6 ways to modernize teacher-preparation programs

“As the U.S. education system embraces digital learning, the teaching profession needs to change the way the nation’s teachers are prepared,” said Bob Wise, president of AEE and former governor of West Virginia. “Who better to ask how to make this change than people in schools and classrooms who see the need every day?”

Each question posed in the report is answered by representatives from national organizations, such as the Center for Teaching Quality and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

[Responses edited for brevity]

1. What advice would you give to a student hoping to become a teacher or a career switcher interested in a teaching career?

“They should be encouraged to visit schools, informal learning places, and other way to shadow educators. They need to be encouraged to write down their questions and be able to get them answered. This is done typically in ‘Introduction to Education’ types of classes, but that can be expanded by having stories of what educators’ lives are like, with making sessions such as ‘Think You Want to Be a Teacher?’ available.

“In some states, there is a formal program called Career Switcher; in this program, potential teachers must have degrees in what they want to teach, experience in practicing their profession, and then they may take a few classes but complete their internships as teachers with a lot of support.”

– Dr. Lynne Schrum, dean, West Virginia University College of Education and Human Services

2. In terms of legislation and certification, what can state policymakers do to help improve teacher-preparation programs and the connection to the needs of districts?

“Ultimately, certification systems need to become performance-based. We can no longer rely solely on multiple-choice and selected response tests to determine a person’s readiness to teach. We need aspiring teachers and in-service teachers to demonstrate their ability to manage classrooms, develop lesson plans, teach diverse students, create, implement, and analyze assessments, etc.

“The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), in collaboration with Stanford University and Pearson, have created such a performance assessment—edTPA—for those preparing to teach. This assessment was designed by teacher educators, teachers, and school principals. It is scored by national panels of teachers and teacher educators who are trained to apply specific rubrics designating various levels of competence.

“This assessment represents the entry standard for novice teachers indicating that they know how to teach. Several states are using edTPA as a requirement in their program approval and individual licensure processes.”

– Sharon Robinson, president of the American Association of College for Teacher Education

3. What do you think is being done in college and university teacher-preparation programs to ensure that future teachers know how to create a learner-centered instructional model in their classroom that is driven by high-quality digital learning and the effective use of technology?

“My belief is that we must approach this from two direction simultaneously. We must help faculty in teacher-preparation programs become comfortable in modeling effective, student-centered teaching that incorporates technology in appropriate ways. It is time to eliminate the three credits, just-in-case-you-need-it type of class that lumps all technologies into one class. Instead, we need to reconfigure methods classes to reflect the research-based approach, Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).

“At the same time, we need to support schools (and in particular school leaders) in using technology in rich and authentic ways. We need to foster the notion that teacher candidates and their mentor teachers have a lot to learn from each other about teaching, but also about using new technologies, social media, and alternative assessment models that take advantage of the affordance of the technology.

“In order to accomplish this, both locations—universities and K-12 classrooms—need to have access to the same types of technology.”

– Dr. Lynne Schrum

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Meris Stansbury

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