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Voices of the Global Community

Lee Kem, Advising Education Majors Commission Chair

Teacher = Knowledge + Attitudes + Behavior

We all know students who are successful academically but have not made successful teachers. It takes more than knowledge to be a good teacher – attitude or dispositions are also important. Dewey (1933/1938) emphasized the importance of attitudes and the union of attitude and skilled methods. Attitudes include open-mindedness and whole-heartedness, and “no separation can be made between impersonal, abstract principles of logic and moral qualities of character. What is needed is to weave them into unity' (Dewey, p. 34). Bloom (1956/1976) introduced the taxonomy of instructional objectives in three domains (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor) and emphasized the importance of the affective in the learning process. Woolfolk (1998) expanded on the relationship among the cognitive, affective, and behavioral domains. Alexander (2003) reiterated the strong ties between cognitive/affective attributes of learners and how these attributes impact the acquisition and comprehension of information. Based on this knowledge, it is evident that more than knowledge and behaviors need to be assessed in teacher education programs.

Knowledge is assessed by entrance/exit tests and GPA. Behaviors can be assessed by such things as observations, interviews, and behavior journals. How do we assess attitude or the affective domain? This area of assessment is being added in many education programs, often driven by NCATE accreditation.

What are dispositions? According to an article in the December 2005 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, a 2002 NCATE booklet on professional standards defines dispositions as “values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors toward students families, colleagues, and communities.' These dispositions “are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice.” To meet NCATE requirements, universities are currently seeking to determine appropriate ways to operationalize the assessment of the dispositions of teacher candidates.

Assessment: Who, what, when, how? Faculty seem to be the main assessors of attitudes or dispositions. Disposition evaluation usually occurs at checkpoints such as the admission to teacher education interview, admission to student teaching, and field/supervisor experience. Additional assessment can occur based upon a flagging system that utilizes attitudes exhibited during classroom activities.

Students can also be evaluated on dispositions based on class participation and presentations. If a student is part of a presentation group and doesn’t come to class that day, this can indicate that the student may have a problem with caring and responsibility! Plagiarism, cheating, absenteeism, and failure to complete assignments are indicators that dispositions of responsibility and ethical behavior may be an issue.

Academic advisors should advocate for inclusion in the disposition assessment process at their institutions. Advisors need to become an integral part of the disposition assessment process. We see students in less threatening settings where their true dispositions may be evident. Thus, advisors have a different and often more in-depth insight into the dispositions and behaviors of students. Advisor evaluation of these students should be formalized and valued. A disposition checklist needs to be included in the advisement process and submitted for consideration as part of the admission/evaluation process.

Students must be informed early in the program about the dispositions expected of teacher candidates. Some universities utilize a signed “Code of Conduct” or “Disposition Agreement.” This can be incorporated into freshmen orientation or introduction to education courses.

There are a multplicity of approaches that can be used for disposition evaluation. At one NACADA National Conference session, information was gathered about how different institutions assess dispositions. Some of the different approaches include: group interview assessments, interview checklists, self-assessment checklists, classroom checklists, flagging systems, student teacher evaluations, supervising teacher assessment, portfolios, journals, signed contracts, and an information manual.

Members of the Advising Education Commission may be contacted for additional information about these different approaches to evaluation of dispositions.Dawn Black ([email protected]) will provide additional information about the group interview assessments process utilized at their University. Jill Niemeyer ([email protected]) has a presentation for training in how to recognize good teacher dispositions. At Murray State University, student dispositions are assessed in freshman orientation, in classes through a flagging system, at the admission to teacher education process, and in advising. Additional information is available from [email protected]. Please contact me for the names of other advisors with information about disposition assessment.

Concerns:Based on the NCATE definition, operationized disposition assessments tend to center around the expectations for students as future teachers: demonstrating professional responsibility, fostering collegiality, embracing diversity, demonstrating commitment to learning, caring, honesty, maintaining professional and personal integrity, and social justice. Utilizing measurements of attitudes does create concern, however. Isolating and evaluating such factors as tolerance, responsibility, enthusiasm, caring, and confidence can present problematic issues when attempting to quantify. According to The Chronicle (2005), one of the major areas of concern in assessing dispositions centers on the concept of social justice. In some cases, dispositions focused beyond responsibility and communication skills to include the teacher candidates’ views on politics, sexism, racism, white privilege, and homophobia.

Institutions may be hesitant to dismiss students based upon disposition assessments because of retention or legal concerns. Faculty may not be trained in disposition assessment and can be negligent in evaluating students with potential problems. It is often difficult to gain “buy-in” outside the education program concerning the importance of disposition assessment. Student remediation plans must be developed if weaknesses are discovered through the assessment and students are denied admission based on the assessment criteria. Staff time must be set aside for conducting remediation. It can be difficult to identify students who “talk the talk” but have not internalized the concepts related to dispositions. It is important that information regarding expected dispositions be provided early in the program so students can understand expectations and the assessment process. Faculty seeking tenure may be reluctant to become involved in the assessment process because of possible repercussions; at some institutions, the process is too informal and dependent on faculty choosing to share concerns about students exhibiting problem areas. Faculty may not be involved in the admission process and thus may not perform interviews. This limits the feedback that can be provided by faculty concerning the dispositions of the future teachers.

Conclusions:Assessing dispositions is an area that is necessary but difficult and is still in the process of development. Academic advisors have a plethora of valuable information about student dispositions and this resource is underutilized. More information needs to be gathered about the who, what, when, and how of disposition evaluation. Increased formal involvement of advisors needs to be explored and implemented.

Lee Kem
Murray State University College of Education
[email protected]


Alexander, P.A. (2003). The development of expertise: The journey from acclimation to proficiency. Educational Researcher, 32(8). 10-14

Bloom, B. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longmans, Green & Co.

Bloom, B. S. (1976). Human characteristics and school learning. New York: McGraw Hill.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (2005). We don’t need that kind of attitude. Retrieved February 14, 2006 from http://chronicle.com/weekly/v52/i17/17a00801.htm. Note: You may need your institution's Chronicle password to access this article.

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. Boston: D. C. Heath & Co.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Macmillan.

Woolfork, A. E. (1998). Educational psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Cite this article using APA style as: Kem, L. (2006, February). Academic advising and the dispositions assessment process. Academic Advising Today, 29(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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