Monday, April 26, 2010
Teacher Training in Crisis?
Teacher education has not been in a healthy state for years. Art Levine documents in his , 2006 study, Educating School Teachers some of the key failings, "most teacher preparation programs have low admissions and graduation standards, inadequate curriculums, disconnects between academic and clinical instruction, and alumni who say they were not adequately prepared for the classroom." The report called for sweeping changes such as shutting down low performing programs but colleges have been slow to take up the call for reform so loudly sounded by the Levine report. Now comes a completely unexpected result of the inaction--New York State Board of Regents now has established a new policy enabling non-universities, such as organizations like Teach for America, to create teacher education programs, such programs would allow the Board of Regents to grant a master's degrees to teachers. I agree with Levine's recent article/blog this is a step backwards. The knowledge base and objectivity, professional expertise a university in conjunction with discipline based resources are second to none when universities are functioning at their best. However, too many universities today are focused on bottom line issues and not operating according to highes today t ideals. Instead they are too often concerned with how many students can they attract for the lowest price --using a combination of large classess and relying on adjunct faculty. For these universities New York State Board of Regents' action should be a wake up call.
How is this related to global education--here is Art Levine's perspective,
"both universities and schools are in the midst of adapting to dramatic global change. As a consequence of demographic, economic, and technological shifts, universities and schools — like so many of our social institutions, including government, health care, the media, and financial institutions — appear broken because they were built for a different time. All of them need to be repaired, through no fault of their own."
In other words the current dysfunction is a result of global changes that have swept through other areas of society. I partially agree with that assessment but it would seem that some universities need to spend less on new buildings, administrator salaries and huge marketing budgets and more on the slow work of investing in needed reforms. This is particularly the case in the distance education world where the lure of reducing costs through large sized classes has beeen enormously tempting. An outside partner maybe needed to make dramatic reform really happen.Art Levine desribes a few instances (with the help of the Woodrow Wilson Foundtion) that are starting to yield impressive results, "We have seen universities move from a mostly on-campus program to a truly clinical program in which aspiring teachers spend most of their time in K-12 schools observing master teachers, teaching under supervision, and melding theory and practice. We have seen universities break down the liberal arts/education divide and engage discipline-specific arts and sciences professors in mentoring novice teachers."
So what is needed now is a larger discussion about how really well thought through change can occur, improvements and innovations that benefit teacher of education students and help them truly become 21st century globally aware professionals so they can assist their students thrive in the rapidly changing world they will inherit. Part of the solution will be to assist our students take full advantage of the revolutionary ways technology can be used to enable vital links between clinical practice, theory and reflection. Now universities must feel the heat and respond in ways that make us believe that they can indeed grow to be even more relevant to the new century as they were undoubtedly in the last one.