Worlds Colliding or Aligning: Teacher Preparation During Educational Transformation
Are we preparing future teachers for the demands of next generation education?
According to “InTASC: Model Core Teaching Standards and Learning Progressions for Teacher 1.0,” there are 10 learning progressions that are described as “key pedagogical strategies.” The InTASC standards have 4 broad categories: the learner and the learning, content knowledge, instructional practice, and professional responsibility. These broad categories are familiar to all educators; however, the application of these ideas will change as our educational system is transformed and requires a new vision of teaching.
In one of my roles as a consultant for the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC), I am aware of these transformative ideas and practices and their impact on teacher training. Practices that have been in place for many years are now being reviewed and evaluated. The idea of relearning, unlearning, and reinventing your practice requires a significant investment in time, energy, and culture. The ideas of personalized learning, unpacking standards, alternative applications of knowledge and skill, as well as building a collaborative culture, are germane to the concept of transformation within our schools. This transformation is from a factory model to a model of student learning that is personalized, with students as engaged thinkers and leaders of their own learning. Teacher’s roles, as well as the role of the students, curriculum, and assessment are in a state of transformation. These changes will stretch our thinking and evaluate our instructional practices based on student outcomes and data.
In a conversation with an esteemed colleague at Saint Joseph’s College, we discussed the key components of teacher instruction, given the current movements and transformation in education. She has been teaching and preparing teachers for two decades and offered these key components as necessary for teacher preparation and continued professional development:
Competence with content (what), pedagogy (how), and dispositions (attitude). I reflect on this statement, and think back to my own teacher training: Johari’s window of intentionality. If a lesson is successful, do you understand why? Was it magic or a miracle? It is not enough to teach, we must understand what they have learned and why. To do this, the teacher needs to know the content (skills and knowledge) as well as the learning style of the student. The teacher must know the what (standards), the how (best practice given the cognitive demand), and level of engagement and rigor (dispositions.) When instruction is appropriately challenging, individualized, and authentic, it will be engaging. It is not enough to have compliant students; they need to be engaged. In short, teach the processes that promote depth of learning, not the curricular programs.
Skilled in reflective practice before, during, and after instruction. Using data to inform instruction through an intentionally balanced assessment system aligned to essential standards is important. The ability and adaptability to target instruction to the individual student, based on a series of formative assessments along the learning progression. To understand the cognitive demand of a standard, as well as the ideas of taxonomy, rigor, and proficiency are skills all teachers will need in our ever-changing profession. These concepts can be developed and applied no matter what standards a teacher is using, or what type of learner they are instructing. Good practice– to unpack the learning for intentional instruction. This leads right into the next key component for future teacher training.
Skilled in problem solving and decision making (There is no prescribed curriculum.) I have witnessed conversations in undergraduate circles on how best to prepare teachers. Many times the conversation will involve a variety of math or literacy program discussions. I have also witnessed school leader’s state they are looking for “particular instructional program training” on the part of a new employee. As we teach today, what does the application of the learning look like for the learner in their future? Is it best to understand the function of learning content or the content?
Skilled in managing time, space, and people. When confronted with the reality of all students will, it is evident that learning is not optional. Teaching teachers to be skilled at differentiating instruction to the point of individual student learning styles is mind boggling. The idea of assessing students for the purpose of placement and pacing demands a level of instructional management, responsiveness, and flexibility. In the new world of education, Chapter 2 may not follow Chapter 1. Also, you cannot learn Chapter 2 without a full understanding of the skills in Chapter 1. As a consultant for Re-Inventing Schools, the idea of learning as the constant and time as the variable requires a sophisticated system of checks and balances to monitor and measure students learning through a progression. Even the most skilled and organized teachers will find this to be a daunting task. Learning must progress at the rate of the learner, not the teacher. This is a very new idea and demands a skilled assessor, data manager, as well as a taxonomist! Is this too much for any teacher? Well that leads into the final component.
Commitment to shared responsibility within classroom with students, with school teams, with district teams. The idea of 21st Century skills must also be a significant part of teacher training programs at colleges and universities. As the demands of the educational system change, so do the demands placed on the teacher who work in these schools. The need to be collegial and collaborative is a departure from the silos that are still evident in some schools today. The need to have a shared vision, shared leadership and a collective responsibility for all learners is demanded by the transformation changes that have been highlighted throughout this reflection. It does indeed take a village to raise a child, as well as a committed and collaborative staff, to ensure all students meet high standards.
As the demands of education change, how can teacher preparation programs meet the ever-changing demands of educators? Well, the answer is simple: Teach the understanding of the process of learning. Invest in the ideas of culture, shared responsibility, and student-centered learning. It is simple if we are all on the same page… that page can be InTASC and a commitment to access best practices. Teacher preparation programs need more than alignment to a standard; they need a partnership with a school that is employing best transformative practices.
Daniel Joseph is an Education Specialist with the Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) and an educational leader in the State of Maine. He has worked with his local school district, the State Department of Education, and a variety of other partnerships to transform the educational system. You can read a full biography here.