Friday, November 4, 2011

Will That Dog Bite? Will That Applicant Be an Effective Teacher?

The proof is in the pudding. -- Proverb
A recent (2009) article asks, in its title, an intriguing question: Can You Recognize an Effective Teacher When You Recruit One?. The authors propose testing potential teacher recruits for two factors: “cognitive skills” and “non-cognitive skills.” On the basis of their tests they claim they can predict likely future student academic achievement, thereby reducing or sparing school districts the costs of probationary appointments.

When I applied for the Peace Corps in 1964, I and the other applicants were subjected to two kinds of tests: one for cognitive skills; another, for non-cognitive skills. Those of us who “passed” them nonetheless participated in programs with various outcomes: some successful and some not. I have never run across any indication that program successes or failures showed any correlation with Peace Corp Volunteer scores on either test.

What seems to be going on here with this “predictive testing” is an example of what some psychologists call the Fundamental Attribution Error -- ignoring contextual and environmental factors by locating all causality, all responsibility, in the individual person.

The tests mentioned in the article will likely be very popular with school boards and parents because they basically wipe the slate clean when it comes to asking what influence, and what responsibility, these groups have for student achievement.

For references and to examine these issues further, see Increasing Teaching Efficiency: 
the evaluation of method


Cordially
--- EGR