Multiple perspectives on the preparation and support of alternative certification teachers: A case for content- and context -specific support

Sarah Christen Costelloe, University of Pennsylvania


Faced with state and federal demands to place a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom, school districts across the nation are paying greater attention to the recruitment, support, and retention of new teachers. Increasingly, alternative certification teachers are recruited to fill vacancies in the hardest-to-staff schools, as well as hard-to-staff positions and subject areas. Alternative certification candidates are expected to engage in a great deal of "on-the-job" training, and are often assigned to work in challenging school environments. Currently, the literature on teacher learning includes little research addressing the unique learning experiences of alternative certification candidates, and does not explicitly address inherent tensions that emerge when candidates are simultaneously learning in multiple contexts, including school- and district- environments and certification courses. Given this gap in the literature on teacher education, little is known about the benefits and/or trade-offs associated with "on-the-job" training. Further, there is insufficient data to explain how alternative certification teachers respond to the challenges they encounter or to offer insight about those support structures that are most effective in assisting teachers in their efforts to navigate particular challenges. To document multiple perspectives regarding the preparation and support of a cohort of alternatively certified teachers, study participants included teachers and their district-assigned New Teacher Coaches, certification instructors, and Teach For America Program Staff. Quantitative survey data documented the challenges and supports reported by the entire cohort, while qualitative interview data offered detailed insight about perceptions of challenges and supports encountered by these first-year teachers. The data suggest the "on-the-job" training required of participants influenced the supports they sought, as well as their perceptions of those supports made available to them during their first year of teaching. Participants placed a great deal of emphasis on short-term, quick-fix approaches to addressing classroom challenges. Further, individual characteristics shaped teachers' attitudes towards support, while teachers' perceptions of supports were also contingent upon the quality and frequency of interactions with their support providers. The findings in this study highlight the need to offer alternative certification teachers frequent, ongoing supports that are able to assist them with their individual content- and context-specific challenges.

Subject Area

Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Costelloe, Sarah Christen, "Multiple perspectives on the preparation and support of alternative certification teachers: A case for content- and context -specific support" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3309418.