TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Don't judge these teacher ed journals by their titles!

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Do teacher education journals seek to help teacher educators do a better job? 

It seems like a fairly silly question. Nevertheless, we reviewed 10 prominent teacher ed journals and learned that, for the most part, they provide pretty weak gruel when it comes to publishing articles intended to build teacher skills. They may dedicate quite a bit of content to how it feels to be in teacher prep or the characteristics of a good teacher–but in terms of getting down to the nitty gritty of developing essential skills, there's a notable vacuum. 

We started with abstracts from the last five years (2009-2014) for the Journal of Teacher Education, the most influential education journal focusing exclusively on teacher education.[1] Only 17 of the 153 articles in this period (11 percent) covered core techniques and skills (e.g.,The Effect of Content-Focused Coaching on the Quality of Classroom Text Discussions and Teacher Questioning to Elicit Students' Mathematical Thinking in Elementary School Classrooms).[2]

What kinds of articles fill the remaining publication space? 

The clear majority have nothing to do with teacher training, further evidence that the field of teacher education, writ large, eschews not only a 'training' role but, like many academic journals, avoids any topic which runs the risk of being classified as a "how-to manual" or even sensible guidance. There were a few articles (10 percent of the sample) dealing with skills that would be classified as important for a novice teacher to develop, but were not directly related to classroom instruction. 

Here's a full categorization of all content, 79 percent of which avoids anything having to do with what some might see as the day-to-day work of the teacher educator:

We then expanded our search to review articles from nine other teacher ed journals, although we limited this search to only those articles published in the last two years. Again, we found few instances of articles dedicated to building classroom skills. Five of the nine failed to publish a single such article.

Whether you agree or disagree with how we categorized the articles, the evidence is overwhelming that education journals are not pushing for, or focusing on, any research that might help teacher educators do a better job building the specific skills necessary to be a more effective instructor.

It's hard not to conclude a more troubling truth, that such research may not even exist–or else why wouldn't it be getting published? Speculation aside, it's clear that teacher educators can't count on their professional publications to focus on increasing their knowledge about the nuts-and-bolts of successful preparation and teaching.

[1] A ranking of the 100 top journals in education research, including teacher education, puts the Journal of Teacher Education as the highest ranked (19th) in terms of its "five-year impact factor." The "five-year impact factor" is calculated on the basis of citation counts. Makel, M. C., & Plucker, J. A. (2014). Facts are more important than novelty: Replication in the Education Sciences. Educational Researcher, 20(10), 1-13.
[2] As troubling, even this group contains articles of uncertain value: Three of the 15 studies involve three or fewer subjects, designs that do not inspire confidence that results can inform best practice. We suspect that a full-scale review of methodologies of all 15 articles would reveal other weaknesses common to teacher prep research.