In an earlier post I was wondering what kinds of changes to teacher training programs might be appropriate given what we now know about how kids learn, about what works with professional learning communities, etc. Today, I found one University's answer to that question.
The University of Michigan has dramatically changed their teacher education program. As the head of the program, Dean Deborah Ball says, "Image (sp) the difference between learning about child development, which is unquestionably helpful, and learning how to have a sensible interaction with a child, which permits you to know exactly what's going wrong right now with that child's reading, or why is this error occurring over and over again in math. That's actually being able to do something with that knowledge..."
That is a powerful statement, that addresses the difference between teaching theory and making learning relevant. Just as we know that is what our students need, that is what these student-teachers get in their training. I'm excited and impressed by what I've read about the philosophy of this program...I hope it is a success and that the relevant, structured experiences provided these teachers-in-training become common place.
The student teaching experience in Alberta, where teachers have to complete a minimum of 13 weeks (depending on their university) of student teaching is excellent, however I would love to see more focused and specific training in some skills. One of the professors in the U Mich program describes the 'rounds' student teachers go on (similar to medical rounds) as being a way to learn those specific skills - working with small groups is the example used in the article - in a hands-on way as opposed to talking about it in class. I love that idea!
What can we in the schools do to help the training programs? It seems like we might need to step up a bit and offer more of the wisdome accumulated through our teaching experiences to the classroom portion of teacher training programs. I say, sign us up!
You can read the article I am referring to, on the US National Public Radio (NPR) webpage, HERE.
An earlier post addressing the importance of changing teacher training in Michigan, also from NPR, is located HERE. I'll offer a caution with this one however, as this article talks about alternative certification as a way of bringing in passionate new teachers to the system. I'm not too keen on that idea, as I think passion is one thing but knowing how to respond to a wide range of student needs is a completely different thing entirely. I think the master teachers we need with our students need both, not just passion!