Teaching Fellows Ask, “What Makes a Good Teacher Education Program?”

In October Pam attended the National Future Farmers of America Convention.

During the event she spoke with pre-service agriculture education teachers about improving teacher education programs.  The most frequently voiced comment was a request for additional “in the classroom” time before student teaching.

Last week the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education’s (NCATE) Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning released a report to identify best practices, policies, and learning strategies found in effective teacher education programs.  In short, the panel reports that teacher education programs are due for a major overhaul.  Naturally this report has stirred much debate in the education community, leading the Teacher Ambassador Fellows to ponder your collective thoughts on the following questions:

What are the components of a quality teacher education program that lead to the development of effective teachers?   Did you receive the preparation necessary to become an effective teacher from your teacher education program?

Antero, Edit, Jemal, Jeff, Katie, Laurie, Leah, Linda, Lisa, Nick, Pam, Patrick, Tracey, Stephanie and Steve
Teaching Ambassador Fellows


  1. Funny you should ask- Teachers as life-long-learners will continue to review, reflect, and process current and past actions- while also taking classes that hopefully enlighten our way.

    Lets begin by looking at the Standardized required core for todays teaching professional– what is truly relevent? How many classes are repetitive in information; and how many area’s are not addressed enough!

    It seems to me, that technological skill and analytical analysis need to improve in understanding at all levels of education. It is very difficult to watch education professionals struggle with todays most basic automated tools; let alone witness their lack of understanding of data.

    This post, although it sounds negative is not trying to place blame on the talented individuals who have spent hours on psychology, learning theory, pedagogy, and content specific coursework– rather, the post is placing blame on the learning institutions that do not offer its future education specialist adequate statistical analysis and computer applications training.

    More of importance is the need for adequate time to learn (all the way around the gamut)– some are stating they would like more time in the field before actually student teaching.

    I would like to see more actual time afforded the teachers practicing so they could creatively plan for the courses they teach. Some districts- (most likely those earning the blue ribbon status) get this.

    Perhaps the accoutability needs to be placed back on the administration of our nations schools– do they provide GOOD learning oportunities for the current staff, do they effectively evaluate personel, do they allow the educator time to create the learning evironment needed for the unique individuals that enter?

    Administration has a big bill to fill– lets look closer to see if they are savvy at budgeting time, aware of the new while being consistant with the existing granting opportunities– where are the lines of resposibility drawn…

    If teachers are asked to perform analysis, help research and prepare funding documents and grant proposals, as well as assist in the school improvement processes– then this time should be accounted for.

    Teachers ability to oporate the technology to expedite these processes should be at minimum proficient, their classroom preperation time must be replaced and redundant learning has to stop.

    Maybe there is a need for the division of teacher types– administrative on one hand; the classroom practitioner on the other.

  2. I am a Junior studying Early Childhood Education at DePaul University. During my time here I have been asked this question by a few of my professors. The answers my colleagues, studying Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, and Secondary Education, and I have come up with are many but I will only outline a few here.
    Although we observe in classrooms ourselves, we often miss key problems because we don’t know what to look for. This can be solved by having our professors either teach us what to look for when observing or by having professors show us clips of teachers doing things correctly and incorrectly.
    At DePaul I often hear other students say that they observe more bad teaching than good teaching. Though this is disheartening this is due to us having to find our own places of observation. This can easily be solved by DePaul matching us with good teachers. We want to be learning what to do in a classroom more than what not to do in a classroom. Furthermore, I have found that I learn an astounding amount when I observe a good/great teacher. However, when I observe a bad teacher I just see babysitting, chaos, and disarray.
    Next suggestion was that we said we needed more specific instruction. Much of the education we receive is too broad. This means that we have a broad idea on how to teach and what to teach but when it comes down to the specifics we are left without a clue. What makes it worse is that many of the students feel as we did not need to spend all this time and money learning this because if we took 20 minutes on our own and thought about the subject we would have come up with the same answers as if we had been in class. We need to get specific.
    We said that we needed more practice writing good lesson plans. Often our professors are too easy on us in this area. Furthermore, the amount of differentiation in lesson plans is appalling. One can write a half page lesson plan with just a basic outline for one class and receive an A for it while in another class we would have to write out a 3 page document with very specific plans, implementation, and resolutions.
    One other key point was on testing. At DePaul we do not receive any type of help in passing our state tests until we fail them. We suggested that we get help before we fail so that when we go into a test we are prepared to pass the first time. A student can opt. out of this by taking a practice test to prove they do not need this type of help. Since studies have shown those who pass the state test the first time make better teachers it would make sense to help your students do just that.
    Finally we said we needed more guided practice in teaching. Even though we spend a lot of time in classrooms, we do this by ourselves. The teachers in these classrooms are too busy teaching the children to be guiding us in our practice. We need experts helping us become better teachers for more than a few weeks. We need more time perfecting our craft before being left on our own to teach.
    This may be a lot to take in but I feel each one of these problems has a solution that we can implement. These problems are discussed by students who are going through the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary programs at the moment and are biased in that way. We have not actually started teaching but are trying to prepare ourselves for just that.

  3. I received excellent teacher training at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. I think this was attributed to the fact that DePaul sought to prepare teachers with not only knowledge about teaching how tos, but they challenged us to be a part of a larger mission of transforming student lives through education. Teacher training has to be less about the classroom, and more about the global community in which students are engaged during their out of school time hours. A teacher training program must equip teachers to look for teaching and learning opportunities in the real world while also making them comfortable with immersing themselves in the communities in which they serve in hopes of revolutionizing it. Additionally, a focused service area is also important. DePaul focused on providing teaching strategies and skills, especially for teachers looking to pursue a career in an urban setting, mainly Chicago Public Schools. This allowed us to network, engage in immersion experiences, and learn about the system before we graduated. I think a general approach to teacher education is the wrong way to go, considering there are so many vast areas of concentration for education professionals. These days it would be great to see a teacher training program that focused on teaching STEM in rural areas or teaching English Language Learners in suburban districts. I also think that every teacher training program should ensure that every teacher is responsible for making inclusion work. Thus, every teacher should be certified to teach students with disabilities before receiving any sort of degree.

  4. I received a wonderful education through the teacher education program at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Education students there are required to do field placements in a classroom for every single education class they take – from the very beginning! This gave me the chance to work with many different highly effective teachers, gain experience in many different classroom grade levels and environments and build my own teaching beliefs, pedagogies and practices. Every teacher education program should provide this many in-classroom experiences.

  5. When I started by education degree at Baker College of Owosso last year I was surprised at how little the education I will received deals with classroom/child management. The majority of the classes I am being forced to take, due to prerequisites for my program, deal with general education classes for college students. From my high school graduation in 2008 I have obtained an Associates in Applied Science: Computer Networking Systems majoring in architecture and minoring in engineering. I have also been dual enrolled in the education program I mentioned for half the time I had been working on my associates.

    To improve Teacher Education I would like to see less time on general classes and a much greater number of classes focusing on actual Education for Classroom/Child needs. Additionally, the Elementary Education program I am taking is difficult to complete since many of the instructors are teachers. This makes it difficult for college students since many instructors can only teach nights.

    Instead of focusing on an education reform in public schools I believe a reform is first needed on Teacher Education requirements. A federal reform of the programs being offered would greatly increase the number of well educated teachers who enter the work force.

    To answer the second question I cannot be completely accurate with my answer. Since I have not yet completed my program of study I can only be vague with my answer. As of today I can say, with certainty, that I have not received the education I require to be an effective teacher. More classroom time should be spent in classrooms, as a group of peers. This would make group discussion and debate over classroom procedures much better in design.

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