Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Examination of Alternative Programs of Teacher Preparation on a Single Campus

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Examination of Alternative Programs of Teacher Preparation on a Single Campus

Article excerpt

Introduction

Strong research evidence suggests that among educational variables influencing student achievement, the quality of teaching is the most important (Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004; Rowan, Correnti, & Miller, 2002). Evidence supports the premise that good teachers matter to the individual learning of students (Darling-Hammond, Berry, & Thoreson, 2006). Teachers are the key to what happens in classrooms; they assess what students have learned and what they may need (Darling-Hammond, 2000a). There is a belief held by some that teaching is something that most academically qualified people can do (Berry, Hoke, & Hirsh, 2004). Unfortunately, many people believe that differences in teachers lie primarily in teacher individual characteristics (e.g., good teachers are knowledgeable, verbally fluid, energetic, and so forth) that cannot be taught and that pedagogical skills are not as important as has been claimed (Good, McCaslin, Tsang, Zhang, Wiley, Bozack, & Hester 2006). The rise of alternative preparation programs is justified by supporters who believe that quality teachers can be prepared in less time at a considerably lower cost and investment than required by traditional teacher education programs (Feistritzer, 2004), and by those who argue that traditional teacher certification programs are obstacles to attracting bright people with strong subject matter backgrounds into teaching (Paige, Stroup, & Andrade, 2002). In contrast, Darling-Hammond, Chung, and Frelow (2002) wrote that measures to improve teacher education programs will do little to improve teacher quality if states allow schools to hire teachers without preparation. Strong preparation is essential to teacher quality.

Nationally respected researchers, educators in university-based teacher preparation programs, and members of all major accreditation agencies view teaching as specialized work that requires specialized preparation in which candidates learn to teach by developing knowledge about teaching and learn to teach with experienced classroom teachers (Darling-Hammond, 2006; National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education [NCATE], 2010). University-based teacher preparation programs typically consist of varying combinations of academic coursework and clinical field experiences in response to state or national standards. Investigations into best practices in teacher preparation suggest that promoting closer contact between higher education faculty and school district personnel, increasing field experiences, providing a sequence of courses, and connecting programs to state student content standards show promise (American Association of State Colleges & Universities [AASCU], 2004). In their study of seven exemplary teacher education programs, Darling-Hammond, Hammerness, Grossman, Rust, and Shulman (2005) found that high quality teacher preparation programs had strong connections between coursework and clinical field experiences and a consistent vision of good teaching practice.

Teacher preparation has been repeatedly challenged to prove its relevance or effectiveness by various critics (e.g., Duncan, 2010; Wineburg, 2006)); Chester Finn (2003) has argued against teacher education requirements, maintaining that they are a "barrier" to enter teaching. School district employers report that teachers from different preparation programs possess dissimilar skills and perspectives on what constitutes best practice (Good et. al, 2006). Not every teacher has a measured, positive impact on learning, and the recent emphasis under NCLB on improving the learning of all children has raised a new set of questions about how best to prepare teachers to be effective in classrooms (Marszalek, Odom, LaNasa, & Adler, 2010). Because of the mounting pressure to demonstrate efficacy with solid evidence, university educators have begun to pose research questions about the effectiveness of different types or forms of programs that prepare teachers (e. …

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