Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

How Teacher Education Matters

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

How Teacher Education Matters

Article excerpt

Over the past decade, public dissatisfaction with schools has included dissatisfaction with teacher education. Education schools have been variously criticized as ineffective in preparing teachers for their work, unresponsive to new demands, remote from practice, and barriers to the recruitment of bright college students into teaching. In more than 40 states, policy makers have enacted alternate routes to teacher certification to create pathways into teaching other than those provided by traditional 4-year undergraduate teacher education programs. Whereas some of these are carefully structured postbaccalaureate programs, others are little more than emergency hiring options. Upon his election in 1988, President Bush's only education proposal was the encouragement of alternative teacher certification. In 1995, Newt Gingrich proposed the elimination of teacher certification rules as his major education initiative. In 1999, Chester Finn and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation issued a manifesto arguing against teacher education requirements as a "barrier" to entering teaching.

Voices of dissatisfaction have been raised from within the profession as well (Goodlad, 1990; Holmes Group, 1986). These voices, however, have urged the redesign of teacher education to strengthen its knowledge base, its connections to both practice and theory, and its capacity to support the development of powerful teaching. Proposals at the far ends of this continuum stand in stark contrast to one another. One approach would replace university-based preparation with on-the-job training that focuses on the pragmatics of teaching, whereas the other would expand professional training to prepare teachers for more adaptive, knowledge-based practice, while simultaneously tackling the redesign of schools and teaching. Which of these routes holds the most promise? What are the implications for teachers' capacities, and, most important, for the education of children?

Although the debates on these questions have been largely ideological, there is a growing body of empirical evidence about the outcomes of different approaches to teacher education and recruitment. This research suggests that the extent and quality of teacher education matter for teachers' effectiveness, perhaps now even more than before. The expectations that schools teach a much more diverse group of students to much higher standards create much greater demands on teachers. Teaching for problem solving, invention, and application of knowledge requires teachers with deep and flexible knowledge of subject matter who understand how to represent ideas in powerful ways can organize a productive learning process for students who start with different levels and kinds of prior knowledge, assess how and what students are learning, and adapt instruction to different learning approaches.


Even if one agrees that ,there are desirable knowledge and skills for teaching, many people believe that anyone can teach, or, at least, that knowing a subject is enough to allow one to teach it well. Others believe that teaching is best learned, to the extent that it can be learned at all, by trial and error on the job. The evidence strongly suggests otherwise. Reviews of research over the past 30 years have concluded that even with the shortcomings of current teacher education and licensing, fully prepared and certified teachers are generally better rated and more successful with students than teachers without this preparation (Ashton & Crocker, 1986; Evertson, Hawley, & Zlotnik, 1985; Greenberg, 1983; Haberman, 1984; Olsen, 1985).

In fields ranging from mathematics and science to vocational education, reading, elementary education, and early childhood education, researchers have found that teachers who have greater knowledge of teaching and learning are more highly rated and are more effective with students, especially at tasks requiring higher order thinking and problem solving. …

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