A new study published in The Journal of Law and Economics compares Florida teachers who came to teaching through a traditional education program with those that came from a background where a bachelor’s degree in education was not mandatory. The study found that teachers from the “non-traditional” backgrounds were more effective.
Specifically, those teachers had higher SAT scores, were more likely to pass teacher certification exams on the first attempt, and generally came from more competitive colleges. So teachers who were not required to do coursework in education were the “best” teachers, while those who were required to take courses that were not transferable to other fields were least successful. Teachers with traditional training fell in the middle.
In the case of nontransferable courses, it makes sense that those teachers might be the weakest. Courses which have no application outside of a narrow field don’t exactly reward new ways of thinking, and they don’t generally benefit from methods found outside that field. Essentially, such courses are the opposite of “general education” requirements found at universities, which is often where a student gets their only contact with the humanities.
Meanwhile, having a different education means that non-traditional teachers can bring a different set of skills to teaching. Those skills might vary in their applicability or value for teaching, but those teachers are likely more flexible.
The study warns that tightening requirements for teachers might do more harm than good. While it stands to reason that teachers should have some official training in pedagogy and educational theory, increasingly forcing teachers down a very specific path towards their teaching certificate will likely result not in better teachers (and certainly not more teachers) but in more narrow minded, inflexible teachers. Students at all levels benefit from a varied education, which requires them to think outside of their own specific background and even interests, and it stands to reason that education majors would benefit just as much from that same philosophy.