Opinion, Pathways, Policy, Teaching

Getting No Respect: Teacher Education Programs

Among the things teachers should have when they enter the field are

  1. a competent knowledge of subject matter
  2. a desire to find out about the students and the community in their school
  3. a sound grasp of instructional methods
  4. a knowledge of the many factors that will influence how they actually teach
  5. a firm intention to reflect on their actions and those of their students, or as researcher John Hattie puts it, “Know thy impact.”

As I near the end of my career as teacher and teacher educator I have been reminded of these competencies new teachers need with the announcement that teacher education programs in Ontario are to be extended to two years. While there are many details to be worked out before the new system begins in 2015-16 the simple assumption is that more work in initial teacher education involving university /faculty of education courses and practicum placements in schools will result in more qualified new teachers and ultimately better teaching.

Is the “quantity equals quality” equation warranted?

Historically teachers colleges often get no respect. Hilda Neatby’s So Little for the Mind set the tone sixty years ago in her accusations of too much mushy “progressive” work and not enough rigor.  While university arts and science faculties criticize us for a lack of intellectual rigor with practice too seldom grounded in theory, teachers in the field often accuse us of being too theoretical and “out there”, forgetting the complexities of life in real classrooms and real kids. In Ontario one perception we have is that our Ministry of Education puts up with us: we are seldom consulted and often assumed that we know nothing and have therefore little to contribute to curriculum policy. Sometimes our grads complain about the program: too much busy work, not practical enough, and so on. When I was seconded from my school district to contribute to teacher education, the reactions I got included

–       “nice retirement gig, John”

–       “teach them how to teach and what classrooms are like”

–       “don’t get sucked in by all the fads posing as good teaching”

While I believe our programs are more grounded in the realities of schools and their communities than they were when I was a student teacher in 1970, the standards for an “adequate” education are much higher now than back then.

I offer a series of posts in which I suggest directions for us to go in teacher education so that we more effectively deliver on the goals introducing this post. Each post shall focus on an element of such reform: programs within the university setting, practicum placements, and the necessary qualities of people responsible for making both components of initial teacher education work. 

Expect to be engaged to inquire further. This is not a defense of what is but suggestions for what could be.


Meet the Expert(s)

John J C Myers

Currently a curriculum instructor in social studies and general teaching strategies, John has worked from Grades three to adult in four provinces and three countries over four decades. Current interests include exploring innovative yet practical ways to teach and assess using familiar strategies (co-operative learning) and helping busy teachers make sense of all the ideas thrown at them.

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