Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Teacher Training

Most teachers I know don't have many favorable comments about education classes. They may have had a class or two they enjoyed in college, such as Educational Psychology. But the vast majority argue that teachers learn to teach by teaching - and that doesn't mean student teaching/practicum. It seems most learned to teach in their first 2-3 years, and that probably explains why half of all teachers leave the profession after about three years. Thus, the question is how to "train" effective teachers - if that is even possible.

Colorado is joining a group of eight other states that are seeking to change the way colleges and universities train teachers, as they seek a way to produce an effective educator for every classroom. The focus is, of course, on the practice of teaching - notably expanding the in-classroom experience. The idea of teacher education as an "internship" seems to be relevant in this case. The plan reminds of a book I read a decade ago called The Conspiracy of Ignorance. The author called for the elimination of bachelor degrees in teaching and instead envisioned a Master's degree program for teachers who have completed a bachelor's degree in content. He also argued for higher academic standards for teachers, requiring that teaching candidates only come from the top third of their class.

While there are reasons to criticize this idea, it is more in line with teacher education practices around the world. I've argued before that there are only so many "Superman" teachers, and I really think an effective teacher is much more a natural characteristic than a taught skill. But that's not an absolute position. It will be interesting to see where this goes.


Anonymous said...

I've suggested the same when the topic comes up. You can't teach if you don't know the stuff yourself.

What prep beyond the B.A. in a subject that is truly helpful is up for debate. I'd say very little classroom-type instruction works. I think if people were to spend time WATCHING teachers teach, they would learn a lot. You can do this on YouTube today. There are many people out there who have put their Calculus class, for example, online. I can tell you pretty easily what works for me AND WHY. I take positive attributes I notice as things I want to emulate. I don't think it's enough to tell people, they have to see it.

mmazenko said...

I agree with you - modeling is often the best way to instruct people. Sometimes, I worry that people think all classes could just be put online for students - and that's not realistic because one-on-one instruction is important. I never really thought about online classes as a teaching tool. That is a really great point