Master of Arts in Teaching: A Progressive Alternative to Traditional Teacher-Preparation Programs

By Kern, Jack C.; Mason, Kim | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 1998 | Go to article overview
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Master of Arts in Teaching: A Progressive Alternative to Traditional Teacher-Preparation Programs


Kern, Jack C., Mason, Kim, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


The educational system in America seems to be under constant scrutiny. Consequently, teacher educators in universities and instructors in our public schools have focused much attention on the improvement of education for our children. Unfortunately, instead of using a collaborative approach to resolve the problems of the educational system, both groups have functioned independently. Their attempts have often been impeded by a lack of continuity and harmony (Martinek & Schempp, 1988).

Studies on excellence in teaching (Adler, 1982; Goodlad, 1984) have bolstered the concept that improvement in teaching will come about through the combined efforts of those who teach about teaching and those who teach our youth. Recent recommendations by the Holmes Group, an organization dedicated to the reform of teacher education, have focused on the development of collaborative cohort groups made up of both university and public school personnel.

In the area of physical education, it is important to develop strong collaborative models. It is no secret that the quality of physical education programs in our schools has dramatically declined in the last decade, demonstrated by increasingly large class sizes, reduced physical education requirements, and often poor instructional efforts resulting from lack of administrative concern. This can be at least partially attributed to the inability of universities to develop a trusting and collaborative relationship with cooperating public schools. In fact, the term "cooperating teacher" may be simply a figure of speech. The independent operation of the university and public school systems has led to anything but a cooperative atmosphere. Often the relationship is more characterized by suspicion and indifference than by confidence and unity (Martinek & Schempp, 1988).

One alternative to the traditional method of teacher preparation is the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program offered at the University of Arkansas in collaboration with the Rogers School District. The M.A.T. represents an effort to reform the process of preparing students for careers as teachers. It involves a five-year commitment, consisting of graduate level course work and an extensive internship in the fifth year. Students completing the program earn the M.A.T. degree and will be certified to teach. Table 1 outlines the primary differences between the M.A.T. and traditional four-year programs.

Table 1. Major Differences Between the M.A.T. and the Traditional
Teacher-Preparation Program

New Program                                        Old Program

36-week (one-school year) k-12 experience    12-week k-12 experience

161-hour (5-year) program                    128-hour (4-year)
                                              program

Bachelor of Science in Education and         Bachelor of Science in
Master of Arts in Teaching Degrees            Education Degree

Some coursework taken during                 All coursework taken
k-12 experience                               before k-12
                                              experience

Students work in cohort groups               Students work
                                              independently

University supervisors housed                University supervisors
in public schools                             housed at university

Minimum of two visits per week               One visit every two
                                              weeks

Collaborative effort from lead teachers      Independent assessment
and university supervisors                    from lead teacher and
                                              university supervisor

Organizational Structure of the M.A.T.

Students pursuing the M.A.T. degree earn a Bachelor's of Science in Education degree after completing a 128-hour undergraduate curriculum. The B.S.E. program includes university core courses, a preeducation core, and classes in the student's major discipline (e.

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