Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Responding to the Call to Prepare Highly Effective Teacher Candidates in the United States: The Curriculum Redesign Effort in Advancing Teacher Education

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Responding to the Call to Prepare Highly Effective Teacher Candidates in the United States: The Curriculum Redesign Effort in Advancing Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article supports the notion of high quality clinical teacher preparation models and lays out an argument for investing in professional education that is organized around more coherent systems for cultivating clinical practice. This article outlines the creation and implementation of a clinically-based teacher preparation program. Project CREATE, the result of the contributions of university faculty, administrators, and P-12 stakeholders, proposes strict admission criteria, extensive field experiences, and the integration of field-based assignments and collaborative mentoring by university and P-12 faculty to address criticisms aimed at traditional models of teacher training.

Keywords: teacher preparation reform, clinical model, teacher quality, teaching effectiveness

1. Introduction

United States University- and college-based teacher preparation has now come under fire for its failure to adequately prepare future teachers for the demands of the modern school. Evidence is mounting that teacher quality is the biggest in-school determinant of student achievement. The nation's colleges of education are being scrutinized for the inadequate preparation of teacher candidates. In October 2011, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted that two-thirds (approximately 62 percent) of new teachers reported feeling unprepared. In addition, recent research indicates that teachers believe they have not been adequately prepared to teach children from cultural and linguistic backgrounds different from their own and that they need to learn more specific skills to do so (Ray & Bowman, 2003; Ryan, Ackerman, & Song, 2005).

1.1 Current State of Teacher Preparation

Examination of teacher education has identified of several problems including incoherent programs, lack of cohesiveness among those pursuing teacher licenses, the absence of socializing prospective teachers as professionals in pre-service training, disjointed relationship between theory and practice, and policy informing teacher preparation reform rather than using research to improve teacher quality and instruction and apprise what we know about teaching and learning (Darling-Hammond, 2005, 2006; Goodlad, 1991).

Traditional teacher preparation programs prepare teacher candidates to complete coursework on psychological principles, subject matter, and teaching methods before meaningfully interacting with P-12 teachers and students, providing for few connections between the act of teaching and course content. Mentor teachers are usually selected according to district policies or as needed, not necessarily on the basis of quality. Teacher candidate field placements vary greatly and tend to be idiosyncratic as opposed to well-crafted experiences that foster skill development and mastery (Berry, 2007). As a result, prospective teacher candidates learn theory in isolation from practice and typically have brief encounters with classroom practice divorced from theory, which further contributes to the gap between research, and practice (Ravitch, 2008). These variables culminate to produce teacher candidates who feel unprepared to meet the diverse educational needs of children and youth.

1.2 Reconceptualization of Teacher Preparation in the United States

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) (2010) suggested that redesigning teacher education licensure programs that incorporate clinically-based programming is critical to the development of effective teacher candidates. Effective teaching has been defined as what teachers should know and be able to do (Ball, 1995; Darling-Hammond, 2005, 2006). Recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning specifically call for making clinical practice (i.e., classroom-based experiences) the core of teacher preparation resulting in the development of effective teachers. This diverges from traditional teacher preparation where the emphasis is on academic preparation and coursework. …

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