Teacher prep for the digital age

There is a lot of talk about improving teacher education in America. But much of the policy talk of late, especially in Washington, DC, would—at best—advance changes reflective of the late 20th century, not 2013.

Granted, there is more that can, and must, be done to evaluate teacher preparation, including the efforts of the National Science Foundation to devise a new system to ensure new teaching recruits are ready to teach in high-needs schools. But teachers must be able do far more than manage a classroom of diverse learners, implement research-based literacy and numeracy tools, and teach to standardized tests designed decades ago.

Reading reform reports, like the ones produced of late by the National Council for Teacher Quality (no relation to our CTQ), one might think that all teachers must only master 20th-century imperatives, but if we are going to create the profession that students deserve, then teacher preparation needs to transcend the debates of today.

I am proud that a team of 17 classroom experts, all part of the growing CTQ virtual community, has developed a framework for thinking and acting on Teacher Prep 2.0, with a hard look toward 3.0 (that will be fueled by the Semantic Web). I have incorporated a number of their ideas in my presentation on Perspectives on the Future of Teacher Preparation in the Digital Age today at the Alliance for Excellent Education. (The webinar will be archived as a video—check the Alliance’s website later this week.)

These classroom experts believe it is time to get serious about fusing higher education and school district resources, coupled with serious federal incentive for recruiting, preparing, and retain teachers.  If targeted recruits were trained for hybrid teaching and leadership roles, with responsibility to work with colleagues in redesigned schools, then a variety of pathways into the profession could be embraced.

The vast majority of future teachers would be trained in cohort-based residencies, skilled in interdisciplinary teaching (think Common Core), and would know how to teach students and learn from colleagues in virtual networks. Performance assessments, not higher education seat time nor unstable valued-added test score results, would determine who was ready to teach what, when, and to whom.

But the team also believes it is time, especially for our most prestigious universities and research centers, to begin preparing a bold brand of teacher—the learning architect who focuses on personalized curricular experiences for students. Teachers become information integrators and surgical learning brokers—and teacherpreneurs who incubate and execute innovations. Specific teacherpreneur roles could include virtual PLC organizer, edugame developer, and boundary spanner for policy and pedagogical transformations.

These 17 pedagogical powerhouses recognize that excellent teacher education can be found today, even though it might not be recognized by the policy punditry of Washington, DC.  For example:

  • Abilene Christian University in Texas focuses on performance assessments and peer-to-peer observations as teacher education professors get deeply involved in providing serious feedback on lesson design and instruction.
  • West Virginia University prepared students in cohorts, where they learn to work collaboratively as they experience rural, urban, international, and virtual settings.
  • Stanford University ensures its graduates develop deep knowledge of research on teaching diverse students, including second language learners, as well as 21st-century student assessments, much in the same way all new teachers are prepared in top-performing nations like Singapore and Finland.
  • The American Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) is partnering with Stanford in creating the Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), designed to measure the readiness of teacher candidates. The edTPA looks like an assessment from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, but is meant for novices as they engage in supervised clinical settings or internships. (And six states are already planning to adopt edTPA as part of its licensure requirements: Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.)

These schools are harbingers of the future—and hope for transforming the teacher education system into one students deserve.

So it is time to think about cultivating teacher leaders who build and score new assessment tools tied to internationally benchmarked standards, integrating digital media into a more relevant curriculum for constantly wired students, and partnering with community organizations. It is time to think about preparing teacherpreneurs who blur the lines of distinction between those who teach in schools and those lead them.

Stay tuned for the upcoming release of the teacher team’s project, TEACHING 2030: Leveraging Teacher Preparation 2.0. We look forward to sharing it with you.