Creating High Teacher Quality in Teacher Prep Programs- Radio Talk With AACTE Members
An online Education Talk Radio program last month featured AACTE members in a discussion of how their educator preparation programs contribute to high teacher quality. Host Larry Jacobs interviewed guests Rebecca West Burns, assistant professor at the University of South Florida, and D. Mark Meyers, director of the Educational Administration Program at Xavier University (OH).
The show began with discussion around the continuum of teacher development, from preservice preparation through stages of leadership, both formal and informal. Burns explained that teacher leaders include those who are instructional coaches or mentors as well as those acting less formally as leaders from within their classroom. Teachers can work collaboratively to share knowledge and help each other make progressive changes in their school. Meyers added that leadership principles applied by teacher leaders and administrators are often the same, although they may be implemented differently.
From each of their perspectives, Burns and Meyers illustrated the importance of administrators and teachers working together in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Jacobs asked whether administrators feel threatened by having other “leaders” in the building, but Meyers said they recognize the benefit of distributed leadership that taps classroom expertise. He said good administrators are comfortable with “allowing [teachers] to lead in their arena” and value having educators collaborate rather than working behind closed doors. Burns added that teacher leaders should be prepared to expect a distribution of leadership responsibility from administrators. They should be prepared to work with higher administration and peer educators alike, which requires knowledge of not only how children learn but adults as well.
So how does the educator preparation community create high-quality teachers, Jacobs asked, and how much of “quality” depends on selectivity at the point of entry? Burns said the first key to success is that schools and universities are collaborating to address this goal. National organizations such as AACTE, the National Association of Professional Development Schools, and others work to support partnerships. Meyers added that tracking evidence of impact is an important component of producing quality candidates and being able to improve the program going forward. Regardless of whether candidates enter the program with a strong or weak understanding of teaching, they are prepared through a structured series of checkpoints at which they demonstrate their abilities and proficiencies in order to progress toward program completion. School-university partnerships that provide clinical preparation offer the framework for this system.
By engaging teacher candidates in schools “early and often” in their preparation, and by making them active participants in the school community, Burns said, they develop much deeper understanding of the dimensions of students’ and schools’ needs. Collaboration in clinical settings involves close coaching and coteaching, “together, elbow-to-elbow, working to the betterment of the children in that classroom.” Meyers noted that parents and other observers tend to see no difference among these partners; the classroom teacher, university candidate, and even university supervisor might all be in the same room, contributing as professionals to the learning environment, and this increased attention for students is highly valued.