Teacher expertise impacts students' post-secondary success
- A recent study published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis indicates that high school students who were taught by teachers who majored or minored in their subject area were not only more likely to achieve higher scores in the short term, but were also more likely to graduate from college, eSchool News reports.
- In the study, Se Woong Lee, a University of Missouri researcher, analyzed data from more than 6,000 students and their teachers across the nation. He suggests that teachers with subject matter expertise are more likely to be able to motivate and engage students in a topic they are passionate about.
- The author also suggests that students benefit when teachers from one grade level sit down with teachers of the next grade level to discuss student progress and learning styles during the transition from one grade to another.
While teacher quality has often been acknowledged as the principal factor in student achievement, this new study follows students into college to track their college success rates as well. This study focused on tracking students whose teachers had been formally trained in their subject area. In some areas like math, which was the focus of the study, it seems that the same passion that drives a teacher to major or minor in a subject tends to pass on to students in the classroom.
These findings can help school administrators as they choose teachers for the secondary level, especially if there is a need to raise student performance in a particular area. While the shortage of teachers in some regions and fields can make finding quality teachers more difficult, schools administrators can strive to find teachers with specific training especially in subject areas that are weakest at their school. The study also indicates that the effect is cumulative: students who learn under a succession of lower quality teachers perform worse than those who learn under a succession of good quality teachers. Therefore, it's important to limit student exposure to lower-quality teachers or avoid it altogether.
Lee points out the value of collaboration between teachers as students pass from one grade level to another. While this benefit has been noted with autistic children in the past and in the early-childhood years, Lee suggests that all students would benefit from such collaborative discussions during the transition period. Through this process, new teachers gain helpful insights regarding learning styles and progress which can help them hit the ground running as the new year begins.