Five Big Changes to the Future of Teacher Education

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In the book Teaching 2030 by Barnett Berry and 12 classroom experts, the authors pinpoint specific skills educators will need to teach in the schools of tomorrow. They say teachers must be prepared to find and adapt new technologies to engage the digital generation, as well as work across traditional subject areas using project learning. They must be able to use data and evidence to inform their practice and know how to work in both virtual learning environments and brick-and-mortar schools. And they'll need to collaborate with community-based organizations and work in schools that provide all kinds of other services for students and their families.

Along those lines, Berry has outlined five changes he believes need to be made to the future of teacher education.

  1. INFORMED BY NEED. University-based education schools currently produce about 170,000 graduates every year -- but only 70 percent of those actually enter teaching. One reason is the mismatch between production and market demand. In some “teacher surplus” states, universities graduate far too many teachers prepared for subjects and areas in low demand (such as elementary, physical education, social studies), while math, science, and special education vacancies continue to frustrate school leaders as well as parents. And because of the way education schools are funded, most universities offer just about every kind of teacher education major, irrespective of the local needs of area districts looking for new recruits. In the future, as long as we have the right policies in place, education schools should recruit and prepare those who are needed — and use the cost savings to recruit the right teachers who can teach the right subjects -- as well as invest more in the right kind of pedagogical training.
  2. INVESTMENTS IN CLINICAL TRAINING. Most university-based teacher education programs, unlike those in engineering, architecture, and nursing (and of course medicine), have few resources to prepare recruits in clinical, or real-life, contexts. Future teachers have had little opportunity to learn how to teach in schools under the tutelage of master teachers and college faculty who can closely supervise them and ensure they pass muster on rigorous (and more expensive) performance assessments. Teachers must also learn how to work effectively in both virtual networks as well as in community-based organizations that serve student learning in 24/7 venues. Policymakers must do their share by investing in the clinical training of future teachers, who can learn how to teach by interning in the places and with the people with whom they work in order to serve students effectively.
  3. CHANGING THE CONTEXT OF CONTENT. Most education schools have taught teachers how to know things and think about things. But they’ve never had the chance to practice implementing high-level strategies, like communicating with parents and eliciting student thinking around subject areas. How do you teach someone to unpack a student’s thinking around specific subjects, in physics, social studies, literature? How do you build, create, and score assessments? How do you communicate student progress to not just parents but also policymakers? How do you give homework that’s meaningful? How do you help students, who are growing up on virtual reality games and Google figure out how to determine the accuracy of content and how to use it in solving problems? Universities must help future teachers understand and capitalize on the changing context of content in teaching diverse learners to meet high academic standards.
  4. SEAMLESS CONNECTIONS BETWEEN PRE-SERVICE EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. With an explosion of diverse students in chaotic school environments (and growing numbers of those with special needs or whose first language is not English), it's that much more difficult for novice teachers to be fully prepared. The teacher education system needs to ensure that pre-service teachers learn crucial skills (see #3) in settings similar to those in which they will teach. They must go through performance assessments to determine their strengths and weaknesses, and this information must be used to craft plans for their future development as educators. With virtual communities like Teacher Leaders Network, and new outlets like the Teaching Channel, teachers can learn from each other, while ed schools and school districts can find ways to capitalize on these connections. Doing all of this will require that policymakers fuse the resources of universities and school districts in creating seamless connections between pre-service training and on-going professional development.
  5. LEARNING AND LEADING IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT. In preparing all students to work in the global economy and participate in our complex, evolving democracy, public schools need to capitalize on the untapped potential of teacher leaders. Our education schools need to prepare this new generation of teacher leaders, who know how to spread their pedagogical expertise to colleagues and administrators and can communicate effectively with policymakers and parents. Doing so requires not just teachers who have technical skill in connecting good ideas with the right stakeholders and constituents, but who also have a deep understanding of how historical imperatives shape future prospects for the profession that makes all others possible. Educators who train teachers must cultivate a critical mass of teacher leaders, or teacherpreneurs, who continue to teach but have knowledge and skill to lead the transformation of teaching and learning.

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