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Center Ideas: Focus on Teachers’ Individual Experiences in Residency Programs

Studies have demonstrated that Teacher Preparation Programs (TPPs) matter, and more specifically, that they “can improve teachers' preparedness and persistence by increasing requirements for practice teaching and methods-related coursework”.1 And, research that disentangles the effects of teacher recruitment and preparation demonstrates that TPPs contribute uniquely to teachers’ self-perceived instructional quality, which is related to features of clinical preparation.2 However, there are not always clear differences between TPP and, in fact, there is research that demonstrates there is more variation within-programs than across them.3 Supporting this finding, a recent study found “most of the variation in preparation experiences with competency areas was at the level of the individual teacher as opposed to being associated with preparation provider”.4 In other words, it may matter more what happens once a teacher candidate is in a preparation program than which one they attend. These results suggest:

  1. Policy makers may not necessarily be able to differentiate between high and low performing preparation providers for accountability purposes.
  2. Likewise, potential teacher candidates may not necessarily be able to differentiate between high and low performing preparation providers when selecting which preparation program to attend. 
  3. And, knowing teacher candidates’ provider and program may not necessarily be helpful for district staff trying to identify and hire effective teachers.
  4. That means stakeholders should focus on the consistency of quality of individuals’ experiences within preparation programs. For accountability, that means focusing on metrics that are indicative of reducing the variation gaps in individual performance within preparation programs. For teacher candidates, that means spending more time advocating for high-quality experiences once they are in a preparation program, than deciding which TPP to attend. 

A priority area should be the core of teacher preparation—individual’s clinical experiences.5 Emerging evidence highlights the importance of mentor teachers, as teachers tend to be more effective when they student teach with a mentor who is a more effective teacher.6 This kind of successful mentoring is the foundation for residency programs, which offer an innovative model for preparing teachers that emphasizes the clinical experience. In addition to a full-year residency teaching alongside an expert mentor teacher, other characteristics of strong residencies identified by researchers at the Learning Policy Institute (p. i) include:7

  • Strong district/university partnership
  • Coursework about teaching and learning tightly integrate with clinical practice
  • High-ability, diverse candidates recruited to meet specific district hiring typically in fields where there are shortages
  • Financial support for residents in exchange for a three- to five-year teaching commitment
  • Cohorts of residents placed in “teaching schools” that model good practices with

diverse learners and are designed to help novices learn to teach

  • Ongoing mentoring and support for graduates

For further details see, The Teacher Residency: An Innovative Model for Preparing Teachers.

As residency programs are developed and implemented, ensuring all candidates have a quality experience that fits their particular needs within programs will be crucial to increasing the number of teacher candidates ready on day one.

For more information and support in developing residency models and funding options, contact the Region 5 Comprehensive Center.


[1] Ronfeldt, M., Schwartz, N., & Jacob, B. (2014). Does preservice preparation matter? Examining old questions in new ways. Teachers College Record, 116(10), 1–46.

[2] Ronfeldt, M., Reininger, M., & Kwok, A. (2013). Recruitment or preparation? Investigating the effects of teacher characteristics and student teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(4), 319- 337.

[3] Koedel, C., E. Parsons, M. Podgursky, and M. Ehlert. 2016. “Teacher Preparation Programs and Teacher Quality: Are There Real Differences Across Programs?” Education Finance and Policy 10(4): 508- 534.

[4] Goodson, B., Caswell, L., Dynarski, M., Price, C., Litwok, D., Crowe, E., Meyer, R., and Rice, A. (2019). Teacher Preparation Experiences and Early Teaching Effectiveness (NCEE 2019-4007). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education

[5] National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). (2010). Transforming teacher education through clinical practice: Report of the blue ribbon panel on clinical teacher preparation and partnerships for improved student learning.

[6] Dan Goldhaber, John Krieg, Natsumi Naito, Roddy Theobald; Making the Most of Student Teaching: The Importance of Mentors and Scope for Change. Education Finance and Policy 2020; 15 (3): 581–591.

[7] Guha, R., Hyler, M.E., and Darling-Hammond, L. (2016). The Teacher Residency: An Innovative Model for Preparing Teachers. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.