Teacher Preparation without Boundaries: A Two-Year Study of an Online Teacher Certification Program

By Harrell, Pamela Esprivalo; Harris, Mary | Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Teacher Preparation without Boundaries: A Two-Year Study of an Online Teacher Certification Program


Harrell, Pamela Esprivalo, Harris, Mary, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education


The Online Post Baccalaureate Program is described along with indicators of how well the program met the goals of its developers during two years of implementation. Faculty aimed to develop a program that would satisfy students, offer a more accessible path into teaching for post baccalaureate candidates and compare favorably in quality to its nationally accredited baccalaureate program for secondary teacher candidates. Research indicates success of the online program in (a) effecting statistically significant increases in the number of diverse candidates entering teaching, including career changer and minority candidates; (b) significantly increasing the number of candidates prepared by University of North Texas (UNT) in the critical shortage areas of science and mathematics; (c) achieving candidate performance at least equal to that of traditional program candidates on teacher quality indicators including GRE, state certification tests, and portfolio ratings; and (d) assuring candidate satisfaction with the online program.

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The 2000 Census confirmed that American schools are serving an increasingly diverse population of students. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (2003) student enrollments are projected to rise in the western and southern US through 2013. Simultaneously, looming teacher shortages in many urban and rural schools will increase the demand for teachers with a sophisticated skill set necessary to create an environment where all students can learn irrespective of gender, ethnicity, disability, or English language acquisition. Attempts to address the demand for teachers since the 1970s have produced a trend away from undergraduate teacher preparation and toward post baccalaureate programs as the preferred route to teacher certification (Turner, 1998). Concurrently, the opportunity to offer programs online introduces variables that have the potential to increase access to teacher education.

In this article, the literature related to post baccalaureate certification is reviewed. The University of North Texas (UNT) Online Post Baccalaureate Program is described and compared to UNTs traditional undergraduate program for secondary candidates. Programs are compared in terms of promoting candidate diversity, increasing the number of candidates in the high need areas of science and mathematics, candidate proficiency as measured by state licensure examinations and self-assessments, and satisfaction with the program and its clinical experiences. Based on these indicators, the success of the online program is discussed.

POST BACCALAUREATE, ALTERNATIVE, AND ONLINE PROGRAMS

Candidates entering post baccalaureate teacher education programs typically have completed degrees in their content fields and are often employed full time as teachers while completing the pedagogy requirements of their programs. Development of this sort of program requires that teacher educators change their thinking about a number of program development key issues. Some of the issues raised by Fenstermacher (1990) included the physical location of the preparation, the definition of subject mastery, and the balance in the curriculum between teaching theory and practice. Post baccalaureate certification has the effect of moving teacher preparation to the school site, reducing the control over the site of preparation exercised by colleges and universities that prepare teachers as undergraduates. In addition, entities offering post baccalaureate programs typically do not control the undergraduate content majors of their candidates who enter with completed bachelor's degrees. Beyond this, post baccalaureate curriculum is typically structured to meet the immediate needs for survival of teacher candidates, setting aside the results of years of work by teacher educators to define the critical balance between teaching theory and practice in the curriculum.

Today, almost every state has post baccalaureate (alternative or alternative like) certification programs offered in universities and colleges, state supported organizations, or by private providers (Feistritzer, 2005). …

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