New book explores overcoming obstacles to teacher licensure exams

February 1, 2019

Aimed at preservice teachers, the latest book by Associate Professor Emery Petchauer, titled “Navigating Teacher Licensure Exams,” explores the different obstacles presented with teacher licensure exams and how to overcome them. These high-stakes exams are what aspiring educators must pass in order to become licensed teachers.

The book tackles the issues embedded in the teacher licensure exam in a way that students will both understand and benefit from. Having a resource to better understand an exam that can determine a student’s career path was one of the overarching goals Petchauer strived for while composing the book.

Emery Petchauer headshot
Emery Petchauer

“I took these exams when I was an undergraduate student majoring in English and Secondary Education,” said Petchauer, who has a dual appointment in the Department of English and Department of Teacher Education and also serves as the English Education program coordinator. “When I became a professor, I noticed that some of my education students who performed really well in class struggled with the exam. That didn’t make sense to me, so as a professor and scholar, when I see a problem and it doesn’t quite make sense, it’s my job to help. Seeing the students who performed well in my class and who would be great teachers struggle with the exam, and in some cases, have to change their major, made me want to explore this problem and ultimately write the book.”

Four years of research went into writing “Navigating Teacher Licensure Exams: Success and Self-Discovery on the High-Stakes Path to the Classroom,” (Routledge) which was released in December 2018. This scholarly book discusses how students pass the exam after initially failing, how they handle text anxiety and negative emotions, and how they build healthy advice networks.

“I worked closely with a number of students as they prepared to take their own exam, and afterwards, I tried to understand how they made sense of the experience,” Petchauer said. “I spent a lot of time interviewing them as they were preparing and also working with them in study sessions. I actually went to the exam with students on a number of occasions to try to better understand what it was like for them to be at an exam setting and how they experienced that. I always interviewed them afterward to get a better understanding of their experiences and feelings after it was over.”

Tips & strategies for students

Before taking teacher licensure exams, students often get mixed messages from their peers about the difficulties encountered with the test. These mixed signals influence the way students prepare for the exam and can affect their performance. To counteract these messages and anxieties, the book provides ways students can take control of these messages and prepare themselves for success.

“Exams like the teacher licensure exam are often racialized as well, with racial disparities concerning who passes the exam and who doesn’t,” Petchauer said. “For some students of color, the exams are racially charged experiences, so there’s a chapter about how people can work through the racialized aspects of the exam so it is less likely to hinder their performance.”

The book also touches on how faculty members can better support preservice teachers and provides them with a resource to prepare their students for the exam.

“I hope the book sheds light on the issues surrounding teacher licensure exams,” Petchauer said. “Sometimes it just takes a certain type of support for them to be able to do well. Giving these students a sound, scholarly resource to help them prepare, and also giving teacher education programs, professors, and faculty members a resource to prepare their students for the exam, these were all goals of mine during the process.”

This post, written by Kim Popiolek, originally appeared on the College of Arts & Letters website.