Teacher Education and Teacher Quality

One of the sectors that foster national development is education by ensuring the result of a functional human resource. The development institution of strong educational structures leads to a society populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. Positive social change and its associated economic growth are achieved as the people apply the skills they learned in school. One individual facilitates the acquisition of these skills we all ‘teacher’. For this reason, nations seeking economic and social development need not ignore teachers and their role in national development.

It is known that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are some of the most critical factors that shape students’ learning and social and academic growth. Teachers are the primary factor that drives students’ achievements in education. Teachers’ performance generally determines the quality of educateducation but the general performance of the students they train. Therefore, the teachers ought to get the best education, so they can, in turn, help prepare students in the best ways. Quality training will ensure that teachers are of exceptionally high qualiexceptionallyso as to manage classrooms and facilitate learning properly. Teacher quality is still a concern, even in countries where students consistently obtain high scores in international exams, such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In such countries, teacher education of prime imports ance because it can potentially cause positive student achievements.

The structure of teacher education keeps changing in almost all countries in response to the quest to produce teachers who understand students’ current needs or just the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure quality teachers are delivered and sometimes ensure that classrooms are not free of teachers. In the U.S.A., promoting high-quality teachers has been an issue of contention and, for the past decade or so, has been motivated through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015).

Teacher education is, therefore, no joke anywhere. Even in Japan and other Eastern countries, where more teachers are needed, and structures have been instituted to ensure high-quality teachers are produced and employed, issues relating to teacher and teaching quality are still of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). This article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system, and the second part looks at some determinants of quality teaching.


Ghana has deliberately attempted to produce quality teachers for her primary school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s teacher education aims to provide a complete teacher education program through initial teacher training and in-service training programs that will produce competent teachers who will help improve schools’ teaching and learning effectiveness. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s primary school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only until recently when the University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College, and other tertiary institutions joined in.

The most striking difference between the programs offered by the other tertiary institution is that while the Universities teach, examine, and award certificates to their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition. In contrast, the University of Cape Coast looks and awards certificates through the Institute of Education. The training programs offered by these institutions are attempts at providing many qualified teachers to teach in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs to ensure quality.

The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the methods run by various institutions differ in content and format. For example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast, is slightly different from the course structure and content of the Center for Continuing Education. None of these two programs matches that of the CoEs, though they all award a Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after three years of training.

The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) programs run by the CoEs are similar but not the same. The same can be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba, and other Universities and University Colleges. In effect, even though some products attract the same clients, the preparation of the products is done in different ways.

Through these many programs, teachers are prepared for primary schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways or programs through which teachers are prepared are seen to be good in situations with shortages, and more teachers should be trained quickly. A typical example is the aforementioned UTDBE program, designed to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to produce more teachers, because of a shortage of teachers, tends to comprise quality.

As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci, and Stone (2010), the factors contributing to teacher education and retention problems are varied and complex. Still, one factor that teacher educators are concerned about is the alternative pathways through which teacher education occurs. Those who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), according to Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci, and Stone (2010), have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even though the students are engaged in a short period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so can learn a lot in a short period. The prime aim, in many ways, is to fast-track teachers into the teaching profession. This short-changed the teacher preparation prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers.

Others argue that in subjects like English, Science, and mathematics, where there are usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate opening up of alternative pathways to good candidates who have done English, Mathematics, and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments in support of alternative routes hold for the alternative teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching for reasons I shall come to.

When the target is to fill vacant classrooms, issues of quality teacher preparation are relegated to the background. At the selection stage, the alternative pathways ease the requirement to enter teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students was admitted, I can confidently say that entry requirements into the CoEs were not adhered to. What was emphasized was that the applicant must be a non-professional essential school teacher engaged by the Ghana Education Service. The applicant holds a certificate above Basic Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect of compromised quality.

Even with regular DBE programs, I have realized, just recently I must say, that CoEs, in particular, are not attracting candidates with very high grades. This, as I have learned now, has a significant influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. Teacher education programs in Ghana are not regarded as prestigious, so applicants with high grades do not opt for education programs. And so, most applicants who apply for teacher education programs have relatively lower rates. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for the 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates.

This drop-in standard could only be attributed to CoEs’ attempt to attract more applicants. The universities, too, lower their cut-off point for education programs to attract more candidates. As alleged by Levine (2006), the universities see their teacher education programs, so to say, as cash cows. Their desire to make money forces them to lower admission standards to increase their enrollments like the CoEs have done. Admission standards are internationally lowered to achieve the goal of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or standard lowering severely challenges teacher education.

The Japanese have made teacher education and teaching prestigious, attracting students with high grades. One may argue that in Japan, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand, so authorities are not under any pressure to hire teachers. Their system won’t suffer if they do all to select higher grade students into teacher education programs. The issues relating to the selection of teachers are more important than the issues relating to recruitment. However, in Western and African countries, the issues relating to recruitment are prime. It is so because the demand for teachers far outweighs that of supply. Western and African countries have difficulties recruiting teachers because teachers and the teaching profession are not highly esteemed.

It is worth noting that it is not the recruiting procedure that only determines whether teacher education will be prestigious. Therefore, teacher education programs do not attract students with perfect grades. However, recruiting candidates with high rates ensures that teachers will exhibit the two characteristics essential to effective teaching – quality and effectiveness after training. Teacher education can be effective if the teaching profession is held in high esteem and attracts the best applicants. Otherwise, regardless of the incentives to attract applicants and the measures to strengthen teacher education, teacher education programs cannot fully achieve their purpose.

To strengthen teacher preparation, there is a need for teacher preparation programs to provide good training during the initial teacher training stage and provide and sustain support during the first few years after the teachers have been employed. That is why Lumpe (2007) supports the idea that pre-service teacher education programs should ensure teachers have gained a good understanding of effective teaching strategies. Methodology classes, therefore, should center on effective teaching strategies.

Whether or not there is the need to fill vacancies in the classroom due to the high teacher attrition many countries face, teacher preparation programs should aim to produce quality and effective teachers and not just fill vacancies. Irrespective of the training program’s pathway, the program must be structured such that trainees gain knowledge about pedagogy besides the inside of the subject matter. They should also get enough exposure to practical classroom experiences like the on-campus and off-campus teaching practices.


Teacher quality has an enormous influence on students’ learning. Anyone who has been in the teaching business will agree that teacher quality is central to education reform efforts. Priagula, Agam & Solmon (2007) described teacher quality as an important in-school factor significantly impacting students’ learning. Quality teachers have a positive impact on the success of students.

Where the students have quality and effective teachers, the students make learning gains, while those with ineffective teachers show declines. Concerning the classroom teacher, teacher quality is a continuous process of self-assessment to have professional development and self-renewal to enhance teaching. For the teacher educator, an effective or quality teacher has a pleasing subject matter and pedagogy knowledge, which they can build upon.

Outstanding teachers possess and exhibit many exemplary qualities. They have the skills, subject matter, and pedagogy to reach every child. They help equip their students with the knowledge and breadth of awareness to make sound and independent judgments. Three determinants of teacher quality will be considered here. They are; pedagogical knowledge, subject-matter content knowledge, and experience.


Trainees of every profession receive some education that will give them insight into and prepare them for the task ahead. That of the teacher is called Pedagogical Content Knowledge or Pedagogical Knowledge. Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be described as knowledge the teachers use in organizing classrooms, delivering the content the students must show mastery over, and managing the students entrusted into their care. Generally speaking, pedagogical knowledge is knowledge the teacher uses to facilitate students’ learning. Pedagogical Content Knowledge is in two primary forms – teachers’ knowledge of the students’ preconceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching methodologies.

Students come to class with many prejudices about what they are learning. The preconceptions may or may not be consistent with the subject matter delivered. Teachers must have a good idea of both kinds of prejudice to help students replace the inconsistent preconceptions or build upon the consistent preconceptions to bring about meaningful learning. Teachers must have a repertoire of teaching methodologies for facilitating students’ learning. When the methods are misapplied, little or no knowledge occurs in students. In effect, when either of the two is weak, the teacher becomes a bad one because that teacher will not execute their responsibility in the vocation they have chosen. Due to this, during teacher preparation, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is emphasized.

Teachers gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge from various sources. Friedrichsen, Abell, Pareja, Brown, Lankford, and Volkmann (2009) distinguished three potential sources of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. They listed the sources as professional development programs, teaching experiences, and, lastly, teachers’ own learning experiences. During their days as students in teacher education programs, teachers are assisted in various ways to gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge. For example, during practice, they learn how to put the pedagogical skills they learned. Teacher education programs and other professional development programs create avenues for teachers to gain pedagogical content knowledge through workshops, lectures, working with colleagues, and teaching practice.

Then their classroom experiences as they teach students lead them to gain insight into which methodologies work best under specific situations. That last source is usually ignored. It indicates that the teacher’s professional knowledge develops long before the teacher becomes a candidate entering into teacher education. This means how teachers teach influences the prospective teachers’ professional knowledge and beliefs to a large extent. Teachers at all levels generally overlook this type of learning because, unintentional and informal, it is.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be gained through formal and informal means. Learning educational opportunities for pedagogical content knowledge, formally designed by institutions, based on learning objectives that are generally prerequisites for certification, constitutes the formal means. Informal learning, students have clear ideas about the purpose of acquiring pedagogical skills. Informal learning, on the other hand, is not organized intentionally.

It takes place incidentally and can be considered a ‘side effect’. As Kleickmann et al. (2012) described it, it has no goal concerning learning outcomes and is contextualized to a large extent. This is often called learning by experience. Informal but deliberative learning situations exist. This occurs in group learning, mentoring, and intentional practice of some skills or tools. Werquin (2010) described informal but deliberative learning as non-formal learning. Unlike formal education, non-formal education does not occur in educational institutions and does not attract certification. Whether pedagogical content knowledge

Pedagogical Content Knowledge bridges the gap between content knowledge and actual teaching. Bridging the gap ensures that content discussions are relevant to education and that discussions themselves are focused on the content. Teachers who possess and use good Pedagogical content knowledge have reasonable control over classroom management and assessment, ability to learning processes, teaching methods, and individual characteristics (Harr, Eichler, & Renkl, 2014). As such, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is something teachers must pay attention to.

Such teachers can create an atmosphere that facilitates learning and can also present or facilitate understanding concepts by even lazy students. Students can make learning easier; hence, teachers with high pedagogical content knowledge can be considered quality teachers. It is worth noting that it is not pedagogical content knowledge only that makes good teachers. A teacher will not be good if they are master of pedagogical ability but lacks subject matter content knowledge.


Teaching aims to help learners develop intellectual resources that will enable them to participate fully in the main domains of human thought and inquiry. The degree to which the teacher can assist students in learning depends on the subject matter the teacher possesses. That is to say, teachers’ knowledge of the subject matter influences their efforts to help students understand that subject matter. If a teacher is ignorant or not well informed, they cannot do students any good; they will greatly harm them.

The teacher’s conception of knowledge shapes the kind of questions they ask and the ideas they reinforce, as well as the sorts of tasks the teacher designs. When the teacher conceives knowledge in such a way that it is narrow or does not have accurate information relating to a particular subject matter, they will pass on this same shallow or inaccurate information to students. This kind of teacher will hardly recognize consistent preconceptions and challenge students’ misconceptions. Such a teacher can introduce misconceptions by using texts uncritically or inappropriately altering them.

Teachers’ subject-matter content knowledge must go beyond the specific topics of their curriculum. This is because the teacher does not only define concepts for students. Teachers explain to students why a particular idea or definition is acceptable, why learners must know it, and how it relates to other ideas or intentions. This can be done properly if the teacher understands the subject matter well. This type of understanding includes understanding the intellectual context and value of the subject matter. Understanding the subject generally reinforces the teacher’s confidence in delivering lessons, making them good teachers.


Experience is one factor that accounts for variations in teacher salaries worldwide (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006). The fact that salary differences are based on the number of years the teacher has served suggests that employers believe the teacher’s experience makes them a better teacher, Such a teacher must be motivated to remain in the service. Though some studies like that of Hanushek (2011) have suggested that experience positively influences teacher quality only in the first few years and that beyond five years, experience ceases to have a positive impact on teacher efficacy, common sense tells us the one who has been doing something for a long time does better and with ease. Experience will therefore continue to pay since more experienced teachers tend to know more about the subject matter they teach, think and behave appropriately in the classroom, and have much more positive attitudes toward their students.

Novice teachers progressively gain and develop teaching and classroom management skills needed to make them effective teachers. Teachers who have spent more years teaching usually feel self-assured in their craft to use instructional and assessment tools. These teachers can reach even the most difficult-to-reach students in their classrooms. They also have greater confidence in their ability to control the class and prevent incidents that might make the teaching and learning process difficult. Their experience makes them much more patient and tolerant than their counterpart with few years of experience (Wolters & Daugherty, 2007).

They spend time learning themselves – trying to understand fully the job they have entered. The teachers who have spent more years teaching have gained a rich store of knowledge the fewer experience teachers will be trying to build. Teachers’ sense of effectiveness is generally associated with good attitudes, behaviors, and student interactions. This is something the experienced teacher has already acquired. These explain why more experienced teachers are usually more effective than novices.

Another reason more experienced teachers tend to be better teachers than their inexperienced counterparts is that experienced teachers have gained additional training and hence, have acquired other teaching skills needed to be effective from direct experience. Usually, the movement of teachers does not end at the initial teacher training stage. After graduation, teachers attend capacity-building seminars, workshops, and conferences. These allow teachers to learn emerging teaching techniques and refresh their memories of what they have learned. Such seminars, workshops, and conferences mostly add to the teacher’s store of knowledge. The other advantage the experienced teachers have is that they have encountered more situations to develop the skills needed to be effective teachers through additional direct and sometimes indirect experiences.

If the teachers encounter difficult situations in their classes, they learn from them. That is to say, they have encountered challenging problems, which allowed them to build their skills. Whether they were able to overcome these tough situations or not does matter so much. If the teachers can overcome difficult problems, they learn how to resolve such issues at the next encounter. Otherwise, their reflections and suggestions from co-teachers give them ideas about approaching the same or similar situations. They also have a greater chance of exposure to current and competent models.

More experienced teachers have a higher chance of demonstrating superior self-efficacy in most areas because they have learned the needed classroom management and instructional skills from their colleagues. Teachers who have been in active service for many years are most likely to be classified as quality teachers because of what they have learned from in-service training, capacity-building workshops and seminars, their interaction with other teachers, and what they have learned from experience in their classrooms.


Teacher education aims to provide teacher education programs through initial teacher training for teacher trainees and in-service training for practicing teachers to produce knowledgeable and committed teachers for effective teaching and learning. To realize this mission, teacher education programs have been instituted to train teachers. These programs differ from one country to another. Even within the same country, different programs may teach teachers for the same certificate. These alternative programs are created, especially when there are teacher shortages and attempts are being made to train large numbers of teachers at a time. These alternative programs ease the teacher certification requirement, allowing those who, under normal circumstances, would not become teachers.

This introduces serious challenges. Because many teachers are needed within a short period, their training is somewhat fast-tracked, resulting in what is usually referred to as half-baked teachers – teachers of lower quality. Applicants who did not gain admission into the program of their choice come into teaching only because they have nowhere else to go. Such applicants tend not to be dedicated to the teaching service. Fast-tracking initial teacher preparation harms the mission for which the initial teacher training institutions were created. The teacher produced through such training is usually not high quality.

Teacher preparation has a direct impact on student’s achievement. A teachwell-prepared teacherhe most important in-school factor upon which a student’s success hinges. A well-prepared teacher has gone through a strong teacher preparation program. Therefore, educators must work to create needed improvements in teacher preparation. To strengthen teacher preparation, teacher preparation programs must provide strong preparation during the initial teacher training period and support fresh teachers until they are inducted. Pre-service teacher education should emphasize the acquisition of effective teaching strategies. This can be done in methodology classes and corresponding field experiences. Students with quality teachers make achievement gains, while those with ineffective teachers show declines; therefore, having high-quality teachers in classrooms positively impacts students’ achievements.

Pedagogical content knowledge, subject matter content knowledge, and experience determine the quality of a teacher. The teacher’s job is facilitating students’ learning of the subject matter. Teachers make the subject matter accessible to students by using Pedagogical content knowledge. Pedagogical content knowledge has two broadening of students’ subject-matter preconceptions and teachers’ understanding of teaching strategies. What Pedagogical content knowledge does is that it links subject-matter content knowledge and the practice of teaching, making sure that discussions on content are appropriate and that discussions focus on the content and help students to retain the content.

The degree to which the teacher can assist students in learning depends on the teacher’s subject-matter content knowledge. Teachers who have inaccurate information or comprehend the subject matter in narrow ways harm students by passing on the same false or shallow subject-matter knowledge to their students. The last of the three determinants of teacher quality is experience. Teachers who have served more years gain additional and more specific training by attending seminars, conferences and workshops, and in-service training and so tend to understand their job better. They also might have met and solved many challenging situations in their classroom and know exactly what to do case.

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!