So NOT Amazing! Teach For America Corps Members’ Evaluation of the First Semester of Their Teacher Preparation Program
by Heather Carter, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley & Cory Cooper Hansen — 2011
Background: Much of the research related to Teach For America (TFA) is related to the concerns surrounding whether such teachers should assume primary teaching responsibility and whether alternatively certified teachers are effective in the classroom. This research study takes a different approach and moves the conversation into a new domain of evaluating the coursework that TFA teachers undertake to meet state-mandated certification requirements. Based on initial course evaluations at a college of education, TFA students rated their university courses and instructors more critically than did non-TFA students.
Purpose of Study: The purposes of this study were (1) to explore the aforementioned differences in quality ratings of courses and instructors and (2) to examine what items on the student evaluation instrument could be used to identify salient constructs that are most necessary to meet the needs of TFA students.
Setting: This research was conducted at a college of education at a Research I university involved with a TFA partnership through which TFA students earn master’s and certification while teaching in high-needs schools.
Participants: Participants in this study were TFA students who were teaching on an alternative teaching certificate, as compared with traditional students who were enrolled in the same methods courses with the same instructors. Both sets of students were enrolled in their first year of their teacher preparation program.
Research Design: The researchers analyzed the numerical differences between student evaluation scores posted for the same instructors by different groups of students (TFA and traditional students enrolled in the same methods coursework). The researchers also analyzed survey (Likert-type and open-ended) data to evidence and explain differences.
Findings/Results: (1) TFA students did in fact rate their courses and instructors significantly lower than did their non-TFA peers; (2) TFA students, as practicing teachers in charge of real-time classrooms, were more critical consumers, critical in the sense that they needed—or, more appropriately, felt that they needed—coursework that provided just-in-time knowledge; and (3) TFA students did not feel as if they were treated like master’s students. They wanted instructors who modeled practical teaching strategies and did not dumb down course activities, many of which they believed were irrelevant and a waste of time given their immediate needs.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Issues related to certification coursework are highlighted, and included are specific and immediate course improvement recommendations and a call to reexamine educational policies related to alternative teacher certification.
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