Learning in 3-D: Shared Perspectives Bring Practice Into Focus

Have you tried walking around with just one eye open? It’s tough: Your field of vision is limited; your balance suffers; you lack depth perception. Our brains need a variety of signals to bring the world into focus—and of course, this holds true not only for eyesight, but for our comprehension of just about everything.

Educator preparation is no exception. To help us meet the demands of professional practice, we form partnerships that span varying perspectives. One-dimensional views issued from the academy are as unhelpful as those emanating from the state house. But we find meaning and make progress on the tough questions when we tackle them from many angles at once, embracing complexity as an element that is essential to moving forward.

AACTE’s upcoming Annual Meeting—a convening primarily for teacher educators—will bring in these key viewpoints with significant participation from the world of practice and beyond. Beginning with preconference events and running through sessions large and small, this conference will provoke new insights on problems of practice through multidimensional views.

Before the conference officially begins, the Wallace Foundation is sponsoring a special workshop that teacher educators will attend with a PK-12 partner to share strategies for partnership-driven clinical preparation of effective school leaders.

Then in our opening session, Pedro Noguera will lend his activist-scholar voice to frame the ever-more-urgent imperatives of excellence and equity. Noguera will speak to the central role of teaching in a sustainable democracy, and to the importance of developing educators to enact a social justice agenda with renewed passion, rigorous scholarship, and active engagement at the local, state, and federal levels.

Six interactive major forums will tackle questions around teacher shortages, learning science, clinical practice, the digital divide, standards for entry into teaching, and strategies to diversify the educator workforce. The panelists sharing perspectives at these forums include higher education administrators, researchers, graduate students, state policy makers, school district officials, and the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples.

I am especially excited to learn from the panelists at our closing general session, moderated by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. This plenary gathering will articulate a new vision for how to serve learners by focusing on some of education’s toughest questions: What new responsibilities should higher education be taking on to enhance the educator pipeline? What are the roles of preservice programs in supporting educator induction and ongoing development? What types of models will foster growth in our school-university-community partnerships, and what do our partners need from us that we are not yet providing?

To make progress on these persistent challenges, we’ll hear the perspective of Arizona English teacher Cheryl Redfield, a National Board Certified Teacher who is highly active in national service as well as local community outreach. We’ll talk with Carole Basile, education dean at the University of Missouri St. Louis, about the importance of nurturing partnerships not just with PK-12 schools but with youth service organizations in the community—and about how to make these partnerships sustainable. Dan Domenech of AASA: The School Superintendents Association will lend a school district view on mismatches between the supply of and demand for teachers, considering principles for strategic human resource management. And Tony Bryk of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching will discuss how to collaboratively bring new knowledge into practice, even if it is still in development. (His lessons from improvement science relate well to learning from multiple perspectives: View your work as belonging to the professional community. Share work in progress widely, rather than waiting until it’s finished. Incorporate peer feedback, then turn around another prototype.)

Incorporating these varied viewpoints into the conference will empower us to focus on learning in 3-D. As we pool our perspectives, we will illuminate the path forward as we are provoked to fulfill our most ambitious common vision.

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Sharon Robinson

President and CEO, AACTE