Tuesday, June 18, 2013

failure of universities to educate teachers...

From the Washington Post:
"The vast majority of the 1,430 education programs that prepare the nation’s K-12 teachers are mediocre, according to a first-ever ranking that immediately touched off a firestorm."
Firestorm or not, this is a discussion we must have, whether universities like it or not
"While debate swirls about the validity of the ratings of individual schools, there is broad agreement among educators and public officials — from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to governors to unions — that the country is failing to adequately train the 200,000 people who become teachers each year.

“We don’t know how to prepare teachers,” said Arthur Levine, former president of Teachers College at Columbia University and author of a scathing critique of teacher preparation. “We can’t decide whether it’s a craft or a profession. Do you need a lot of education as you would in a profession, or do you need a little bit and then learn on the job, like a craft? I don’t know of any other profession that’s so uncertain about how to educate their professionals.”
My point in all this comes from Educational Sloyd. "Move from the concrete to the abstract. " Teachers need to be educated like professionals, but they also need to be developed as one would craftsmen and artists. You are better equipped to understand theory when you can see it applied through your own hands. Unfortunately, folks are not talking about the role of the hands in learning. Many parents of home-schooled students are doing a much better job of teaching than many university trained teachers perhaps due to one reason alone. Children do best when someone really cares personally about their educational success.

By the time we've stripped teachers of their earlier roles as intelligent, trusted mentors, diagnosticians and planners of their children's educational success and put those things into the hands of specialized off-site curriculum planners and standardized test administrators, we've reduced their humanity. Both teaching and learning are best accomplished hands-on.

Today in the wood shop, I'm finishing some small details on my demonstration boxes. I textured a lid. I installed miter keys. I've done a bit of sanding, and now I'm ready to begin installing hinges.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Hi Doug,
    Until a few years ago, I was a Ph.D. industrial chemist, but I am now transitioning to a career as a high school science teacher. This subject is quite thought-provoking since I am enrolled in a non-degree teacher licensure program at a state university outside of Boston. I am in the middle of writing a paper about the Common Core Standards, and the issues of teacher quality and preparation will be an issue as so many schools struggle to reorganize and retool for this so called "voluntary" initiative. Makes me even more concerned about the future of the profession of teaching.


  2. Dear Doug,
    Yes, this is a conversation we should have. But as a former 27 year public school teacher, I have earned a Ph.D. and now teach teachers. I wish it were as simple as the post suggests. I came back to do this with this in mind - to create stronger teachers than I was seeing coming out. Again, not that simple.

    First, until we pay teachers a strong wage (after all, free market systems reward those who make more money), and create an atmosphere of honoring the profession (not happening when we are being asked to create compliant workers) attracting the best and the brightest will not happen. That said, those in education schools do need hands on experiences, I agree! However, those partnerships take time and money, on both the part of the public school and university system. It isn't that someone like me doesn't want that - it is that there are all kinds of impediments to getting it done.

    Add to that the new fear of public schools with the rash of shootings, abuse, etc., and the red tape to even allow our university students into a public school classroom is unbelievable - and the insurance that must be carried on both sides follows.

    I work hard at helping my students get as much hands on experience with real children (we do an after school program so they can teach) and I have plans to put more into place as I find partner schools willing to let us in.

    I too am very concerned about the profession, as it has not been treated as a profession, but as that of a vocation, where 'training' will do the trick. You are so right - teaching is an art, and new teachers go through a variety of stages learning the art. I spend hours reading research now, working with students, teachers, and guiding preservice teachers. If only it were as easy as giving them my expertise - but it is the most difficult teaching job I have ever had.

    I would implore those wanting to help the profession to not villanize teachers or teacher-educators, but start working on seeking out the best and brightest among us and support the work we do.

    Steve, the profession welcomes you with open arms. The best science teacher my son had - who inspired what he does today - was an industrial chemist. Glad to have you on board.