Good teachers are born not made?
American Radioworks is making two claims in this piece that I find disturbing (though both could very well be true). First, that it’s not possible to make teachers effective — they’re either good or they’re not. From the below quote, the authors of the piece aren’t comfortable with that idea either, since they quickly shift to a project showing progress in improving teachers and thus dispute Hanushek’s claim.
But the scarier claim is the implicit challenge to the old Bruner claim: “We being with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development.” I’m presuming that adults (even ineffective teachers) are a kind of “child at any stage of development.” At some point, is the Bruner hypothesis false, and we just have to give up? That there are humans who lose the plasticity of their cognitive systems and can no longer be reshaped and reformed?
Is it possible to take ineffective teachers and make them better? Economist Eric Hanushek, who has done some of the most influential research about the importance of teachers, thinks the answer is, “no.”
Hanushek: My interpretation of the evidence is that teachers are born and not made.
There have been only a few big studies of programs that are supposed to help teachers improve, and the evidence is: they don’t work. That’s why Hanushek thinks the focus should be getting rid of bad teachers, and recruiting better ones. But there are more than three million teachers in the United States. If every child is really going to have a good teacher, there needs to be some way to help teachers improve.