The National Network for the Study of Educator Dispositions

 

M. Mark Wasicsko, Dean

College of Education

Eastern Kentucky University

 

Within the next decade over 2.4 million new teachers will be needed in the nation’s schools. The recruitment, selection and preparation of these new educators offer monumental challenges and also the greatest opportunity for improving the quality of education received by our nation’s youth. Recently it has become clear that the quality of the education our children receive depends directly upon the quality of the teachers in our schools. Parents, teachers, educators, and researchers agree that effective teaching happens when the teachers thoroughly know their subjects, have significant teaching skills, and possess dispositions that foster growth and learning in students.  Leave out any one of these and learning which is essential to a productive and meaningful life will not occur. This project is designed to tackle one of the most pressing current problems in the preparation of future educators--defining and measuring the dispositions associated with educator effectiveness and integrating them into the recruitment, admissions and training programs for future educators. To accomplish this, we have created the National Network for the Study of Educator Dispositions (NNSED). 

 

One of the most difficult situations faced by teacher educators is encountering students who clearly lack the dispositions necessary to be successful educators but meet all other requirements. Allowing people to invest years and significant resources preparing for a career for which they discover they are ill suited is a tragedy eclipsed only by the possibility of them entering the profession and negatively impacting kids over the course of a 25 year career. When polled, most teacher educators will admit that they recognized the “dispositional mismatch” of some students very early but did not have the tools to adequately counsel them out of the program or deny them admission. In the ideal setting, people considering a career in education should be provided with an opportunity to make self-assessments about their “dispositional fit” followed by mentoring and guided reflections with education advisors culminating with the requirement that the students provide evidence of meeting the required dispositions prior to formal admission to the program. Ultimately, teacher educators have an ethical responsibility to encourage and admit candidates who have the dispositions that will foster growth and learning in students and not to admit those who cannot demonstrate that they posses the needed dispositions. To address the ethical and legal concerns teacher educators must have a research-based rationale for the dispositions-related outcomes of candidates and graduates as well as a methodology by which to assess these outcomes.  Fortunately, there are both a theoretical basis for describing the dispositions of effective educators and tools by which disposition can be assessed. 

 

Over the course of 40 years, Arthur W. Combs and others investigated the dispositions (Combs called them “perceptions”) of effective helping professionals. These researchers pioneered the use of high-inference research tools for making accurate assessments of dispositions. Numerous studies support the view that effective educators have dispositions about themselves, students, and the task of teaching that can distinguish them from ineffective educators. The current extensive uses of research-based rubrics combined with professional judgments make the rubrics, research and methodology used in perceptual studies most timely. More recently efforts are underway to improve preservice education by using this research and methodology in admission to education and by investigating how dispositions change over the course of preparation programs. In preliminary studies underway at Eastern Kentucky University, it was determined that guided self-reflection using the perceptual materials can help preservice education candidates make accurate self-assessments about their “dispositional fit” for a career in education. Longitudinal studies are underway to determine the predictive validity of the perceptual instrument for success in educator preparation programs and subsequently in the classroom.

 

Beginning in the fall of 2002, NNSED institutions began pilot testing materials developed to assist preservice education students make accurate self-reflections about their dispositional fit for a career in education.  The pilot materials were developed and tested as part of a Careers in Education course designed to assist college students to make decisions regarding education careers.  The materials consist of four assignments including a human relations incident in which students described how they have worked in a teaching or helping situation, a reflection on the student’s favorite teacher, self-instructional training on the perceptual rubrics complemented with class discussions on the dispositions of effective educators, and an in-depth self-reflection that integrates the other assignments and asks students to self-assess their fit for an education career.  Preliminary results from our year-long study indicate that students are able to use the four-assignment sequence to make better decisions regarding their dispositions to be an educator.

 

The materials used in the pilot study and training in the use these materials are available online and in on-ground training at the annual Symposium. If you would like additional information, visit our website at: www.education.eku.edu/dean/nnsed.htm. The website provides access to the following:

 

First, you have access to the course assignments and materials used in our 2002 pilot test in which students were guided through self-assessment of their dispositions.  This website contains two course syllabi (for the introductory and foundations courses) and four assignments used in the introductory class to assist student self-assess their dispositions.

 

Second, the self-instructional manual that provides training in the use of the dispositions instrument is available on the website along with a post-test on which you can test yourself and get a rater reliability score. All you would need to do is fax or email the final page of the post-test to EKU and your score will be returned to you. These materials are available for free at

 

Third, we offer daylong training sessions in the use of the perceptual instrument.  These are conducted on the campus of EKU and can be offered at off-campus sites. See the website for dates, times and locations or email EKU for more information.

 

Fourth, read about what others are doing in the Annual Symposium proceedings on the dispositions website.

 

Join our effort, become a member of NNSED. Being a member of our Network entitles you to use materials created at EKU and elsewhere and to be part of the conversation about educator dispositions. In exchange we ask that you share your ideas, methods and materials as you implement your dispositions programs. To become part of our network just mail or email your name, institutional affiliation and contact information to the address below. And best of all becoming a member is free. 

 

M. Mark Wasicsko, PhD

College of Education

Eastern Kentucky University

421 Lancaster Avenue

Richmond, KY 40475

859 622-3515

mark.wasicsko@eku.edu