Teaching the Teachers

Teaching the Teachers

To prepare effective teachers for 21st century classrooms, teacher education must shift away from a norm which emphasizes academic preparation and course work loosely linked to school-based experiences. Rather, it must move to programs that are fully grounded in clinical practice and interwoven with academic content and professional courses. This demanding, clinically based approach would create opportunities for teaching candidates to connect what they learn with the challenge of implementation, while under the expert guidance of skilled master clinical educators. Candidates would blend practitioner knowledge with academic knowledge as they learn by doing. They would refine their practice in light of new knowledge acquired and data gathered about whether their students are learning. In order to make this change, teacher education programs must work in close partnership with school districts, especially those that are based on “best practice”, to redesign teacher preparation to better serve prospective teachers and the students they teach.

How can Teachers help?

This provides a great opportunity for teachers to begin a conversation at the building, district and state level regarding the need for high quality teacher education. Teachers know firsthand what skills a quality teacher needs in today’s 21st Century educational environment. We can help to build partnerships that include shared decision making and oversight on candidate selection and completion by master teachers, school districts and teacher education programs. This will bring accountability closer to the classroom, based largely on evidence of candidates’ effective performance and their impact on student learning. It also will ensure professional accountability, creating a platform to ensure the teachers are able to own, and fully utilize, the knowledge base of most effective practice. Teaching is a profession of practice, and prospective teachers must be prepared to become expert practitioners who know how to use the knowledge of their profession to advance student learning and how to build their professional knowledge through practice.

How can Policy makers and Administrators help?

If you believe that an effective teacher is the most critical component for success in the classroom then begin to review best practices around the world and see how others are doing this. It is hard to argue with results. Make sure to involve master teachers in the conversation and decision- making. Involve the community of parents, business leaders and other key stakeholders as planning progresses. It can be done!

Teachers, policy makers and those in higher education must start thinking about teacher preparation as a shared responsibility. Only when preparation programs become deeply engaged with schools and the master teachers in those schools will their clinical preparation become truly robust and they are able to support the development of candidates’ urgently needed skills and learn what schools really need. Conversely, only through much closer cooperation with preparation programs will districts be able to hire new teachers who are better prepared to be effective in their schools. Through partnerships, preparation programs will be able to integrate course work, theory and pedagogy with practitioner knowledge.

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