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Teacher Professional Dispositions: Much Assemblage Required

by Kathryn Strom, Jason Margolis & Nihat Polat - 2019

Background/Context: Despite noted difficulties with defining and assessing teacher dispositions, U.S. state education departments and national accreditation agencies have included dispositions in mandates and standards both for determining teacher quality and for assessing the quality of the teacher preparation programs that certify them. Thus, there remains a significant impetus to specify dispositions to assess, identify what “good” dispositions look like in practice, and determine the best way to measure them.

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, we aim to problematize the construct of “teacher dispositions” through a critical synthesis of literature and a discussion of a rhizomatic perspective to generate a (re)conceptualization that is more closely aligned with the immensely complex nature of teaching and learning. Second, we draw on samples of university-generated teacher disposition assessment tools to provide concrete examples that “put to work” this complex perspective on dispositions.

Research Design: To apply ideas introduced in our rhizomatic framework focused on multiple, dynamic assemblages, we conducted a qualitative textual analysis of a sample of 16 widely available assessment tools used by university-based teacher preparation programs to measure teachers’ professional dispositions.

Findings and Conclusions: Overall, the vast majority of disposition criteria included in the tools reviewed were temporal and relational, seeking to assess the interactions of the teacher candidate amidst a variety of potential circumstances as well as material and discursive factors. This reveals a paradox, however, since, despite their more contextual phrasing, these criteria ultimately seek to assess an individual and are high-stakes only for that teacher. Yet, we suggest that the results of this review may be an indication that the field is moving toward a more multifaceted vision of teaching that can better take into account the dynamic, situated, and relational nature of teaching activity. We also suggest the language accounting for some of the complexity of teaching in the disposition assessment tools we reviewed may be an entry point into a more dynamic, vital materialist vision of the profession.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 11, 2019, p. 1-28
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22813, Date Accessed: 7/25/2021 12:42:01 PM

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About the Author
  • Kathryn Strom
    California State University, East Bay
    E-mail Author
    KATHRYN STROM is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership at California State University, East Bay. Her research focuses on preparing educators to work for social justice in classrooms and school systems and putting posthuman/materialist theories to work in educational research. Recent publications include “Non-linear negotiations: Hybridity and first-year teaching practice” (Teacher Education Quarterly, 2018) and “Clinging to the edge of chaos: The emergence of novice teacher practice” (Teachers College Record, 2018). She is also the co-author of the book Becoming-Teacher: A Rhizomatic Look at First-Year Teaching (Sense, 2017).
  • Jason Margolis
    Duquesne University
    E-mail Author
    JASON MARGOLIS is a Professor of Education at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. His research focuses on the intersection of teacher professional development, teacher leadership, and efforts to change schools. Recent publications include "The missing link in teacher professional development: student presence" (Professional Development in Education, 2017) and "Self study research as a source of professional development within a school of education" (Teaching, Learning, and Enacting of Self-Study Methodology, 2018).
  • Nihat Polat
    Duquesne University
    E-mail Author
    NIHAT POLAT is a professor and associate dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the School of Education at Duquesne University. He has three research tracks. The first track includes his work on second language learning, teaching, and assessment. The second area focuses on teacher education, while the last area concerns the education of immigrant populations and English learners. His most recent work includes a co-authored book entitled Supporting Muslim Students: A Guide to Understanding the Diverse Issues of Today’s Classrooms (2017, Rowman & Littlefield) and “Developing Preservice Teachers’ Self-Efficacy and Knowledge through Online Experiences with English Language Learners” (2018, Language and Education).
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