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Teacher specialization and student perceived instructional quality: what are the relationships to student reading achievement?

Journal article
Authors Stefan Johansson
Eva Myrberg
Published in Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability
Volume 31
Issue 2
Pages 177–200
ISSN 1874-8597
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Pages 177–200
Language en
Keywords Instructional quality, PIRLS, Structural equation modeling, Teacher education, Teacher specialization
Subject categories International education


© 2019, The Author(s). At an international level, teachers’ work is increasingly circumscribed and regulated. Notions of accountability have shifted from primarily inputs to primary outcomes, and investment in strengthening teacher performance evaluation has expanded. At the same time, investment in enhancing the quality of teacher education programs is contested in many countries. Occupational professionalism, that is, a traditional, historic form characterized by discretionary decision-making, collegial authority, and trust in the practitioner, has been replaced by organizational professionalism that incorporates target-setting and performance review. The overarching question in this study concerns the meaningfulness and appropriateness of using student perceived instructional quality for the estimation of teaching quality in comparison to teacher specialization. The study investigates relations between fourth grade students’ reading achievement levels, teacher specialization, and student perceptions of instructional quality, based on the Swedish PIRLS 2011 data. Performing two-level structural modeling with latent variables, this study revealed a positive relationship between teacher specialization relevant for the grade and subject taught, and student reading achievement. By contrast, there was no association between student perceptions of instructional quality and student reading achievement, or between instructional quality and teacher specialization. The results raise questions about the benefit of student evaluations of teacher classroom practices from both a validity perspective, as well as from a teacher professionalization perspective. However, the cross-sectional data used does not allow for causal inference, and further research on the relationships between teacher specialization, student perceived instructional quality, and student achievement is therefore needed.

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