Examining Multiple Dimensions of Teacher Quality: Attributes, Beliefs, Behaviours, and Students' Perceptions of Effectiveness
AuthorWitter, Michael Stephen
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Michael Stephen Witter
This thesis focuses on the structure and relatedness of multiple dimensions of teacher quality. Specifically, two studies are presented as to how critical teachers’ beliefs are as a dimension of teacher quality in relation to teachers’ non-academic competencies, their observed practices in the classroom, and their students’ perceptions of effectiveness. The first study aimed to determine how various types of teachers’ beliefs empirically linked to quality teaching and learning relate to teach other, and whether these beliefs could be reduced into a set of higher-order teacher beliefs, utilising confirmatory and exploratory factory analysis. Primary and high school teachers in Victorian government schools (n = 663) completed an extensive teacher beliefs questionnaire that examined pedagogical beliefs, motivational beliefs, and beliefs about students. The second study aimed to explore the relationships between teachers’ non-academic capabilities their beliefs and measures of quality teaching. Participants and alumni from the Teach For Australia program, all current high school teachers (n = 68), completed a revised form of the teacher beliefs questionnaire from the first study and had their selection data for Teach for Australia accessed. They also utilised the Visible Classroom tool to audio-record multiple teaching episodes and administered the Tripod student perception survey anonymously to their students. Data from these four measures were examined through a combination of quantitative methods, including factor analysis, structural equation modelling, and hierarchical cluster analysis. Three higher order beliefs were identified: social/deep beliefs focusing on education for the purpose of improving society and/or addressing the needs, relationships, and support of individual students; surface/fixed beliefs, which combined the characteristics of fixed mindset in tandem with surface views of teaching and learning; and personal utility purposes for choosing to teach. Many types of teachers’ beliefs failed to predict their use of quality teaching practices or students’ perceptions of teaching, although self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation, beliefs about assessment, and surface/fixed beliefs were important exceptions. Teachers’ non-academic competencies assessed prior to becoming a teacher generally failed to predict their quality of teaching, even within the first 1-2 years of commencement of teaching. More frequent use of empirically supported instructional practices related to delivery of instruction predicted better student perceptions of teaching, while at the same time more frequent use of empirically supported instructional practices related to directing students and correcting both academic work and student behaviour predicted poorer student perceptions of teaching. Student perceptions of teaching primarily clustered into two categories, perceptions of the quality of student behaviour in the classroom, and of their teachers’ general instructional capability, at odds with prior research arguing that student perception surveys measure an array of key aspects of quality teaching. A profile of teacher quality emerged, which involved active, teacher-led instruction with a high ratio of explicit instructional practices to directing and corrective practices, with high levels of student satisfaction of quality of teaching, underpinned by pro-assessment beliefs and the strong rejection of surface/fixed beliefs. The research confirms what previous conceptualisations of teacher quality include a combination of inputs (such as beliefs), processes (quality teaching practices) and products (student outcomes, student perceptions, etc.) and that the process of teacher quality is not only multi-faceted, but multi-staged. The research also illustrates the benefits of utilising multiple measures or sources of feedback in efforts to improve teacher quality. There is an opportunity to improve teacher quality in policy, teacher education and teacher professional learning that emphases active teaching and a core set of high leverage practices that such teachers regularly employ, underpinned by a small but critical set of beliefs that support best practice. Attending to particular types of teacher beliefs may be essential to catalysing teacher change. The results of the dissertation call for further research drawing together teacher quality and teacher beliefs, with particular emphasis on multidimensional models, an effort that will ultimately serve to paint a fuller picture of what is meant by quality teaching, which in turn will fuel efforts to continuously improve it.
Keywordsteacher quality; teacher effectiveness; teacher evaluation; teacher beliefs
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