Considering the Role of Dispositions in Effective Urban Classroom Teaching:Evaluating the Validity of Martin Haberman’s ‘Star Teacher’ Survey
By Kavita Matsko
University of Chicago Masters Study


There is no greater challenge facing education today than recruiting, training and retaining capable teachers to work in our most distressed urban schools. A shortage of highly qualified teachers coupled with high turnover rates raise important questions about how new teachers are selected and prepared for the work force. Many experts call for a deepening of teacher knowledge and skills, as demonstrated by recent reforms in teacher preparation and induction programs. By contrast, little attention has been given to the role of teacher dispositions in the field of education. Martin Haberman argues that personal dispositions are relatively immutable in traditional programs of preparation and are more likely to predict success in urban school teaching than any other factor. This argument calls for greater weight on the selection process or a radically different program of preparation--with careful attention to the manner in which teachers are socialized into the profession.

Haberman’s work builds on Robert K. Merton’s theory of mid-range functions, which emphasizes the importance of psychological traits or dispositions in light of the situational demands of a profession. Haberman has designed a survey to identify teachers with dispositions most amenable to the profession of urban school teaching and according to his claims, the most likely to be successful in their work. This pilot study examines the importance of teacher dispositions in the field of urban education by conducting a validity study of Haberman ‘Star Teacher’ survey. If the tool is valid, teachers with the highest scores on his survey should also be more likely to remain in the field, demonstrate effective practice, and engage students in meaningful learning.

The results of the study indicate positive relationships between disposition scores and retention rates, dispositions and observed classroom performance, and disposition scores and student achievement gains—all of which are consistent with Haberman’s assertions about the significance of dispositions as they relate to effective urban school teaching. The overall findings of this pilot study suggest the need for further research on role of teacher dispositions in both the selection and teacher preparation processes as a potential means for improving urban schools.

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