Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Teachers College Record Volume 114, 100301, October 2012, 49 pages


Copyright © by Teachers College, Columbia University


Background/Context: Questions about teacher quality, including how teachers ought to be educated and licensed, rank near the top of the educational agenda in the United States. These controversies persist because of lack of consensus about what “teacher quality” means, conflicting claims about the empirical evidence, and public skepticism about the need for formal teacher preparation. Because there has been relatively little research on the outcomes of preparation programs and pathways and because researchers work from diverging paradigms, there are few clear conclusions in this area.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this article is to offer a conceptual analysis of empirical research on teachers’ education and outcomes that is linked to the political controversies and policy debates that shape it. Using the concept of research “genres,” the article addresses two questions: (1) How have researchers conceptualized and studied the connections between teachers’ education and its outcomes, consequences, or results? (2) What are the policy controversies and larger social and political factors that have shaped these genres?

Research Design:This review focuses on research conducted in the United States since 1998 and published by peer-reviewed journals or centers with peer review procedures. The review includes only empirical research that explicitly examines connections between particular aspects of teachers’ education (e.g., certification status, academic background, pathways into teaching, program mission/curriculum, transitions to teaching, life experiences) and specific posteducation outcomes (e.g., teacher preparedness, beliefs, practice, retention, student achievement).

Findings/Results: The review reveals that there are six distinguishable genres that examine connections between teachers’ education and posteducation outcomes: teacher certification and its correlates, teachers’ educational backgrounds and the teacher workforce, entry pathways into teaching and their consequences, teacher preparation programs and their graduates, teacher preparation and learning to teach in the early career years, and teachers’ life experiences and beliefs/practices. The article analyzes and critiques each genre, including its contributions/limitations and the controversies it addresses.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The review concludes that there continue to be relatively few studies that connect aspects of teachers’ education to outcomes; some genres focus primarily on outcomes related to student achievement, whereas others focus primarily on outcomes related to teacher learning. These genres have grown up relatively separately from one another. The review recommends that all six research genres ought to be taken into account by policymakers, researchers, and practitioners in order to have a rich understandings of teachers’ education and outcomes.