Exemplar Teachers Share Insights on How They Became Effective

Report CoverHow does the profession support teachers’ development over time? Addressing that question from a collaborative approach, a new report was released yesterday by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at American Institutes for Research and five other national education organizations, including AACTE. The Council of Chief State School Officers hosted a release event featuring a panel discussion by teacher leaders, researchers, and policy makers about the report’s findings.

Insights in the report, From Good to Great: Exemplary Teachers Share Perspectives on Increasing Teacher Effectiveness Across the Career Continuum, are based on an exploratory survey of more than 300 former national and state teachers of the year. This research identifies valuable professional experiences and supports that were essential to these exemplar teachers’ professional growth and effectiveness throughout various stages of their career. Teachers responded to survey questions relevant to four stages of the teacher career continuum, identified as the preservice, novice, career, and teacher leader stages.

By tapping the knowledge of teachers who are not only experienced but recognized as effective, the report provides education leaders and policy makers with relevant information about state-, district-, and school-level professional learning experiences that help move teachers from good to great and from novice to teacher leader.

“The report’s findings recognize that teacher preparation does not end with preservice preparation,” said AACTE President/CEO Sharon P. Robinson. She said the report “offers the type of data that can be utilized by the professional community and policy makers to inform teacher preparation reform.”

Respondents identified several key experiences and supports that helped them improve as they moved across the career continuum. The highest rated preservice experiences were high-quality clinical practice (especially with a strong cooperating teacher), content-specific course work, and applied course work on specific skills. Instruction by professors with recent, relevant PK-12 teaching experience also received a high rating. Least helpful to respondents were instruction from professors with a deep theoretical understanding of instruction, theoretical course work, and support from unions or associations. (Of note: Some 58% of respondents completed their preservice preparation more than 20 years ago, and 65% completed bachelor’s-level programs. Although the specific experiences cited might not reflect most of today’s preparation programs, they do convey a sense of what matters most to teachers.)

The report closes with four “considerations” for policy makers and education leaders:

  1. Support teachers teaching teachers. Respondents said connecting novices with experienced educators helps both parties.
  2. Act on what we know works. Many of the lessons from this survey confirm previous research on effective practices, yet policy makers have done little to incentivize districts or preparation programs to provide them.
  3. Reconsider the dialogue. For example, education master’s programs have become passé in the national narrative, but respondents to this survey cited such ongoing formal courses as beneficial to their professional growth.
  4. Prioritize and improve teacher development on many fronts. Although the report attempted to tease out the most influential factors for teacher development, survey respondents as a whole thought nearly all their supports were valuable—not giving a clear imperative to provide any particular experience.

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Jessica Milton

Associate Director of Education Writing and Research, AACTE