Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More on NCATE and Teacher Dispositions

While presenting at the US Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity on Monday, June 5, in Arlington, Va. I mentioned that there is a well-developed body of knowledge about managerial competencies, which is the same idea as NCATE's "dispositions," and the Hay-McBer consulting firm, founded by the well-known psychologist David McClelland, has done considerable work in developing competency measures and validating them. But NCATE has not toiled in this way and so its claim to use dispositions in assessing prospective teachers is spurious. Last year, NCATE failed to respond to my repeated inquiries as to what measures they use to assess dispositions in students that they claim to evaluate using "dispositional assessment", and whether and how they have validated such measures. Since NCATE has no realistic measures and no validated measures, their claim that they use dispositions to evaluate students is nonsense. The chief reason for NCATE's making a misleading claim that I can think of is the possibility that NCATE wants to encourage harassment of some categories of students, such as conservatives who disagree with its political ideology. Hence, I presented at the meeting that the entire use of dispositions is inappropriate and in violation of judicial statutory interpretation that prohibits governmental use of ideological litmus tests. Contrast NCATE's fly-by-night claims to be using "dispositional assessment" with how it has been done in business schools.

Boyatzis* defines competencies as "an underlying characteristic of a person which results in effective and/or superior performance in a job." Each competency has two dimensions. The first identifies the various competencies. The second involves three competency levels: motives (unconscious), self image (conscious) and skills (behavioral). "Each level may vary in its impact on the disposition of the person to use the competency." Here we see the infamous word "disposition" that NCATE throws around.

Boyatzis distinguishes between motives and traits. "A motive is a recurrent concern for a goal state...A trait is a dispositional or characteristic way in which the person responds." Boyatzis argues that there are dynamic interactions among (from most unconscious) traits and motives, self-image, skills, the person, job demands and the organizational environment.

Boyatzis's book uses data from 12 organizations and 2,000 people in 41 job titles. He uses "the job comptence assessment method" which involves analyzing each job, scoring interviews of job incumbents ("behavioral event interviewing"), development and application of objective tests to measure the competencies, and correlation of the interview and objective test scores to job performance measures, i.e., validation.

In 2000 the Hay-McBer firm with which Boyatzis is associated did a study of teaching competencies in the UK. They found the following competencies:

Challenge and Support
Creating Trust
Respect for Others
Analytical Thinking
Conceptual Thinking
Drive for Improvement
Information Seeking
Holding People Accountable
Managing Pupils
Passion for Learning
Impact and Influence
Understanding Others

These competencies explain 30% of the variance of an outcomes measure. Note that Hay-McBer does not claim that it can assess teachers or prospective teachers along these dimensions. The only competency-related measures that can do so are behavioral assessment centers that involve multiple reviewers who anonymously evaluate performance on structured exercises. The reason is that written assessment measures can be gamed, and so often do not have validity in prediction of performance. The chief exceptions are integrity tests and the conscientiousness measure of the "Big-5" personality inventory (for example the NEO-AC instrument).

Note that "social justice disposition" is nowhere to be seen in any of these discussions. Also note that none of the experts who have studied competencies claim that even objective test measures can validly predict future job performance. Moreover, none of the experts who have studied competencies and dispositions has come anywhere close to asserting that a particular professor can assess competencies in a particular student, particularly when such a professor dislikes the student's politics.

That NCATE advocates or accepts such procedures is evidence of incompetence.

*Richard E. Boyatzis, The Competent Manager: A Model for Effective Performance, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1982.
**self awareness, conceptualization, concern with relationships, concern with impact, developing others, diagnostic uses of concepts, efficiency orientation, logcial thought, managing group processes, memory, perceptual objectivity, positive regard, proactivity, stamina and adaptation, use or oral presentations, use of socialized power, use of unilateral power.


Raquel Okyay said...

While NCATE tries to keep conservative thinkers outside of the educational field using some "disposition" threshold, you and I both know it is a specific "social justice" threshold the hiring elite are looking for. Unfortunately it doesn't start and end there. The New York Sun several years ago exposed Brooklyn Teacher's College for adding a "disposition" threshold to their teacher's school. So not only can conservative thinkers be denied teachers' jobs but also be denied entrance into teachers' schools based solely on their "disposition" regarding "social justice". So much for diversity.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Yes, Raquel, I agree.