‘World-class’ teacher preparation

Shelley Krause

When I work with educators, I get asked on a regular basis, “What about the universities? What are they doing to prepare educators who can facilitate technology-infused learning environments that emphasize deeper cognitive complexity and greater student agency?” Unfortunately, I don’t have much to offer them.

I’m not up on all of the thousands of preparation programs that are out there but, as I think about the shifts that we need to see in schools (and the new building blocks that we need to put in place), at a minimum any teacher preparation program that wanted to label itself ‘world-class’ would be able to affirmatively say the following…

Our graduates know…

Project- and inquiry-based learning

  • how to operate in student-driven, not just teacher-created, project-oriented learning environments
  • how to facilitate inquiry-based activities like ‘passion projects’ or ‘FedEx days’ or ’20% time’ or ‘genius hour’
  • how to facilitate students’ development as creators, designers, innovators, and entrepreneurs
  • how to integrate communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills into these types of environments

Authentic, real-world work

  • how to organize student work around the big, important concepts central to their discipline
  • how real work gets done by real professionals in that discipline (practices, processes, tools, and technologies)
  • how to find, create, and implement robust, authentic simulations for their subject area
  • how to facilitate and assess authentic performances by students

Standards-based grading and competency-based education

  • how to write and implement a ‘competency’
  • how to help students thrive in a standards-based grading environment
  • how to facilitate learning-teaching systems that focus on mastery rather than seat time (or other dumb criteria)

1:1 computing

  • how to manage and support ubiquitous technology-infused learning spaces
  • how to facilitate student success with digital tools, online systems, and social networks
  • how to help students create appropriate AND empowered ‘digital footprints’

Digital, online, and open access

  • how to leverage digital and online open educational resources to full advantage
  • how to meaningfully curate digital materials in their subject area
  • how to helpfully contribute to our online global information commons (and have students do the same)

Online communities of interest

  • how to utilize online networks and communities of practice to further their professional learning and growth
  • how to meaningfully connect students to relevant online communities of interest for academic and personal development

Adaptive learning systems

  • how to integrate adaptive learning software into students’ learning and assessment
  • how to utilize blended learning environments to individualize and personalize students’ learning experiences (time, place, path, pace)

I think most teacher preparation programs probably fall short of the mark on these, but a program that could say these things about its preservice teachers would be INCREDIBLE.

What do you think? What would you add to this list? More importantly, does anyone know of a teacher preparation program that’s doing well in some / many / most of these areas?

24 Responses to “‘World-class’ teacher preparation”

  1. WOW! I can only hope that there will be a few teacher prep programs out there that will read this list and say, “This is what we HAVE to do!”

    I would consider it an honor to have been a part of a program like this one. I can say that my teacher prep program has, sadly, missed the mark on the vast majority of these points.

    Great, great list.

  2. Scott you make some excellent points here and you touch on an issue that I’ve had many discussions about over the past couple of years. Specifically, with the mobile/blended middle school that I helped design, one of the issues we have discussed is the lack of teachers who are coming out of teacher prep programs ready to teach in our school environment and the need for a partnership with one of the local universities to provide a space for student teaching where the preservice teachers can gain valuable experience with teaching in such an environment. Like you, I not familiar enough with the current programs to know what they are doing relative to this.

    So I agree with you — As we continue to push for the shifts that we need to see in schools, we also need shifts in teacher preparation programs…

    After reading your draft of the essential knowledge and skills that should be the focus of a teacher prep program, I am also left with another question…

    How many professors in those teacher prep programs possess this knowledge and these skills at the level that would allow them to effectively create a teacher prep program that embodies this shift?

    • I, too, hear the same things from the 1:1, SBG, CBE, PBL, and other innovative schools here in Iowa and around the country, Stephanie. They are desperate for incoming teachers and administrators who don’t have to be trained / retrained. They need educators who can dive in and GO!

      The education professors that know how to do this stuff? Few and far between. And therein lies the problem. Moreover, most aren’t even talking about this stuff.

      I’m keynoting the IACTE conference tomorrow. We’ll be discussing some of these things. Should be an interesting conversation…

      • That should be an interesting conversation!

        So when you have that conversation, here is a related “push back” question that came from one of the teachers at our school during a meeting where the team was discussing the idea of trying to partner with a local university…

        Given the fact that the majority of the current and near future graduates of most teacher prep programs will most likely find employment in traditional school systems with traditional classrooms, curriculum, textbooks, etc., would such a partnership — and/or the development/redesign of the teacher prep program — be doing them a disservice or be performing malpractice by preparing these preservice teachers for schools that do not yet exist on a large scale?

        She didn’t ask that question with the intention of shutting down the idea, but more out of concern for the teachers who would participate and then struggle with applying those new skills and knowledge in the more traditional classrooms across our city.

        In my personal opinion, we will likely have a very messy transition phase where graduates would be coming out prepared for the more student-centered, mobile, blended environment but finding employment only in schools that are still trying to make this shift, BUT I don’t think we can wait for the K-12 public school system to get there before the shifts are made at the teacher prep level… And I do think that making the shifts at the teacher prep level will help the K-12 system move forward much more quickly.

        • If we only prepare teachers for the traditional paradigm – and we never prepare teachers for the new paradigm – we’ll always only have the traditional paradigm.

          What if we viewed new teachers as change agents instead of helpless victims guaranteed to be frustrated by inanimate systems? And we trained them that way?

          • “Like” 🙂

            I complete agree!

          • It is rare to find teacher education programs that have any connection to reality, much less modern education. If the faculty have any exposure to students, it is usually from a “Model School” where parents volunteer their students to be research subjects (and take an active part in their childrens’ education). We see plenty of student teachers who are unaware or unprepared for basic teaching functions, much less innovative instruction.

        • So perhaps these more traditionally trained new teachers are a piece of the driving force of change.

          I cautiously optimistically (good thing I’m not an English Teacher) believe that most administrators see the need to move away from the more traditional approach of teaching and learning toward inquiry based, project based, collaborative learning environments in which technology is infused effectively.

          Just my $.02 and probably worth less than that.

  3. Are you familiar with CAEP?

    I have been a reviewer for many years.

    Take a look at what they are doing, and perhaps lend them a hand.

  4. Thank you for this post Scott. Many of your criteria overlap with our goals in Science Leadership Academy’s Summer Teacher Institute.

    Here is the link for those who are interested in finding out more:

    • Of course they do. Because you guys rock! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing the link. Hope everyone checks it out and then tries to make something similar happen where they are…

  5. Ouch! Scott, you are the keynote speaker at the Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE) tomorrow (April 4). Will you follow up this post with what you learn after joining us?

    I can say this: we have a required “tech lab” for our students with project-based, inquiry-based assignments that are tied directly into their practicum class. I require my students (in practicum, or “general methods”) to post a unit plan online, with standards-based aligned lesson plans, alternative assessments (including self assessment by students), and student-centered projects that include technology integration.

    Like any profession (and like teaching in particular), yes, we have instructors at our institutions who do not keep up on research-based advances in authentic assessment and inquiry-based learning and standards-based grading. But many of us learn and MODEL these innovations constantly.

    I look forward to seeing you. I’m proud of the advocacy you do for education. You are a great role model for all of us to ask hard questions and hold high expectations for ourselves and for those we work with…including and importantly for our own students.


  6. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about this topic recently. If we want the classrooms of the future to have those qualities you describe we absolutely need to reach the pre-service teachers. This week I had the opportunity to observe Jon Hasenbank (@profjonh) from Grand Valley State Univ (colleague to @delta_dc) as he observed and coached pre-service math educators in a middle school setting in West Michigan. I was able to record my visit & subsequent interviews with several student-teachers for a future episode of the #MichED podcast. I highly recommend you check out the work they are doing and conversations they are having by searching #ed331 on Twitter. The implementation of Cognitive Coaching, blogs and twitter to advance the modern pedagogical approaches the department uses is very impressive. This may be an isolated case, but I’m hopeful these types of innovations can spread.

    Snapshots from my visit: http://bit.ly/OgkjHa

    More to come! Please continue to document your exploration of teacher prep programs.

    • Thanks for the info, Brad. I work in teacher education in Iowa. We’re always looking for good examples of good teaching (and, alas, we also search out examples of bad teaching for compare/contrast). There is a lot of work being done in teacher prep online. I have hashtags and blogs and websites, and use platforms like Moodle, EdModo, and Canvas. Some of our best conversations might start in the classroom but they deepen online.

  7. Anastasia Martin Reply April 5, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    This is a great list and it includes several of the things we are learning in an EDM 510 graduate level technology class I am currently taking at the University of South Alabama. While it would be impossible to include everything on this list in one class, I am still going to post this list to my class blog for my professor and classmates to see. I told him to feel free to visit my blog Anastasia Martin EDM 510 Blog or the class blog EDM 510 Class Blog.

  8. Scott,

    I have nearly zero faith that teacher prep programs on the whole would even consider implementing all the ideas you’ve put forth here, let alone foster graduates who are competent in all these things.

    I’m curious what your thoughts are on this article: http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=32206

    I’ve written up my thoughts here: http://thoughts.russgoerend.com/post/81923318955/moving-teacher-prep-from-the-university-to-the-real

  9. Thanks for extending the conversation, Russ. I’ve left you some thoughts over at your blog:


  10. Hello Scott McLeod,
    I believe that in our utopias every teacher is perfect and they try to work on all those building blocks for students. However, we all know that is not true. I believe every teacher lacks in some aspects in preparing their students for what it is really like in a class room. As a future teacher, the classes that I take, in my opinion, are based on a fantasy. I think that teacher preparation programs should teach future teachers how to teach a classroom full of repeaters that are in middle or high school. Also they should teach future teachers how to improvise your lesson plan if something goes wrong. I think that preparation should be more realistic and not based on an imaginary classroom.

  11. Scott, Have you found http://www.thefutureproject.org yet. A program embedding a social entrepreneur style dream leader into high schools. These are meant to not only inspire students but teachers and communities as well.

  12. I think all of the things you mentioned are relevant and needed. I also do not recall taking a classroom management class when studying for my masters in education. Also, unrelated, but just as important, how about a class on how to develop interpersonal relationships with students and parents. There is a huge disconnect between what parents think is happening in the classroom and what we are actually trying to achieve. Sometimes I feel that we are always defending the rigor and depth we are trying to encourage children to seek. As a parent myself I want my children to be challenged and I know they will do their best to rise to the occasion. It seems that there are some parents who don’t feel this way and question every step you take toward that end. We are fighting an uphill battle.

  13. Lucie deLaBruere Reply April 15, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Wow what great resources included in both the article and comments. Combing through them now. There is definitely a catch 22 phenomena at work. The lack of model classrooms for students to visit, interview, complete practicums in and the lack of schools where a new teacher can put into practice the shifts outlined above. With this lack of models, comes the lack of employment opportunities to work in an environment that demand these skills like those outlined. Thank goodness we are no longer limited to those classrooms we have physical access to, but now have access to models all around the world, like some of those listed in the comments. Perhaps a wiki that aligns great models and resources around the list in Scott’s article would be valuable to us all, (those who teach preservice teachers, but also our students. I would contribute and reap the benefits as well. I am seeing a bigger need than ever to challenge and inspire our current generation of preservice teachers, who are the first generation of teachers who are products of high stakes testing era.

  14. I love this list, but in many cases, access to social media and internet content is limited by district policy. These are major barriers to using any of the associated learning gained in teacher prep programs. It will be frustrating for those teachers who are preparing for classrooms that do not exist when they discover that all they can do is watch their skills become outdated before they can be used.

    I also wonder if adaptive software has come up to speed yet. My experience is limited to Successmaker and STAR testing. STAR is assessment so I’ll leave that aside. But Successmaker is just fancied up drill and kill. Its comprised of individualized online worksheets that kill the motivation to do them on first glance and reinforce that correct instinct by repeating the same program over and over: short essay followed by boring multiple choice questions and a click on the vocabulary pop up, followed by more multiple choice, click click click. They make a desultory stab at student interest by plying their tired drills with tired graphics that patronize without persuading. My students literally beg not to go to the computer lab each time I take them. They’ve even asked to do SRAs instead. I could do better and be more interesting with hanging files and a copy machine. I’d love to hear about adaptive learning that inspires. Right now, I’m waiting for innovative.

  15. Wow! We are talking about this exact thing tonight on the all-new #teacheredchat at 9pm CDT. Tom Murray recommended that I connect with you, and now I know why. I appreciate your innovation in the realm of teacher preparation programs, but what if you (I) are the lone wolf? I am an island all to myself when it comes to preparing preservice teachers to utilize technology in their lessons, courses, etc. I do understand Stephanie Sandifer’s question above about being innovative in teacher ed when the K-12 schools around are still traditional. However, I believe that teacher prep programs should LEAD the way, not keep their grads back because of the current nature of schools. Thanks for all you do, Scott, and I look forward to connecting with you maybe through #teacheredchat or through your work. Now I’ve got lots of blog posts to read!

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