Do Teacher Dispositions Still Matter?

A body of literature exists highlighting teacher dispositions as seen from a university training and human resources perspective. University preparation programs have used dispositions as part of their accreditation programs since the 1990s (Freeman, 2007), and are required to assess teacher dispositions (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, 2013).

Our focus on the measurement of teaching seems to have put teacher dispositions in the past. That might be a mistake. In this measurement era we must not lose sight of elements already established in research. Researchers have noted the role that dispositions play in teacher quality (Altan, Lane & Dottin, 2019) and are in agreement that dispositions, along with knowledge and skills, are important to effective teaching and the study of effective teachers. But the topic has been subject to its own vagueness.

Are teacher dispositions innate or learned? Fonsec-Chacana (2019) has set out the traditional definition of dispositions: "dispositions are personal and interpersonal attributes that people display in professional contexts" (p. 268). The ambiguity of the term and definitions create tension within the research community. To minimize confusion, the author offered a new definition of teacher dispositions: "the cultivatable set of intellectual, intrapersonal, and interpersonal attributes that enact teacher knowledge and skills to the service of a professional community, which includes students, student families, and other education professionals" (p. 268).

Teacher dispositions are both inherent and taught. In the context of a learning community, a teacher can learn about himself or herself and align his or her knowledge, skills and beliefs with the goals of the organization.

What Does This Mean for Us?

The idea of such a radical change in evaluation can raise concerns for everyone involved in education. Teachers may worry that they're being scored on alien or unpredictable criteria, while parents and other citizens may jump to the conclusion that this communal, subjective system would take the rigor out of evaluation. In the sections below, I address some logistical questions about evaluation.