes, Beliefs, and Likelihood of Intervening for Different Situations

Variable n M SD
1 –Seriousness 67 6.25 .86
2 – Seriousness 67 6.73 .59
3 – Seriousness 67 5.67 1.42
4 – Seriousness 67 6.49 .90
1 – Duty 67 6.40 .97
2 – Duty 67 6.58 .80
3 – Duty 67 6.04 1.24
4 – Duty 67 6.07 1.25
1 – Empathy 67 6.36 .93
2 – Empathy 67 6.55 .82
3 – Empathy 67 6.01 1.22
4 – Empathy 67 6.82 .49
1 – Intervention efficacy 67 4.78 1.46
2 – Intervention efficacy 67 5.13 1.55
3 – Intervention efficacy 67 5.30 1.40
4 – Intervention efficacy 67 6.22 1.06
1 – Self-efficacy 67 5.64 1.32
2 – Self-efficacy 67 5.46 1.39
3 – Self-efficacy 67 5.79 1.26
4 – Self-efficacy 67 5.81 1.29
1 – Intervene 67 6.34 .93
2 – Intervene 67 6.39 .83
3 – Intervene 67 5.99 1.31
4 – Intervene 67 6.48 .96

Table note:

1 = verbal bullying scenario

2 = verbal bullying scenario with a sexual orientation focus

3 = relational bullying scenario

4 = physical bullying scenario

Table 2

Correlations

Seriousness Duty Empathy Intervention efficacy Self-efficacy Intervene
Seriousness 1.00 .54** .55** .15 .26** .52**
Duty .54** 1.00 .45** .33** .27* .58**
Empathy .56** .45** 1.00 .20 .10 .58**
Intervention efficacy .15 .33** .20 1.00 .25* .24*
Self-efficacy .26* .27* .10 .25* 1.00 .45**
Intervene .52** .58** .58** .24* .45** 1.00

* p < .05.

**p < .001 level.

Table 3

Linear Regression Results and Collinearity Diagnostics

B SE(B) β t p Tolerance VIF
Seriousness .08 .14 .07 .60 .55 .56 1.77
Duty .33 .12 .30 2.77 .01 .61 1.64
Empathy .42 .12 .38 3.56 .00 .65 1.54
Intervention efficacy .01 .07 .02 .19 .85 .85 1.18
Self-efficacy .22 .06 .31 3.41 .00 .87 1.15

Appendix

Bullying belief and attitude questions

  1. How serious is this bullying situation?

not serious :___1__:___2__:___3__:___4__:___5__:___6__:___7___: very serious

  1. How empathetic do you feel towards the victim?

not empathetic :___1__:___2__:___3__:___4__:___5__:___6__:___7___: very empathetic

  1. Intervening in this situation will resolve the bullying problem.

not likely :___1__:___2__:___3__:___4__:___5__:___6__:___7___: very likely

  1. Intervening in this situation is

not important :___1__:___2__:___3__:___4__:___5__:___6__:___7___: very important

  1. I have the skills to intervene in this bullying situation.

strongly disagree:___1__:___2__:___3__:___4__:___5__:___6__:___7___: strongly agree

  1. How likely are you to intervene into this bullying situation?

not likely :___1__:___2__:___3__:___4__:___5__:___6__:___7___: very likely