Cover: Teachers' Preparation Experiences from Coursework to the Classroom

Teachers' Preparation Experiences from Coursework to the Classroom

Findings from the 2022 Learn Together Survey

Published Apr 13, 2023

by Sy Doan, Lisa Berdie

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Research Questions

  1. What resources are available to support teacher candidates as they enter, complete, and transition from a TPP, and how helpful are these resources?
  2. What differences between traditional TPPs and alternative preparation programs make the latter more attractive to prospective teachers?
  3. Do TPPs spend sufficient time on topics and activities that prepare teachers for the classroom?
  4. How did access to a mentor teacher during a teacher's first year of teaching differ?

Policymakers and researchers have dedicated increasing attention to the state of the kindergarten-through-grade 12 (K–12) teacher preparation programs (TPPs) amid concerns over potential teacher and staff shortages in many school districts and states. With many districts and states facing staffing challenges and declining levels of both interest in teaching and attainment of teaching credentials, quick action is needed to restore the health of the K–12 teacher pipeline, and TPPs play a central role in that effort.

In this report, the authors look at responses from a nationally representative sample of 3,606 K–12 teachers who took the 2022 Learn Together Survey (LTS) to see what teachers said about how well their TPPs provided the training, experiences, and resources needed to transition to the classroom.

Specifically, the authors report on teachers' experiences and supports during three phases: (1) entry into their programs; (2) their experiences while in their programs, specifically their access to content expertise and supports for completing their programs; and (3) transition to the teaching workforce. The authors examine teachers' access to such supports and perceptions of their helpfulness, highlighting significant differences among teachers by race or ethnicity and years of experience.

This analysis is meant to describe the preparation experience of the current K–12 teaching workforce and not, necessarily, the current state of K–12 TPPs. With that in mind, the authors discuss the implications of key findings and recommendations to promote a robust teaching workforce.

Key Findings

  • Only one-third of K–12 classroom teachers reported having access to a scholarship or another financial subsidy to attend their TPPs.
  • Likewise, only one-quarter of teachers indicated having access to a student loan forgiveness program.
  • Teachers who opted for alternative certification programs were most likely to cite their lower cost and shorter length relative to traditional TPPs as reasons for selecting them.
  • Most teachers reported wanting their TPPs to spend more time on managing student behavior, addressing social and emotional learning needs, engaging students, and supporting students with disabilities.
  • Teachers were least likely to report wanting more time spent on pedagogical theory or preparing for their licensure exams.
  • Teachers of color were less likely than White teachers to be matched with mentor teachers who shared their racial or ethnic background.
  • Teachers having access to additional supports for transitioning to a classroom (e.g., portfolio preparation) were more likely to report having access to a mentor teacher in their first year of teaching.

Recommendations

  • State and federal policymakers, in potential collaboration with philanthropic leaders, should strive to secure and expand the financial aid offered to teaching candidates, particularly through programs and institutions serving large numbers of teaching candidates of color.
  • One possible mechanism for addressing potential shortcomings in content could be increased collaboration between TPPs, school districts, and professional development providers to build a more-cohesive framework for topics to address during the preparation process, on-the-job professional learning, and continuing education units that teachers pursue after starting their teaching careers.
  • The importance of personal connections throughout all phases of teachers' preparation experience suggests that program developers could see positive returns, particularly regarding program recruitment and alumni hiring, from additional investment in program alumni networks.
  • Additional investments in TPPs at minority-serving institutions, as well as the development of culturally affirming spaces in all TPPs, would be welcome steps toward supporting teacher candidates of color during their preparation experiences.
  • TPPs can potentially play a (larger) role in not only helping teacher candidates acquire the certifications required to become a classroom teacher but also in helping teacher candidates get hired in positions where they are most likely to be supported.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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