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Webinars Offer Overview, Resources for Integrating CKT in Elementary Teacher Prep

A pair of webinars last month offered an overview of how and why content knowledge for teaching (CKT) can be embedded in education course work, looking particularly at the preparation of elementary teachers in English/language arts (ELA) and mathematics. Recordings and slides from the webinars, which were presented by experts from TeachingWorks (University of Michigan) and the ETS® Educator Series (Educational Testing Service), are now available in the AACTE Resource Library: Click here for the ELA presentation and here for math.

Nicole Garcia and Sarah Scott Frank of TeachingWorks joined with Geoffrey Phelps and Heather Howell of ETS to present strategies to engage preservice teachers in real-life content problems they are likely to encounter in elementary classrooms. Rather than looking deeply at the teacher education curriculum or specific designs of programs or field experiences, the webinars sought to ease teacher educators into the concept of CKT and high-level considerations for preparation programs.

Nicole Garcia
Sarah Scott Frank
Geoffrey Phelps
Heather Howell

Presenters contrasted two divergent views of what teachers need to know to teach effectively: In one conception, teachers need preservice preparation in a content area and teaching methods but are expected to develop professional skills on the job. In the other view, preservice preparation should start with the work of teaching itself, target subject expertise in specific forms used in teaching, and develop skills and knowledge through preservice study and practice. (The webinar presenters espouse the latter view.)

Throughout both presentations, examples illustrated the distinct approach of CKT proponents contrasted with that of “traditional” teacher preparation, such as these:

The presenters suggested that teacher educators use mini-cases to guide candidates through the concepts and applications of CKT. These constructs might present a scenario/problem with multiple-choice answers and several pages of information that frame the task, identify issues at play, and provide rationales for (as well as against) each of the answer choices. Another tool for applying CKT, presenters said, is transcripts of classroom discussions, which candidates can study to pick up more detail and nuance about instructional practices such as directing student discussions.

TeachingWorks and ETS are currently collaborating to develop a new performance assessment for teacher licensure with tasks built around these concepts. The assessment, known as NOTE (the National Observational Teaching Examination), is currently being piloted (learn more here). Meanwhile, ETS is integrating CKT in its Praxis series for elementary generalists, with ELA and math subtests already incorporating CKT. AACTE has a partnership with ETS to help support member institutions working with these assessments.

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