Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Watercooler conversations among teacher educators in these days of rapidly morphing landscapes include anxious comments about the need to do better jobs at several things simultaneously: bolster students' multicultural skills, master and model the various technologies preservice teachers require, form viable partnerships with PK-12 schools, and safeguard the role of public education in a democracy. Given the public's demand for increased accountability, most of those important goals should be achieved by yesterday. PK-12 schools are indeed under pressure to perform at higher levels. However, the skills, attitudes, and practices of classroom teachers are inextricably linked to the preservice preparation they receive (Lortie, 1975). Despite that strong connection, the systematic restructuring of teacher education programs necessary to improve the preparation of teachers, as well as to meet our own professional standards, is a relatively new concern. Few studies of sustained, faculty-driven development programs exist, although the glacial pace of change in higher education is well documented (Fullan, 1993; Guskin, 1996; Schlechty, 1990). Even less prominent are joint renewal efforts between universities and PK-12 teachers where all involved are equal partners.
This article provides a snapshot and analysis of just such an attempt: the Professional Renewal Program for Educators (PRPE). The PRPE is a faculty-driven, tripartite effort developed to increase the knowledge and skills of education faculty, arts and sciences faculty, and PK-12 classroom teachers in the key areas of instructional technology, cultural diversity, and democratic education. The program's umbrella goal is to improve the abilities of teacher educators--college and PK-12 school based--to equip preservice teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to be effective teachers in the 21st century. We begin by situating the need for systematic and sustained change in teacher education, in particular, within the context of the daunting challenge of change in higher education in general. We provide an overview of the content and membership of the PRPE and then present results of pretests and posttests administered to all participants, intended to measure the gains they made in knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to diversity, technology, and democracy. We describe the dramatic renewal of the teacher education program that the PRPE inspired and supported and conclude with implications for this institution and other teacher education programs considering or engaged in similar change endeavors.
Change is indeed imperative for university and college-based teacher educators, a disconcerting thought for holders of "terminal degrees." Goodlad (1990) concluded that the "teacher education train is not on the tracks, the engine is not coupled to the cars, nor the cars to one another, and the Board of Directors is not even sure where the train should go" (p. 270). Hutchens (1998) argued that teacher educators should either promote more vital relationships with PK-12 teachers or risk having others "step up to the plate and reconfigure teacher education and drive school reform" (p. 38). Innerst (1998) challenged teacher training programs to discard outdated practices that guarantee teacher mediocrity. Studies of school-based initiatives have also produced critiques that relate specifically to PK-12 schools and/or to teacher education programs. For example, the agenda of the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER) challenges all teachers to assume the role of change agents. The NNER vision posits that teacher education programs must develop future teachers who understand that change is necessary and possible and who possess a personal commitment to fostering school change. Goodlad (1994), the catalyst behind the work of the NNER, proposed 19 postulates (conditions necessary for educational renewal to occur) that support the need for simultaneous renewal of all levels of the educational system--Grades PK to 16. …