Graduate Study as an Important Component of Teacher Success

Written by Julie Wollman

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The recent preliminary results from the Measures of Effective (MET) Teaching project suggest that the quality of a teacher, measured in student achievement gains, is best predicted by observation of the teacher in the classroom over time.  This project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also finds that a graduate degree is not a reliable and valid predictor of teacher success.

Why would anyone imagine that it’s an either/or proposition when determining teacher quality? A high quality graduate program should be grounded in just the type of observation that the study suggests reveals a teacher’s potential for success.   A good teacher needs both excellent preparation in a coherent and comprehensive degree program and also preparation grounded in intensive practice, observation, and feedback. The best evidence of a teacher’s skill is in actual classroom practice because teaching takes shape in practice. That is why  strong graduate degree programs focus heavily on intensive classroom experience that includes ongoing observation and mentoring to improve teaching and learning outcomes.

At Wheelock, TeachBoston is a graduate program that is centered around intensive practice, observation, and feedback.  Funded by a federal Teach er Quality Partnership grant, TeachBoston places graduate candidates in the classroom to spend a full residency year teaching, while receiving feedback from a team of mentors. In short, their emerging best practice is shaped by ongoing observation, feedback and improvement.  Even the admission interview involves a lengthy process of performance assessment and observation.

In other words, TeachBoston is a graduate degree program that is grounded in graduate coursework and observation and feedback.  Instead of either/or Wheelock TeachBoston is both/and.  It’s time to get past simplistic solutions and rhetoric—we know what work s and we know it’s complex, layered and grounded in the messy and wonderful realities of classroom practice, observation and feedback.

Julie Wollman is the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Wheelock College.