Understanding the qualities of effective teachers
Matthew Hirshberg

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Discipline

Teacher Education/Teaching and Learning
What are the individual differences that predict effective teaching? The surprising but honest response is that we really don't know. Recent advances in educational sciences have operationalized the types and quality of teacher-student classroom interactions that promote student learning. A substantial collection of studies link the materialization of high-quality interactions to a range of salutary teacher and student outcomes. Although these advances intimate, they do not directly reveal the individual teacher qualities that underlie effective teaching. The proposed research will use covariate adjusted Hierarchal Linear Models to estimate teacher impacts on student achievement outcomes. In these models, the intercepts (i.e., average student learning gain on the outcome for each teacher) are allowed to vary by teacher, representing the variance in teacher effects on student learning after statistically controlling for a wide array of confounding inputs. Extending previous research, teacher participants will complete a comprehensive assessment battery of the qualities theorized to be important to teaching effectiveness. In a stepwise fashion, I will then enter these variables as teacher-level predictors to estimate the amount of variance in intercepts each quality explains, providing novel insight into the individual differences underlying teacher effectiveness. Results from this study will inform new approaches to teacher education and professional development by identifying the teacher qualities most strongly associated with salubrious outcomes for students and teachers.
About Matthew Hirshberg
Matt Hirshberg is a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin Madison. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Matt also has an M.Ed. from Lesley University and was a middle school teacher before earning his doctorate. His research is animated by two central questions: What qualities underlie personal and professional accomplishment and overall well-being? And how can these qualities be systematically developed? Matt is especially interested in the application of these questions within educational contexts, for both students and teachers. His research has involved observational studies to estimate the relationships between qualities, competency, and well-being, development of novel measures to better assess key qualities, and intervention research using contemplative techniques such as mindfulness and loving-kindness meditations to examine whether qualities identified as important can be systematically developed. Matt?s research is intended to inform educational policy and practice so that educational systems can realize equitable and beneficial outcomes at all levels.

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