All HR managers face the same dilemma when hiring staff: “How can I identify suitable and highly effective future workers?” Now, imagine that the HR manager is recruiting for a position in which it is virtually impossible to dismiss the employee, and where promotions are generally granted just by the mere accumulation of years of service.
This is the problem that education systems face when they hire teachers. Most education systems collect information during the teacher recruitment process, such as: years of schooling, the institution where they went to college, and whether they hold an advanced degree. Some systems had managed to test future teachers on their disciplinary and pedagogical knowledge. However, the literature indicates that these variables explain only a small part of the variability in teacher productivity.
This lack of instruments to predict teachers’ future performance motivated me, along with my colleagues from Harvard University Alejandro Ganimian and Andrew Ho, to investigate whether clinical practice lessons allow us, first, to distinguish between effective and ineffective teachers at the time when they teach in their clinical practice lessons and second, to inquire whether the clinical practice lessons predict teacher effectiveness once they enter the school system.
To answer these questions, we worked with the selection and teacher induction processes of Enseñá por Argentina (ExA), an organization that recruits, trains and coaches talented young people, not necessarily education major graduates, to teach in extremely vulnerable schools for a period of two years. ExA’s selection process consists of four stages: 1. Online Application, where applicants complete a series of online questionnaires; 2. Assessment Center, where applicants are evaluated through a group case study, an interview, a demonstration lesson, a written exercise and an assessment of critical thinking; 3. Summer Training Institute, where applicants participate in training workshops and clinical practice; and 4. School Year, where they work as teachers in schools. In each of these stages, ExA uses different instruments that range from structured rubrics to classroom observations and student and principal surveys. Methodologically, and to minimize bias, we randomly assign teachers to raters and, during clinical practice, to students.
What do we find? Our results can be summarized as follows:
1. The scores that teaching candidates obtain during application (online application) and selection (assessment center) do not predict differences in teacher effectiveness between admits to the program. But since these variables were used to select teachers, they may have served as a filter to keep out individuals who would have been ineffective as teachers.
2. Clinical practice lessons are a promising instrument to predict teacher effectiveness. The clinical practice lessons predict teaching effectiveness even when we take into account the scores that teachers got in earlier stages, and they add information not previously captured. They have a high predictive power to identify teaching performance in the classroom observations and principal surveys. Finally, they are most useful to identify teachers who will have great difficulty in the school systems and less useful to identify teachers who are going to have a great performance.
In conclusion, our results suggest that clinical practice lessons have the potential to become a useful instrument for decision making about hiring and placement of new teachers.
To read more about the study click here.
* This post was originally published on February 17, 2015 in the Blog of the Spanish National Institute for Educational Assessment http://blog.educalab.es/inee/