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Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy
they receive. There is no system in place to collect data across the myriad teacher preparation programs and pathways in the United States. Thus, we can say little about the characteristics of aspiring teachers, the programs and pathways they follow, or the outcomes of their preparation. We found some information about general elements that most teacher preparation programs share, such as courses in pedagogy and the foundations of education and required fieldwork. We also found that both programs and pathways vary dramatically in their requirements, structure, and timing. Because of the paucity of systematic research as well as the enormous variation in virtually all aspects of teacher preparation programs and pathways, we cannot draw any specific conclusions about the characteristics of current teacher preparation programs.
Researchers have examined particular programs and pathways to look for differences among the people who pursue different routes, as well as differences in the effectiveness of graduates. The findings are slim. Some research suggests that there are differences in the characteristics of teacher candidates who are attracted to different pathways and types of programs. There is also some research that compares the outcomes for graduates of different kinds of programs. However, the distinctions among pathways and programs are not clear-cut, and there is more variation within categories such as “traditional” and “alternative”—and even within the category of master’s degree programs—than there is between the categories.
Conclusion 3-1: There is currently little definitive evidence that particular approaches to teacher preparation yield teachers whose students are more successful than others. Such research is badly needed. We believe that the highest priority research would be studies that examine three critical topics in relation to their ultimate effect on student learning:
comparisons of programs and pathways in terms of their selectivity; their timing (whether teachers complete most of their training before or after becoming a classroom teacher); and their specific components and characteristics (i.e., instruction in subject matter, field experiences);
the effectiveness of various approaches to preparing teachers in classroom management and teaching diverse learners; and
the influence of aspects of program structure, such as the design and timing of field experiences and the integration of teacher preparation coursework with coursework in other university departments.