A-Z Index

1.6 Dispositions and behaviors required for successful professional practice

All Northwest teacher, leader, and counselor candidates upon completion demonstrate the dispositions and behaviors required for successful professional practice. They know that their professional behaviors, extending beyond their content knowledge and pedagogical skills, influence student learning, and have demonstrated appropriate professional behaviors (e.g. punctuality and attendance, strong written and verbal communication, professional dress and interactions) in their coursework, clinical experiences, and student teaching.

This section of the QAR is divided into three sub-sections: the first addresses Northwest's processes for assessing candidate dispositions prior to 2019, the second addresses the processes beginning in the 2019-20 academic year for undergraduate programs, and the third addresses advanced/graduate candidates.

Assessing Candidate Dispositions Prior to 2019

The process of collecting dispositional data at Northwest changed in the fall 2019 semester. In 2014, the Professional Education Unit assessed candidate dispositions at the initial and advanced levels based around one assessment form. This was the Niagara Candidate Disposition Inventory Sample, more commonly known at Northwest as the Niagara Disposition. This observation form consists of 21 items related candidate commitment, responsibility, professional relationships, critical thinking and reflective practice.  

Initial candidates were assessed multiple times, depending on the program, prior to student teaching.  During student teaching candidates were assessed by themselves, their university supervisor and their cooperating teacher.  In addition, any initial candidate could be assessed at any time by a course instructor or advisor using a version of the form known as the Red Flag Disposition.  

The Red Flag Disposition was used in cases of dispositional issues that needed to be addressed immediately.  The form, when completed, was sent to the candidate's advisor. Depending on the issue, it was addressed with a conversation, an official letter, or a meeting with a committee consisting of the advisor, course instructor and Assistant Director of Teacher Education.  

Advanced candidates were also assessed using the Niagara Disposition a total of four times. The first instance required that the form be completed by a reference as part of program admittance. They were then assessed by either their program advisor or a course instructor after the completion of 9-12 credit hours. Finally, candidates completed a self assessment and were assessed by their program advisor at the completion of the program.

This system had advantages but also drawbacks. Advantages included the use of an assessment form fully vetted for validity and reliability- the Niagara Disposition. For initial candidates particularly, one of the strengths was triangulation of data during student teaching, as the form was completed as a self assessment and then by both professionals supervising the candidate. For advanced candidates, it was advantageous to have the form completed prior to admittance, at the halfway point, and then by two assessors at the end of the program (self and advisor).

However, while the assessment was psychometrically strong, faculty felt that it did not offer enough opportunities for formative feedback. Some faculty considered it a “gotcha” document and were loathe to use the form. Faculty also desired an assessment tool that allowed for more specific feedback to help candidates grow as educators. While candidates had an opportunity to self-report, research indicated that self-assessed dispositions were susceptible to inaccuracies.

An emerging issue was how each program had its own plans for how the assessment tool was used prior to student teaching. This was particularly troublesome because best practices indicated that dispositions should be assessed and used for admittance to student teaching. Since each program had their own methods of disposition assessment prior to student teaching, there was not a clear cut use of this data to help determine which candidates should continue to the next level of the program.

Regarding the use of Red Flag Dispositions, two main issues appeared. Faculty for the most part seemed hesitant to use this assessment due to a negative stigma attached. On the other hand, the form itself was used sparingly.

For the advanced candidate dispositional assessment process, the main issue was that it collapsed under its own weight. With four required assessments, little accountability to ensure that it was collected at each level and little use of the data that was collected properly, the use of these assessments diminished over time.  

Revised Undergraduate Candidate Disposition Assessment Beginning 2019-2020

With substantial issues impacting disposition assessment at the initial and advanced candidate levels, changes were needed. Beginning in the Spring 2017 semester, initial program faculty began working on a new disposition assessment form. Drawing from the Niagara Disposition, the University of Northern Michigan Dispositions Document, and the Winona State University Dispositions Document, a committee of Elementary,  P-12 and Secondary education faculty convened to develop an instrument that was more formative in nature. The new form, the Program Redesign Disposition focused on Missouri Teacher Standards 1-6, with the following disposition items assessed:

  • Demonstrates an inclination to seek learning from any situation and to encourage others to do the same.
  • Demonstrates reliability in attendance, promptness, notification of emergencies, reliability when making commitments.
  • Work is completed with attention to detail, thoughtful analysis, and submitted on time.
  • Works effectively with professional colleagues and others
  • Reflects on and evaluates own experiences and work, is willing and able to recognize and responds to suggestions for growth and improvement.
  • Oral Communication
  • Written Communication
  • Professional Ethics
  • Appearance

After an assessment tool was developed, policy was needed to ensure the tool was used as part of a formative strategy and as a screening mechanism. As of fall 2019, all initial candidates will be assessed with this form at multiple points in their academic career. Initial program candidate disposition schedules are outlined below. Teacher candidates will have dispositions formally assessed on the following timeline:

Process Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3


Inclusive Classrooms

Teaching is Communication

Elementary/Special Ed/Middle School/Secondary Majors:

  • Designing Integrated Curriculum 2

Early Childhood Majors:

  • Field Exp. in Preschool

Student Teaching


Course Instructor

Course Instructor

University Supervisor & Cooperating Teacher

Reviewed by



Director of Field Experience/TEGC

This chart indicates at what phase the new disposition assessment tool will be administered.  Phase 1 disposition assessment will be given before teacher education program admittance and Phase 2 disposition assessment will be completed prior to admission to student teaching.  Phase 3 will be completed at the halfway point of student teaching. The assessors are indicated as the course instructor for Phase 1 and 2 and as the university supervisor and cooperating teacher for Phase 3. 

The main advantage of this process will be that the results will be reviewed at each level prior to admission to the next phase by a specific committee or individual. The Teacher Education Admission Committee (TEAC), which reviews student data prior to admission into teacher education, will review candidate results from Phase 1 results. The Teacher Education Guidance Committee (TEGC), which reviews candidate data following admission to the program, will review the Phase 2 results. Finally, the Director of Field Experience will review Phase 3 results. If serious issues persist during student teaching, disposition results will be reviewed again by the TEGC. Assessments will be completed using the LMS known as Northwest 360 (also known as Starfish).

At each formal assessment, the instructor for the course will observe and take note of the candidate’s dispositions and complete an assessment for each candidate.  Candidates with no dispositional concerns should be encouraged to continue to do the good work they are doing and do not require additional intervention. Candidates who demonstrate consistently exceptional performance will be recognized by the instructor. 

In addition, instead of the old Red Flag Disposition, at any time during the candidate’s education course, instructors can raise a ‘Teacher Education Dispositions’ flag in Northwest 360. This alerts the advisor to a problem that has arisen allowing the advisor to make contact with the student. These flags will also be used as part of the review of disposition assessment data during admission to teacher education or student teaching.

The new dispositional assessment tool has been piloted during student teaching in the fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters. Pilot data indicates strong performance by candidates across the unit and by individual programs. Also, Fall 2019 assessors will be provided training materials to ensure assessment reliability.

Revised Advanced/Graduate Candidate Disposition Assessment Beginning 2019-2020

Similar to the initial candidate disposition assessment process, advanced candidate program faculty met in Spring 2019 to determine how their dispositional assessment process should be improved. The earlier system had too many assessments and not enough accountability. Some assessors did not complete their forms and the data collected was seldom used.

After these meetings, the advanced programs decided to use a version of the Niagara Disposition. All advanced programs will use a shorter version of the original instrument with its 21 items. The new “Mini-Disposition” instrument, consists of only seven items that were most likely to be assessed via observation of both teacher and principal candidates. Advanced candidate dispositions will be assessed at three specific validation points.

  • The first validation point will be early in the program (either as part of the admission process or within the first 6 hours of coursework depending on the program) and will be completed by a supervisor who has professional knowledge of the candidate.
  • The second validation point will be during a midpoint (usually after the completion of 9-12 credit hours) of the candidate’s degree program. Dispositions will be assessed by an advisor or a course instructor who has knowledge of the candidate.
  • The third validation point will be completed by the advisor, course instructor, or site supervisor in the final semester of the candidate’s program. 

Similar to initial candidate assessment, this Mini-Disposition form may be used at any time during a candidate’s program when a course instructor, advisor, or site supervisor wishes to report dispositions which require immediate attention. 

The assessor will be asked to indicate how they used the dispositional assessment results.  The candidate’s advisor will also review the results from dispositions forms each semester. If the advisor finds cause for concern or the need for remedial action based upon the review of disposition forms, the advisor will note the action taken within the university’s online LMS, Northwest Online. The steps that may be taken are:

  1. An individual conference is held with the candidate;
  2. A letter is sent to the candidate with remedial actions and a timeline;
  3. The candidate is asked to develop a plan to rectify the disposition; or
  4. In the case of severe or multiple dispositional offenses, the candidate is referred to the appropriate committee within the school or department.

All disposition assessment data will be collected and analyzed by the Quality Assurance Team. Results will be shared during one of our two Professional Education Unit retreats each year, as part of a rolling calendar for Unit-wide data analysis for quality assurance.