Academic journal article Education

Teacher Cadet: A Unique Learner-Centered High School Course

Academic journal article Education

Teacher Cadet: A Unique Learner-Centered High School Course

Article excerpt

Background Information

In the mid-1980s the supply of new South Carolina teachers plummeted to such a low number, educators predicted that if great measures were not taken, by the early 1990s, only six of every ten classrooms would have a certified teacher. Richard ("Dick") Riley, then governor of South Carolina, convinced the legislature and citizens to support a penny tax raise and put into place EIA, the Educational Improvement Act. One of the most important organizations to come under this umbrella of new educational initiatives was the South Carolina Center for Teacher Recruitment (SCCTR).

Short-term solutions to the teacher shortage were needed, but long-term solutions were needed even more. At the time, Ernest Boyer's High School, presented this premise: It is too late to go into universities and invite the best and brightest college students to consider teaching. The invitation to become a teacher needs to be extended to our best and brightest high school students. Dr. Boyer recommended that "every high school establish a cadet teacher program" that would allow good students to "have opportunities to present information to classmates, tutor students needing special help, and meet with outstanding school and college teachers" (1983).

After a successful four-site pilot program, the SCCTR began to build what has become a very productive course called Teacher Cadets, now taught in approximately one hundred fifty high schools in South Carolina and to various degrees in more than twenty other states. Twenty-three colleges and universities, including The Citadel, serve as college partners, providing campus visits and privileges, visiting professors, and often college credit to the Teacher Cadets.

What has made the Teacher Cadet course so successful is its curriculum, entitled Experiencing Education. The philosophy upon which this nationally renowned curriculum is based is learner-centered education.

Learner-centered education is defined by McCombs and Whisler (1997, p.9) as: "the perspective that couples a focus on individual learners (their heredity, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests, capacities, and needs) with a focus on learning (the best available knowledge about learning and how it occurs and about teaching practices that are most effective in promoting the highest levels of motivation, learning, and achievement for all learners)."

Mission of the Teacher Cadet Program

The mission statement for the course is as follows (2002, p. 25): "The primary goal of the Teacher Cadet Program is to encourage academically talented or capable students who possess exemplary interpersonal and leadership skills to consider teaching as a career. An important secondary goal of the program is to provide these talented future community leaders with insights about teaching and schools so that they will be civic advocates of education."

The traditional education course model with a "sage on stage" and passive note-takers is void of the strengths found in learner-centered classrooms. Equally effective is the exclusive use of objective tests to measure the degree to which students have mastered today's multi-faceted curriculum. Of course, lectures, handouts, videos, and guest speakers can all enhance our future educators' knowledge of learning and teaching, but memorable and meaningful learning requires more; students themselves must be actively engaged in lessons and authentic assessments. The class must provide involvement, interaction, and socialization within a business-like atmosphere.

The Learner-Centered Teacher Cadet Curriculum

In learner-centered classrooms, the students must feel safe and accepted. From the initial lessons to the closing ceremonies, the Teacher Cadets are involved in activities that promote high self-esteem, mutual respect, and sincere appreciation for one another. The Teacher Cadet curriculum helps to establish such a classroom climate, with the Teacher Cadets first completing lessons in the unit entitled "Know Thyself. …

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