The subject of a teacher’s specialization can affect how well she or he does, according to a new study by the College of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The researchers, led by Dr. Rebecca Stokes, found that teachers specializing in certain subjects were more likely to be hired over those who specialized in others.
“A school is not just a teacher but a resource that has a wide range of benefits and potentials,” Dr. Stokes said.
“The importance of teachers specializing lies in their knowledge and ability to deliver on their teaching and student engagement goals.”
Dr. Driscoll said the findings also suggest that students should be encouraged to apply for specialized training as a way to boost their chances of being hired.
“It could help teachers in other ways, too, by allowing students to apply to more advanced programs in the first place,” she said.
According to the report, more than 30 percent of elementary and middle school teachers in the Pasco County School District were specialized in a field, including math, science and social studies.
Those who specialized were more than twice as likely as the general population to receive a teaching certificate, which can be used to gain employment with other schools.
“We were surprised to find that specialized teaching was associated with better teaching outcomes,” Driscott said.
Dr. Stoke said the study was one of the first to analyze teachers’ specialization through a longitudinal analysis.
The study also included the results of a follow-up survey of teachers in Pasco and the surrounding counties.
Dr. Driss was surprised by the findings.
“It seems to me that there is a lot of value in being able to specialize,” she noted.
“As long as the teacher has a high level of expertise, it’s very hard to make the wrong call.”
The study was published in the Journal of Applied Education.