7 Keys to Rebuilding Teacher Preparation Programs

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The education profession is constantly under fire from media, so-called reformers, like Michelle Rhee, and from politicians. Although I consider myself one of education’s biggest allies, I’ve vilified established education practices in many places, including my book, Role Reversal, where I contend that one of the profession’s biggest problems is pre-service education.

The problem with teacher preparation programs is that most of them have misguided approaches. For example, many colleges are now focusing on teaching Common Core integration to pre-service teachers, a slippery slope, considering the myriad of issues facing the Common Core and CCSS testing.

If education is to be truly improved, and there’s plenty of room for improvement, pre-service education programs must be rebuilt.

7 keys to rebuilding teacher preparation
  1. Stop teaching outdated methods: As long as new teachers are taught that daily lessons are composed of lecture, practice, homework, test and grade, students will continue to struggle. There has to be a new model, and the only way to proliferate that model is to teach it in colleges.
  2. Teach mobile learning and social media integration: More and more schools are adopting 1:1 or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) technology programs. Still, far too many teachers enter the classroom with little to no understanding of how mobile learning works. Most don’t even have Twitter accounts. Pre-service teachers must not only learn how to teach with apps and social media, they need to use it themselves. Let’s teach this in our education programs.
  3. Teach formative assessment: That archaic cycle, noted in the first key, typically ends with a summative assessment (likely a multiple choice test). Far too many teachers believe formative assessment is a quiz or whole-class Q&A session. It’s imperative that pre-service programs dedicate entire courses to proper formative assessment practices. There are many powerful digital tools designed for formative assessment (see the second key), and these should be part of a formative assessment course. Most important, new teachers need to understand how to use two-way narrative feedback as the most critical part of formative assessment.
    If pre-service teachers are taught how to encourage self-assessment all the time, students will soon become independent learners
  4. Teach project-based learning: If we are to escape the traditional learning cycle, teachers must understand how to create and facilitate meaningful, lengthy (yearlong) projects. Effective project-based learning teaches organization, time management and collaboration — all important life skills.
  5. Teach rapport building: This should be a mandatory course in every teacher preparation program and Jeffrey Benson’s Hanging In should be required reading. If teachers can’t effectively interact with even the most reluctant learners, everything else we do is irrelevant.
  6. Teach independent learning and self-assessment: According to experts like John Hattie, Alfie Kohn and Dylan Wiliam, student self-assessment is one of the most undervalued skills. If pre-service teachers are taught how to encourage self-assessment all the time, students will soon become independent learners, eager to learn for learning’s sake.
  7. Make one-year internships mandatory: Most education programs have a few weeks of field work with a nine-week student teaching experience at the end of the pre-service work. This isn’t nearly enough practical experience for a teacher, before she takes over her own class. Some field work should happen periodically throughout all teacher preparation programs, but the program should culminate with a full year of immersion. In fact, making this a paid position should be considered, in order to allow the intern to focus all energy on learning to be a great teacher.

These keys to rebuilding teacher preparation programs can be adopted immediately, and, in most cases, they can be adopted without major restructuring of existing programs. If major change is required, though, so be it. Pre-service education change is a first step toward sweeping education reform.

Is there a change in pre-service education you would make? Please share it in the CommentLuv section below. If you have a website, we’ll feature your most recent blog post here with our audience, along with a link to your Twitter page, if you wish.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books and other series that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 150,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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