Vol.2, No.2, 91-94 (2010) Natural Science
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
A longitudinal study of the professional dispositions of
teacher candidates
Arlene Ignico, Kelly Gammon
Ball State University, SPESES HP-221, America; aignico@bsu.edu
Received 6 November 2009, revised 19. November 2009, accepted 15. December 2009.
The purpose of this study was to examine the
professional disposition scores of Physical
Education teacher candidates over time. In ad-
dition, differences between teacher and student
ratings were investigated. Participants were 65
students who completed three methods courses
(A, B, and C) across a two-year period. Both the
teacher and the students completed a profes-
sional dispositions instrument in each of the
three classes. Results indicated a decrease in
disposition self ratings and teacher ratings over
time. A 2 (Rater) x 3 (Time) ANOVA revealed that
the student and teacher ratings were different
for classes A and B but not for class C. The
findings are encouraging in light of the strong
alignment between teacher and student ratings
in the upper-level class. The dispositions in-
strument appears to be a valid and reliable
method to assess the professional behaviors of
teacher candidates.
Keywords: Dispositions; Teacher Education;
Professional Behavior
Both the National Council for the Accreditation of
Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Interstate New
Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC)
now mandate the assessment of dispositions in teacher
education programs. Specifically, the NCATE 2000
Standards require schools, colleges and departments of
education to use performance-based evidence to demon-
strate that teacher candidates in all programs are gaining
the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to have
a positive impact on K-12 student learning. Similarly,
the INTASC standards emphasize knowledge, skills, and
dispositions that highlight the importance of perform-
ance-based assessments. More recently, the National
Initial Physical Education Teacher Education Standards
(2008) added a standard requiring the assessment of
professional dispositions. Standard number 6 states that
teacher candidates must demonstrate dispositions that
are essential to becoming effective professionals. Ac-
cordingly, accredited teacher education programs through-
out the nation have incorporated professional disposi-
tions, in addition to the preexisting knowledge and skill
performance requirements for prospective teacher can-
The assessment of professional behaviors has created
considerable discussion and controversy among teacher
education programs and teaching professionals. Most
teaching professionals acknowledge the difficult chal-
lenges in attempting to quantify personality characteris-
tics and qualities [1,2]. Of great concern and scrutiny are
the specifics of “how,” “who,” and “when” of disposi-
tions. For instance, issues relating to the origins of dis-
positions, the appropriate context for assessment, and the
purposes they serve are all under question and examina-
tion. One of these challenges is the considerable vari-
ability in the methods used to assess dispositions. Be-
havioral checklists, observations, reflections, journals/
logs, video analyses, portfolios, and rating scale rubrics
are all examples of how dispositions are assessed. Ide-
ally, instruments should offer the student the opportunity
to reflect upon strengths, weaknesses, and teaching phi-
losophy, as well as provide professional faculty the oc-
casion to provide constructive feedback to the student
[2]. Equally important is the opportunity for teacher
candidates to develop a clear understanding of self and
students [3].
Although the “who” of disposition assessment may
seem obvious (teacher education majors), an important
point of concern is the equally important variable of
“who” conducts the assessment. Feedback is typically
gathered from a combination of the following sources:
the teacher candidates; instructors, program coordinators,
field placement supervisors, and mentor teachers [1,2,4].
Even though gathering information from a pool of
teachers seems beneficial, this raises concern as to how
to best balance evaluation procedures among students
and teachers. Relying on a combination of student
A. Ignico et al. / Natural Science 2 (2010) 91-94
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
self-report measures and professional faculty assess-
ments seems to provide the most reliable appraisal.
An additional issue relating to dispositional assess-
ment is “when” it should occur. The timeline varies from
state to state and from institution to institution. In most
cases, disposition assessment occurs at several stages in
a variety of settings throughout the teacher preparation
curriculum [1,4,5]. In some cases though, dispositions
may only be addressed in the event of concerns being
expressed about a teacher candidate as more of a reme-
diation measure [2]. Most researchers agree that the as-
sessment of professional dispositions must occur early
and often in the professional preparation program.
There are those who are critical of efforts to gauge the
dispositions of pre-service teachers and of attempts to
influence the development of dispositions as part of
teacher education training [6]. It is clear, however, that
assessing teacher dispositions has taken a foothold in
teacher education programs and will only continue to be
more fully integrated into the undergraduate curriculum.
In comparison to skill performance and knowledge as-
sessment instruments, there are only a few instruments
to assess professional dispositions. Perhaps more impor-
tantly, few studies have investigated changes in the pro-
fessional dispositions of teacher candidates over time. In
other words, what impact does the teacher education
program have on a teacher candidate’s professional be-
The purpose of this study was to examine the profes-
sional disposition scores of Physical Education Teacher
Education (PETE) students over time. In addition, dif-
ferences between student and teacher ratings were inves-
2.1. Participants
The participants for this longitudinal study were 65
PETE major students who completed three methods
courses representing a 3-semester sequence. The same
university instructor taught each of the three classes.
2.2. Instrument
A Professional Dispositions Assessment that was devel-
oped and tested at a large Midwestern university was
used for this study. This assessment contains the follow-
ing 10 items identified by the PETE faculty as represen-
tative of professional behavior:
1) Attendance
2) In class performance
3) Class preparation
4) Relationship with others
5) Group work
6) Professional development
7) Respect for school rules, policies, norms
8) Emotional control/responsibility
9) Role model
10) Communication
For each item, there are four possible ratings repre-
senting unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distin-
guished behavior (see [7] for a more detailed explanation
of the instrument).
2.3. Procedure
Professional dispositions are assessed by the instructor
in seven PETE classes during the 4-year program. In
most classes, students are required to complete a self
assessment of their professional dispositions. One of the
PETE requirements is to achieve a basic or higher rating
for all ten items in each of the seven classes. If a student
receives an unsatisfactory rating, she/he must complete a
formal remediation process prior to enrolling in another
PETE class.
The three classes examined in this study represent 2nd
and 3rd-year courses in the major. Prior to enrolling in
the first of these three classes, students receive a thor-
ough explanation about the dispositions instrument in
two first-year classes. In addition, they complete a self
assessment and receive an assessment from their teachers.
The first class (A) is typically taken during the 3rd
semester in the program. This class is an introduction to
teaching physical education course and includes 12
hours of assisting/teaching in local schools. The second
class (B) is a motor development class and includes 10
hours of teaching preschool students. The third class (C)
is an Elementary School Methods class and includes a
15-hour practicum in a local school. Due to pre-requi-
sites, the 3 courses are taken sequentially over a 3-se-
mester period.
In each of the three classes, the participants were
evaluated by the instructor during the final week of the
semester. In addition, they completed and submitted a
self assessment during this same week. Although the
instructor included the dispositions evaluation as part of
the course grade, the relative point values differed across
the three classes. For the purpose of comparison, the
disposition ratings for each of the three classes were
converted to percentage scores.
2.4. Data Analyses
A 2 (Rater) X 3 (Time) ANOVA was used to analyze the
disposition data. To keep the risk of a Type I error low,
the alpha level was established at p<0.01 so that only
results with probabilities of sampling errors of less than
1 in 100 would be declared statistically significant.
Descriptive statistics showed the means for student rat-
A. Ignico et al. / Natural Science 2 (2010) 91-94
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. OPEN ACCESS
ings by time point were 94 (A), 94 (B), and 84 (C), re-
spectively. The means for teacher ratings were 89 (A),
85 (B), and 82 (C), respectively. An additional finding
was that five participants received at least one “unsatis-
factory” rating from the instructor.
As shown in Figure 1, the student ratings were similar
in classes A and B but dramatically decreased from class
B to class C. Student ratings in class C were signifi-
cantly lower (p=0.0001) than in A and B. For teacher
ratings, there was a descending linear trend across the
three time periods. Teacher ratings were significantly
different between classes A and C only (p=0.0001).
The 2 X 3 ANOVA indicated that the student and
teacher ratings were significantly different for classes A
(p=0.005) and B (p=0.001) with the teacher ratings
lower than those of the students. Differences between
student and teacher ratings for class C, however, did not
reach significance.
An interesting finding was the decrease in disposition
self ratings and teacher ratings over time. Although
the students rated themselves similarly in the first two
classes, their self ratings dropped considerably in the
upper-level class. It should be noted that this decrease
in disposition scores does not necessarily reflect a
decline in professional behavior. Expectations in-
crease as students progress through the program. For
example, the expectations for a 1st or 2nd-year stu-
dent in the area of professional development would be
less than the expectations for a 3rd or 4th-year student.
Consequently, a student in class A may receive a
“proficient” rating for attending two professional
conferences (in one year) while a student in class C
might receive a “basic” rating.
The significant decline in self ratings from class A
and B to class C may be attributed to an improvement
in self awareness. In fact, students in class C are re-
Figure 1. Disposition scores by rater.
quired to reflect upon their strengths and weaknesses
after each teaching episode. They specifically focus
on organization/management, instruction, and profes-
sional behavior. In addition, they receive specific
feedback through coding analyses. Using this feed-
back, they set specific goals for the next lesson. It is
likely that these opportunities to reflect on specific
behaviors provide students with an increasingly clear
and realistic self-portrait.
A comparison of the student and teacher ratings in-
dicates that the ratings were most aligned in class C.
In fact, the student and teacher ratings did not signifi-
cantly differ in the final class. Because students
tended to inflate their disposition scores in the first
two classes, their scores were significantly higher
than those of the teacher. The considerable drop in
self ratings in class C was probably a result of criti-
cally reflecting on professional behaviors.
A final finding was that none of the five students
who received an “unsatisfactory” rating participated
in the formal remediation program. Each of the stu-
dents dropped out of the PETE program by choice. It
should be noted that these students also failed to meet
at least one other PETE requirement (e.g., GPA,
PRAXIS I, Portfolio review).
The findings of this preliminary study are encour-
aging in light of the strong alignment between student
and teacher ratings in the upper-level class. It appears
that the instrument is a reliable and valid method to
assess the professional dispositions of pre-service
teachers. It would be interesting to further investigate
the efficacy of the instrument by examining additional
variables such as GPA and retention. Although the
results of this study are preliminary, the findings sug-
gest that the Professional Dispositions instrument is a
viable solution to the challenge of assessing the pro-
fessional behaviors of teacher education candidates.
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