cause-and-effect relationships or the research might be intended to identify ways to “move the system forward,” she observed. Fewer studies examine whether a program prepares teachers who can enhance student learning and engagement.
Research papers in this area also often use teacher preparation or induction as a platform for exploring other issues of interest, she added. For example, because there is considerable interest in the issue of teacher identity in science teacher preparation, the results of many studies focus on claims about teacher identity (Wilson, 2011). Fewer studies directly address questions about what makes particular teacher supports effective.
Nevertheless, as several summaries of the literature on teacher preparation have indicated, a few features are associated with relatively more effective teacher preparation:
• requiring teacher candidates to take more courses in their chosen content area;
• requiring a capstone project (e.g., a portfolio of work done in classrooms or a research paper);
• providing teacher candidates with practical coursework to learn specific practices;
• providing teacher candidates with sufficient opportunities to learn about the curriculum in their local district; and
• providing student teaching experience, carefully overseeing that experience, and ensuring that there is congruence between that experience and later teaching assignments.
The issue of what curriculum teachers are prepared to teach is very significant, Wilson added. Among the approximately 1,200 traditional and more than 140 alternative teacher preparation programs currently in operation, she explained, “most do not know what … curriculum … their teacher candidates will be teaching.”1 Thus, new teachers must spend time learning what to do with a curriculum they have never seen.
In light of the lack of a core curriculum for teacher preparation, Wilson noted that “some teacher education researchers have begun focusing on core practices” that are key to effective teaching (see Wilson, 2011, p. 5). In particular, she noted, Windschitl et al. (2010) have identified core practices as those that are used frequently with all students, focus on topics that
1The characterization of teacher preparation programs as traditional and alternative does not reflect a meaningful distinction, Wilson noted, because these categories overlap markedly in practice. However, research on the differences has been helpful in identifying some of the elements that make teacher preparation effective; see National Research Council (2010) on this point.