Are Teacher Preparation Programs Dangerously Irrelevant? [guest post]

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Seann Dikkers [Guest Blogger]

In my first year of teaching a veteran leaned over during a particularly dry workshop and said blandly, “If you spend a whole day in these things and walk away with even one idea, it was worth the day… Today is not our day.” Cynical? Yes, but true. After 15 years as a teacher and principal this veteran’s words came back to me twice a year during professional development (PD) workshops. For good PD the wisdom was decidedly more uplifting.

Yet, there has to be a better way. Doesn’t there?

Now I’m knee deep in research on new media technologies for learning at the University of Wisconsin – Madison under Kurt Squire and Richard Halverson; both of whom argue that there are better ways. As much evidence as we muster, (in support of new models for leading and educating for learning), those in the system must embrace new practices for any changes to occur. In other words leadership matters and teaching matters as much as (or more) than GamingMatters (shameless self promotion) or any relevant new ideas for education.

Many studies seek to inform practice by examining experts in a field. In this post, I want to share some of the preliminary findings in the 21st Century Teaching Project (21CTP) – a study of teacher professional development trajectories toward the integration of new media technology.

I’ll edit the study details a bit: This is a ‘best practice’ style qualitative study after Dan McAdams’ methodology. Phase one: find out relevant practices. Phase two: quantify them in a larger sample to see if they hold water. 39 of the nation’s award winning teachers (TotY, PAEMST, ING, AMF) and authors make up the data set. If these are the teachers we choose to recognize as excellent, then we should listen to what they have to say about their PD – especially when there are consistent messages emerging.

So what do they say?

The next five blog entries will cover five findings that popped out of the data from the 21st Century Teaching Project (21CTP).

21CTP Theme 1: Teacher Training

In the initial interviews the participants kept telling me, with a conspiratorial tone, that their training wasn’t like most teachers, ”It’s a rather unorthodox journey”, said one. Then, one after another, they shared stories that all converged one one point. Traditional teacher education was at best – irrelevant; and at worst detrimental to being an outstanding teacher today.

“I don’t care what school you go to, it really doesn’t prepare you for what you are going to do in a classroom”.

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