synthesized the most important points for policy makers and teacher educators and highlighted questions that have yet to be answered.

There has been an extraordinary amount of work, from a variety of fields, on questions about the factors that influence the effectiveness of teaching, but this work is only a starting point. There is little firm empirical evidence to support conclusions about the effectiveness of specific approaches to teacher preparation. However, we found no reason to question the recommendations professional societies have made about what is important for teachers to know. Moreover, those recommendations integrate well with the relatively small body of empirical work. The research base is strongest for reading and least strong for science, and our conclusions about preparation in the three fields reflect these differences.

In general, the evidence base supports conclusions about the characteristics it is valuable for teachers to have, but not conclusions about how teacher preparation programs can most effectively develop those characteristics. For all three fields, we conclude that both strong content knowledge (a body of conceptual and factual knowledge) and pedagogical content knowledge (understanding of how learners acquire knowledge in a given subject) are important.

For teachers of reading, it is important to (1) understand that students must master the foundational skills of reading (which include a firm grasp of phonics and comprehension strategies), and (2) possess a range of approaches for helping all students develop this mastery.

In mathematics, it is important for teachers to be able to foster students’ understanding of the core elements of mathematical proficiency (which include conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and capacity for reasoning and problem solving). This capacity requires not only mathematical knowledge, but also understanding of how mathematics learning develops and of the variation in cognitive approaches to mathematical thinking.

In science, the key points are similar to those for mathematics teachers: a grounding in college-level study of the science disciplines suitable to the age groups and subjects they intend to teach; understanding of the objectives for students’ science learning; understanding of the way students develop science proficiency; and command of an array of instructional approaches designed to develop students’ learning of the content, intellectual conventions, and other attributes essential to science proficiency.

This was the picture we found of the evidence relevant to teacher preparation. There is very little systematic research regarding the specific ways teachers of reading, mathematics, and science are currently being prepared that we could use to make comparisons with that picture. The limited information we found does not support conclusions about the current nature and content of teacher preparation programs.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement