What Teachers Think of Teacher Education

Article excerpt

In the fall of 1995 the Council for Basic Education mailed surveys to 1,650 teachers to learn how well their education prepared them for teaching; most of these teachers were award winners. CBE also surveyed all the teachers certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. More than 600 teachers responded and they were eager to suggest improvements in teacher education.

In What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future, the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future listed these as the major problems of teacher education: inadequate time (a fouryear undergraduate program is not enough); fragmentation (coursework is separated from practice and education school and arts and sciences faculties are insulated from each other), uninspired teaching methods, superficial curriculum and traditional views of schooling.

To these, the teachers CBE surveyed added inadequate and unsupervised school-based experiences, poor quality of many teacher candidates and university faculty inexperienced in the [realities of] schools.

The survey responses come at a time when teacher education practices and policies are in great flux, with reformers tackling different aspects of teacher education. The frustrations and irritations teachers express arise, to a great degree, from their belief that schools of education should be committed to preparing teacher candidates for the practice of teaching.

When teachers talk about teacher education their opinions are grounded in practice. They value ideas that translate directly into a better lesson for the class and reforms that make it more likely for children to learn. Research-based theory, the preoccupation of many schools of education, is largely irrelevant to teachers, who must deal with 20 to 35 students five or six hours a day.

Teacher educators, on the other hand, see their purpose as the study of pedagogy: developing theories of teaching and learning in a rarefied world remote from the day-to-day realities of a K-12 classroom. From the teachers' perspective this emphasis on theory over practice is not only inappropriate, it is damaging and has resulted in ineffective and weak preparation for the classroom.

CBE researchers found three broad recommendations in the survey responses for changing teacher preparation programs:

1. Require all teachers to know the content of the subjects they teach. To ensure this schools of education are going to have to accept responsibility for their graduates' knowledge of content. Not only must every teacher candidate achieve a "B" average or higher in an academic major, but the school of education faculty must work in tandem with arts and sciences faculty to establish a rigorous course of study for teacher candidates. …