Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday's Five - Pre-service Teacher Education

Flickr/RLFilipkowski
So many of our teachers graduate from college and enter our schools woefully unprepared for the challenges and demands that come with the job.  I'm sure this is one of the reasons that 46% of teachers who enter the profession leave within 5 years. During this Tuesday's edchat on Twitter there was a discussion of how we could reform pre-service teacher education.   For the past few days I've been thinking quite a bit about my own undergraduate education, the discussions I've had with student-teachers with whom I've worked, and ways we could better prepare teachers before they are assigned their own classrooms.  Here are five ideas.
  1. Show pre-service teachers the benefits of professional networking.  Most schools have some sort of mentoring system for new teachers.  It's fantastic to have someone to go for when you need support and answers to questions that arise.  Unless you have a lousy mentor.  Wouldn't it be better to give our new teachers a network of thousands of educators who are happy to share, encourage, support, and collaborate?  How to build and collaborate within a Professional Learning Network (PLN) should be explicitly taught and modeled early on and encouraged throughout the teacher training process so that its utilization is second nature when new teachers are hired.
  2. Elementary education majors need more training in the understanding of math.  We do a great job of teaching kids ways to "do" math in elementary school, but we don't always do a great job of teaching kids to understand math.  Unfortunately, a lot of elementary teachers aren't comfortable with math.  It's not uncommon to hear the words "I could never pass the 5th (or 8th) grade math test" uttered in an elementary faculty room.  There is something very wrong with that.  Nobody would approve of a teacher who couldn't read on a 5th grade level teaching reading to our young students.  Conceptual understanding of math can't be taught at the elementary level unless teachers have a conceptual understanding of math. 
  3. Technology needs modeled and used within the learning process.  If we expect new teachers to teach 21st century skills using 21st century tools we need to create learning environments within their pre-service programs that allow them to experience what learning this way looks and feels like.  Nobody learns how to teach from a textbook.  Replace them with Livebinders, wikis, and other collaborative on-line tools.  College classes should have backchannel discussions going on, which are saved for later reference.  Students from different areas of the country (and world) should be collaborating on projects using technology.  If our pre-service programs were technology rich and brought into the 21st century it would be much easier for our new teachers to build learning environments that promote 21st century skills.
  4. Students should learn how to collect and use the data that matters to improve student learning.  This doesn't mean standardized testing data.  Standardized test scores come to us months after students take the tests and give little insight as to how to individualize instruction.  We need to train our new teachers in formative assessment techniques.  They need to know how to diagnose student learning within lessons and then use that data to guide their teaching.  Continually using formative assessment to identify what students have mastered a concept and using that information to find ways to help those who haven't has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to promote student achievement.  Teachers need to have this ability when they enter a classroom. 
  5. Replace student teaching with a medical style paid multi-year internship.  The current student teaching model allows for two 6 week placements and less than much less than 10 weeks of actual teaching.  It is impossible to learn enough in that time to be prepared for a profession.  New teachers should spend a minimum of two years practicing and learning to teach under the supervision of a master teacher.  They should get constant feedback and support.  These years of learning would benefit our new teachers as well as our students.
Do you think that your pre-service program prepared you for teaching?  If so, what components of that program were most effective?  If not, what would you change about it?  What strengths and weaknesses do you see in teachers entering the profession today?  Please share with us in the comment section below and pass the post along to others on Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, and Google+ so that we can hear many different opinions.  For an archive of past topics, check out the Friday's Five Page.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great post. I can resonate with much that you are saying, particularly #3 "Technology needs modeled and used within the learning process". Unfortunately, many Preservice programs do not spend enough time inservicing, educating and insisting that their instructors/professors are themselves using/model 21st Century Pedagogies. In fact, I would argue that many programs don't have technology as a "mandatory" course - which is truly unfortunate. I am currently a Pre-service teacher/ instructor at Brock university in Hamilton with a focus on tech integration and social networking. As part of my job at Brock, I have been a co-developer and facilitator of a new Ed-Tech Cohort for preservice students where we are using a TPACK framework to teach these new teachers 21st Century learning and teaching skills. Here is a link (http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=970) to a recent presentation at k12online about the topic. This job has made me realize, more then ever, that traditional teaching methods are very ingrained within the higher education level. I am glad that people like yourself and others within our PLN are participating in discussions about this issue. Just fantastic!

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  2. Hi there! Totally love #1 and that's why I founded New Teacher Chat #ntchat http://teachingwithsoul.wordpress.com/ntchat/ We meet every Wed. in a smaller more intimate chat. It's practitioner focused and supportive. It also drove me to create The Teacher Mentoring Project http://edupln.ning.com/group/theteachermentoringproject 168 educators are available there to mentor a teacher virtually and connect. My passion is to mentor and coach new/pre-service teachers to be true 21st Century Educators and with my blog and work at Edutopia.org,and a number of other places...I'm doing just that! Cheers!

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  3. PIPEDREAMS and Lisa,
    Thank you for the kind words. I've checked out both of your links, and I think it's fantastic that there are people like you making a difference for our next generation of teachers. I've never participated in a #ntchat, but I've had the pleasure of following along before. It's inspiring to see new teachers fostering a culture of collaboration. I'm thrilled that both of you found the time to share and comment, and I'm happy to have you both in my PLN.
    -Mike

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