Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers

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Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers

Abstract This study explores teacher education programs and preservice teacher dispositions. The study examined the dispositions of two sections of a reading methods course populated by preservice teachers. A dispositions checklist was used to collect data in three phases and from two audiences. The findings of the study strongly suggest that preservice teachers have a positive view of their own dispositions as well as their peers’ dispositions. The study also shows that the perception of preservice teachers’ dispositions of themselves differ greatly from the perception of the instructor of the course.

Implications from this study suggest further development of practices that surface disposition and strategic use of data to improve teacher dispositions within teacher education programs. Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 3 Introduction As the push for effective teachers persists, many teacher education programs, and professional development administrators are left speculating about the part dispositions perform in effective teaching. Johnson & Reinman (2007) sought to explore the definition of dispositions as teacher professional judgment and professional action in the moral/ethical domain of adult cognition.

By assessing beginning teacher judgment both quantitatively and qualitatively, convergence between predicted and observed patterns was found in addition to congruence between teacher judgment and action. Based on the findings of convergence and congruence, implications for teacher education and development are made. They mirror what Jung (2009) found in the study of teacher technology. Jung studied technology teacher dispositions and found education significantly increased competence level and disposition measures.

The study also found there are no statistically significant differences in technology proficiency level in terms of age or gender, female and older students should be strongly encouraged to use technology without fear of failure. Since the major difference in the technology disposition score was due to the male students’ stronger selfconfidence level toward technology, teacher educators should pay attention for female students to be more self-assured through repeated contact to the technology experience.

Jung made the following recommendations: (1)The importance of technology should be stressed frequently and intensely throughout the curriculum. (2) Future teachers should see successful role models continuously for adopting technology. (3) Numerous technology literacy and integration classes, and other forms of technology education need to be included in the curriculum- to make them competent and perceive themselves technologically competent. (4)

Future teachers Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 4 should be exposed to the experiences, which repeatedly connect the value of technology with their career, which enable them to see and to experience the value of using technology and living with technology, which let them frequently use technology for their learning, problem solving, and future instruction. Disparate to the literature on some dispositions, the dispositions cited in the teacher education literature (e. g. , INTASC) have almost no illuminating value and very little significance presently.

This conclusion comes from an examination of the cited teacher dispositions in terms of Underwood’s levels of meaning in the behavioral sciences and shows that these dispositional paradigms are little more than labels for particular behaviors. Although the construct, disposition, in teacher education may be redundant now, it is not entirely inadequate as it may provide a pilot hypothesis for further investigations (Murray, 2007; Windschitl, 2003). The implications from the previous studies provide the groundwork for exploring teacher dispositions. In order to effectively investigate this, a definition for dispositions by our governing bodies must be identified.

“NCATE now defines Professional Dispositions as: Professional attitudes, values, and beliefs demonstrated through both verbal and non-verbal behaviors as educators interact with students, families, colleagues, and communities. These positive behaviors support student learning and development” (2007). Institutions take their own stab at defining dispositions in many ways. The National Association for the Education of Young Children states in order to enact and examine surface disposition: “All teaching staff evaluates and improve their own performance based on ongoing reflection and feedback from supervisors, peers and families.

They add to their knowledge and increase their ability to put knowledge into practice. They develop an Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 5 annual individualized professional development plan with their supervisor and use it to inform their continuous professional development”. The National Association for the Education of Young Children also states that disposition is defined through: “All teaching staff continuously strengthening their leadership skills and relationships with others and works to improve the conditions of children and families within their programs, the local community or region, and beyond.

Teaching staff participate in informal or formal ways in local, state, or regional public-awareness activities related to early care by joining groups, attending meetings, or sharing information with others both at and outside the program (2005)”. The University of West Georgia surfaces disposition through its conceptual framework. “The Conceptual Framework is the rationale and organizing principle that guides the curriculum for Developing Educators for School Improvement.

The Conceptual Framework is grounded in research, knowledge, and experience that describe what undergraduate and graduate candidates should know and apply to foster transformational systemic change. Our Conceptual Framework incorporates the standards and principles established by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC), and Specialized Professional Associations (SPAs).

The following beliefs give credence to our professional commitments—the 10 descriptors used to describe the qualities and dispositions that we feel educators must possess to positively impact school improvement—and provide further delineation of the Conceptual Framework: Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 6 1. Decision Makers: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate knowledge and skills when making decisions that will influence effective transformational systemic change. 2.

Leaders: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate effective leadership skills to initiate and facilitate transformational systemic change. 3. Life Long Learners: We believe that candidates should seek continually to improve their knowledge, disposition, and skills to influence transformational systemic change. 4. Adaptive: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate flexibility and strategic planning appropriate to a wide variety of learners for effective transformational systemic change. 5.

Collaborative: We believe that candidates should be able to develop skills to work effectively with various stakeholders involved in the educational process that will bring about transformational systemic change. 6. Culturally Sensitive: We believe that candidates should be able to develop awareness and understanding of individual and group differences when diagnosing and prescribing transformational systemic change. 7. Empathetic: We believe that candidates should be able to develop the sensitivity for individual, family, and institutional needs that will embrace transformational systemic change.

8. Knowledgeable: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate general knowledge inherent in a liberal arts curriculum, advanced knowledge in content areas, and specific knowledge in professional education for the implementation of transformational systemic change. Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 7 9. Proactive: We believe that candidates should be able to advocate for the removal of barriers that impede life long learning and hinder transformational systemic change. 10.

Reflective: We believe that candidates should be able to demonstrate critical thinking skills in the diagnosis and prescription for transformational systemic change. According to Merriam-Webster (2010), disposition is defined as a “prevailing tendency, mood, or inclination b : temperamental makeup c : the tendency of something to act in a certain manner under given circumstances”. Katz (1985) defines disposition as “the notion of disposition was defined as an attributed characteristic of a teacher, one that summarizes the trend of a teacher’s actions in particular contexts” (p.301).

Now that the definitions for this context have been identified, let us examine what the research says about them. What Does Research Say about Disposition? The arena of literature on dispositions in the field of teacher education is one of great concern. In light of the fact that our professional organizations and accrediting bodies are constructing disposition requirements for graduate and undergraduate levels, universities are now being required to provide concrete evidence as to how dispositions are being addressed.

At the same time, teacher education programs are continuously providing opportunities for reflection in induction, courses, field and clinical placements. If we are considering reflection in action as Schon (1987) defines it, we must marry this concept with teaching dispositions. Within action, reflection has the ability to surface. This study seeks to examine this relationship within the coursework through three points of view: the students themselves, their view of each other and the instructor. In the context of this study, the researcher defines preservice teacher as “a teacher education student working to attain an.

Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 8 undergraduate degree in education or initial certification after receiving a four-year degree in another field”. Disposition Origin “The study of dispositions had its roots in the 1960’s when Arthur W. Combs began a series of studies on the personal perceptions of effective helpers, which he called perceptual characteristics” (p. 96). Teacher education programs over the last 30 years have been implicit and explicit in including them in their conceptual frameworks.

In issues of accreditation, dispositions play an important role in the making of teacher candidates. Similarly, Giovannelli (2003) stated that dispositions serve as an accurate measure of teacher effectiveness. On the other hand, Beyer (2002) stated that accreditation mandates, such as dispositions, emphasize a “technical-rational” approach to teaching and ignore “social, philosophical, and political understandings” needed by educators” (p. 96). The major teacher accrediting bodies have battled with this for a while now.

McKnight (2006) states, “Where as before NCATE held college of education faculty accountable for proving each preservice teacher had mastered certain knowledge and skills, new policies and standards now dictate faculty must generate evidence as to whether the teacher candidate is the right sort of person” (p. 213). National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education has been criticized regarding the dispositions that are highlighted in its’ standards. They should be assessed at the college level, or taught in a manner that would guide the teacher candidate to alter his or her already established dispositions.

Time and opportunity may be in question. There is also the concern of whether dispositions towards virtues such as social justice, caring and honesty, which NCATE standards present as attractive, will fall short of leaving a mark on teacher candidates. McKnight (2006) found, “These dispositions have been reinforced in the general process of schooling, as Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 9 part of the hidden curriculum and academic achievement discourse, according to those who analyze schooling from a critical lens (e. g. Bowers and Flinders 1990; Cherryholmes 1988; Doll 1993; Zeichner 1991, p.214)”.

Presence of Dispositions In order to be aware of the facilitation of dispositions, preservice teachers must be open to interaction and experience in the learning and teaching environment. This would denote presence. Raider-Roth and Rodgers, (2006) defines this “engagement as ‘presence’- a state of alert awareness, receptivity and connectedness to the mental, emotional and physical workings of both the individual and the group in the context of their learning environments and the ability to respond with a considered and compassionate best next step ” (p.266).

The authors also hold that reflective teaching cannot be compacted to a set of behaviors or skills, but is a practice that requires presence. “It requires self-knowledge, trust, relationship and compassion” (p. 266). Research from past studies confirm that the relationship between teacher and student is a cornerstone in student achievement, motivation, engagement and in their ability to depend on what they know (Midgley & Urdan. , 2001; Pianta, 1999; Roeser Eccles & Sameroff. , 2000; Rodgers, in press; Raider-Roth, 2005a,b).

This research illustrated that the quality of these relationships is not a light or surface factor of schooling; it is a critical feature of learning. What allows this relationship to burgeon is intricate and calls upon the mental, physical, emotive and related capital of the teacher”. If this is the case, preservice teachers must be prepared and primed for such a relationship. “Maxine Greene (1973), lifting the semantics of Merleau-Ponty, wrote on ‘wide-awakeness. ’ Through the act of reflection the human being confronts and becomes aware of ‘his relation to his surroundings, his manner of conducting himself with.

Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 10 respect to things and other human beings, the changing perspectives through which the world presents itself to him” (p. 269). Teacher educators anticipate this permeating exchange in the classroom. Schulz (2003) and Heshusius (1995) illustrated a similar position when they articulated the power of listening. Schultz, categorized listening at the crux of what it is to teach, defined listening as “an active, rational, and interpretive process that is focused on creating meaning” (p. 118). As with other thinkers and practitioners mentioned here she saw the teacher’s job as one of attentiveness.

Attending to students in this manner, implies becoming deeply engaged in understanding what a person has to say through words, gesture, and action. “Listening is fundamentally about being in relationship to other and through this relationship supporting change or transformation” (p. 270). Transmission of Dispositions Oftentimes, dispositions are aligned with skills. For example, critical-thinking skills include the ability to create justification for via analysis, evaluation, and interpretation in reasonable, effective, careful, and serious ways, but these skills are powerless if certain dispositions are not in place.

Attending to concepts and enacting these skills requires openminded and prejudice-free dispositions. “Thinking skills rely on disposition to imply knowledge transfer within domains and the impetus to apply those skills (Harpern 1998; Wright 2002)”. There are multiple approaches to this. The author suggests: “Creating learning experiences for students that foster the development of dispositional commitments including incontrovertible and democratic rights of liberty, opportunity, and dissent, as well as freedoms of participation, inquiry, expression, and worship, are mush easier to prescribe than enact.

Developing these dispositions is central to the charge Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 11 of democratic education: creating widening and enlarging experiences (Barton and Levstik, 2004; Dewey, 1916)”. Instead of attempting the edification of dispositions via transmission of instruction, learners can instead appropriately surface them habitually when students have continued exposure to various kinds of learning experiences Reinforcement of Dispositions Battalio and Morin (2004) share that teachers react to reinforcement similarly as students do.

In this case, strategies that engage disposition need to be reinforced. A teacher who meets with accomplishment with a strategy will more than likely use the approach at another opportunity. If the success is a lasting one, then the teacher gets consistent confirmation about the usefulness of his or her practice. Regrettably, the reverse is also true. If a teacher uses a strategy that does not appear to operate, he or she is likely to employ the approach again. Achieving enduring change is often slow and seemingly unresponsive to initial positive interventions.

Teachers need to be capable and ready to interpret preliminary intervention outcomes in the full framework of the student’s milieu while also resisting the temptation to follow subjective appraisals of the intervention’s effectiveness. The authors describe such teachers as having high personal teaching efficacy (PTE; Guskey & Passaro, 1994). This high personal teaching efficacy springs from a candidate who has the opportunity to explore and develop teacher dispositions for such behavior.

Problem with Dispositions Due to concerns with the students’ communication to the instructor, and the nature of the language in that communication, the question of disposition arose. This is based on Schon’s definition of reflection in action. Reflection-in-action is defined by Schon (1987) as the ability of Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 12 professionals to ‘think about what they are doing while they are doing it’. Schon views this as a fundamental skill.

He emphasizes that the only way to manage the ‘indeterminate zones of (professional) practice’ is through the ability to think on your feet, and put into operation previous experience to new situations. Students often equate a score on an assignment of project with a positive teaching disposition. This is not an automatic correlation and is often misinterpreted in various areas; student-instructor communications, classroom discussions, instructional conversations, group assignments, presentations, field placements and lesson planning; as well as the instructional environment at large.

In this particular case, dispositions manifest themselves in all of the previously mentioned areas in this course. Because of a cohort of students in the first block of the program from the previous semester experienced major problems with maintaining the teacher dispositions as indicated by the College of Education’s Conceptual Framework, the instructor soon discovered that a more explicit system for aiding students in surfacing and monitoring their own dispositions was critical. The next semester the instructor taught the course and took a proactive approach to the situation.

She instituted a simple instrument that served a three-pronged purpose: to engage students in assessing themselves, each other, and assisting the instructor in assessing the student’s disposition as well. The review of literature and the instructor’s concerns of developing the “whole” teacher raised an essential question. How and under what conditions do preservice teachers assess dispositions in terms of themselves, each other, and in the eyes of the instructor? Methodology Research Questions 1. To what degree do preservice teachers assess their own dispositions? Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 13

2. To what degree do preservice teachers assess the dispositions of their peers? 3. To what degree does the instructor assess the dispositions of the preservice teachers in the reading methods course? Population The sample consisted of forty-seven students enrolled in two sections of the reading methods course instituted in the first of four methods block courses in the undergraduate teacher education program at the university. There were forty-three females and four males. Thirty-six were early childhood education majors, eight were middle grades education majors and three were special education majors.

The study was voluntary and this population, and its sequences through the methods course blocks, was appropriate for this study because this is the structured progression of the undergraduate teacher education program. Convenience sampling was utilized (Salkind & Rassmussen, 2007). Though convenience sampling has been stated in the literature not to be as strong a method as others, this method is essential to the study because of the nature of the candidates to this institution’s program. If these candidates are to continue in the program as a cohort, monitoring them will be essential to teacher quality and program expectations.

Measurement Measures The Likert Scale is an ordered, one-dimensional scale from which respondents choose one option that that most appropriately supports their view. There are usually between four and seven options. An advantage is that questions used are usually simple to understand and show the way to consistent responses. A disadvantage is that limited options are presented; with which respondents may not completely agree. Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 14 Construction of measures The instrument was a 4-point likert scale with three major response categories: satisfactory, areas of concern, and not observed.

With in the category of satisfactory were two response subcategories: exemplary performance and expected performance. Within the category of areas of concern was below expected performance. Finally, there was the category of not observed. This makes for four responses in total. Exemplary performance was rated as a three, expected performance was rated as a two and below expected performance was rated as a one. The dispositions being assessed were belonging, mastery, independence and generosity. Within the category of belonging were samples of descriptors.

Descriptors included: relates easily, positively, and tactfully with others, is friendly, courteous, and professional; actively seeks opportunities for personal and professional growth; appropriate professional appearance and personal hygiene. Within the category of mastery were samples of descriptors. They were: demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and reflection; exhibits an interest in and a commitment to teaching and learning; responds with a positive attitude when receiving feedback.

Within the category of independence were samples of descriptors. Descriptors included: demonstrates initiative and positive attitude; is responsible, reliable, dependable, & well organized (meets deadlines, reliable, prompt, attends classes, appointments, meetings, etc. ), and demonstrates flexibility and adaptability. Within the category of generosity were samples of descriptors. They were willingly, actively and cooperatively participates in collaborative situations; shares ideas and concerns, and appreciates multiple perspectives.

There was also an open-ended comments section for those responses that students felt were important to the survey but not included in the checklist (See Appendix A). Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 15 Procedures The instrument was administered twice to the students and completed once by the instructor. The students completed the checklist based on their observation of themselves at the middle of the semester. The students then completed the instrument anonymously on a group member at the end of the semester. Finally, the instructor completed the disposition checklist on all of the students at the end of the semester.

Each checklist was submitted the day it was completed and all of the data were compiled ten days after the last checklist was collected. Though this was a mixed methods study, the research chose to address the quantitative aspect of the study at this time. Results The data was subject to descriptive statistical analysis, by way of percentages. Self-Reporting In the category of belonging disposition, all of the participants rated themselves as displaying satisfactory performance; with 39 (83%) reporting exemplary performance and 8 (17%) reporting expected performance.

In the category of mastery disposition 27 (57%) of the participants rated themselves as exemplary performance, 17 (36%) reported expected performance, and a small percentage; 3 (7%) rated themselves an area of concern-below expected performance. In the category of the independence disposition, 100% rated themselves as satisfactory in the area with 25 (53%) of them rated as exemplary performance and 22 (47%) at expected performance.

Finally, in the disposition of generosity, 39 (83%) of the participants rated themselves with an exemplary performance and with 8 (17%) of preservice teachers rated themselves with expected performance (See Appendix B, Table 1). Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 16 Figure 1. Number of Students 50 40 30 20 10 0 Exemplary Expected Below Expected Not Observed on gi ng M as te ry In de pe nd B el Peer Reporting In the category of belonging, 40 (85%) of the participants rated their classmates as exemplary performance with 5 (10%) of the students citing expected performance.

Five percent of the participants rated their peers in the area of concern-below expected performance. In the category of mastery, 39 (83%) of the participants rated their peers at exemplary performance. Fifteen percent of participants rated their peers with expected performance and a small percentage of participants reported 1 (2%) of their peers at an area of concern-below expected performance. In the category of the independence, 39 (83%) of the participants rated each other with exemplary performance in this area. Of the preservice teachers, 5 (10%) were rated by their peers as meeting expected performance.

Seven percent of the participants rated each other in the category of belowexpected performance. In the category of generosity, 41(86 %) of the participants rated each other with a score of exemplary performance. Seven percent of participants rated their peers with expected performance. Finally, 3 (7 %) of the participants rated their peers below expected performance (See Appendix B, Table 2). G en er os ity en ce Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 17 Figure 2. Number of Students 50 40 30 20 10 0 Exemplary Expected Below Expected Not Observed er y nd en ce gi n B el on.

In de pe Instructor Reporting In the category of belonging, the instructor rated 12 (25%) of the participants as displaying exemplary performance. Fifty-seven percent of preservice teachers were rated as displaying expected performance. Seventeen percent of the participants were rated belowexpected performance. In the category of mastery, the instructor rated 7 (15%) of the participants as exemplary performance. Thirty-two percent were rated as expected performance and a smaller percentage; 25 (53%) of the participants were rated as below expected performance area of concern.

In the category of independence, 9 (19%) of the students were rated as displaying exemplary performance. Twenty-five percent of participants were rated as having expected performance and 26 (55%) of the participants were rated as below expected performance. In the category of generosity, the instructor rated 7 (15%) of the participants as exemplary performance and 33 (70%) at expected performance. Fifteen percent of the participants were rated at area of concern-below expected performance (See Appendix B, Table 3). G en er os M as t ity g

Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 18 Figure 3. Number of Students 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Exemplary Expected Below Expected Not Observed on gi ng M as te ry In de pe nd B el Figure 4. Comparison of Students’ Scores 3. 5 3 Mean Score 2. 5 2 1. 5 1 0. 5 0 1 4 7 10 13 16 19 22 25 28 31 34 37 40 43 46 Number of Students Reported by instructor Reported by self Reported by peer Discussion This tool provided three views of major disposition categories. The most marked difference was between the instructors view of the participants’ disposition of independence (Figure 4).

The discrepancy solicits questions about the definition of independence based on objectives and the context provided by the program’s conceptual framework. It is possible that the proactive descriptor could be part of this definition. G en er os ity en ce Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 19 Mastery was another disposition that elicited conversation and conflict. This, like independence, was controversial as well. Participants tended to view completing assignments as mastery whereas the instructor looked at issues of quality. Belonging was a disposition that was actually consistent across all three reporting groups.

This disposition is critiqued because it sets the stage for collegiality; an essential part of teacher life. Generosity was also consistent across all three reporting groups. This disposition too, is critical for planting seeds of empathy; a descriptor in the university’s conceptual framework. As far as limitations are concerned, the research acknowledges a few of them. First of all, of the university’s descriptors are not discreetly measured or assessed. Secondly, the number of students is a relatively small number. Third, these students are in the first methods block of the teacher education program.

The researcher questions what this data would reveal if the students were assessed towards the end of the program. Conclusion The study found a significant difference between the instructor’s view of the student’s disposition and their view of themselves. The research found this to be of importance and planned to examine this phenomenon qualitatively. Independence was the one disposition where students were actually aligned with the perception of that disposition with the instructor. Implications This small, yet informative study delineates three relatively important points.

First, we must make the importance of dispositions explicit in each course, not just listed in the course objectives. It must be surfaced in the courses and monitored qualitatively and quantitatively. Secondly, we must teach students how to surface dispositions and understand the total Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 20 commitment associated with the conceptual frameworks of each institution’s teacher education program. Third and finally, we must continue to create and fine tune a more concise process for creating banks of comparative disposition data in our accreditation and institutional reports that inform a dynamic curriculum.

As issues of teacher quality and student performance continue to avail, we must make the examination of the potential and power of disposition a part of the deliberate conversation. Disposition & Early Childhood Teachers 21 References Battalio, R. , Morin, J. (2004). Constructing Misbehavior: The Efficacy Connection in Responding to Misbehavior. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. Vol. 6. 251-254. Barton, K. C. , and McCully, A. W. (2004). History, identity, and the school curriculum in Northern Ireland: An empirical study of secondary students’ ideas and perspectives.

Journal of Curriculum Studies Vol. 37, 85-116. Beckham, L. ; Julian, K. ; Roberson, T. ; Whitsett, G. (2007). First Year Teachers’ Reported Levels of Functioning on Selected Professional Dispositions. Education. Vol. 128. 95102. Beyer, L. E. (2002). The politics of standardization: Teacher education in the USA. Journal of Education for Teaching, 28, 239-246 PD. Bowers, C. A. , & Flinders, David J. (1990). Responsive teaching: An ecological approach to classroom patterns f language, culture, and thought. New York: Teachers College Press. Cherryholmes, C.H. (1988).

Power and criticism: Poststructural investigations in education. New York: Teachers College Press. Combs, A. W. ; Avilz, D. ; Purkey, W. (1971) Helping Relationships-Basic Concepts for the Helping Professions. Allyn and Bacon, Inc. Boston, MA. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: Free Press. Doll, W. B. (1993). A postmodern perspective on curriculum. New York: Teachers College Press. disposition. (2010). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved January 17, 2010, from http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/dis.


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