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Opinion: Problems with the ‘Teacher Pipeline’ — An Unfit Analogy for Finding (and Fostering) Future Educators 

“Teacher Pipeline” is a common term used to encompass issues of teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention. The phrase is not new, popular in seasons of dire teacher shortages —from the 1980s (AACTE, 1988; Ekstrom & Goertz, 1985) to our present age (Choate, Goldhaber, & Theobald, 2020; Goldhaber & Mizrav, 2021; Kyser et al., 2021).  

 A “Teacher Pipeline” evokes vivid imagery: supply and demand, staff shortages akin to an energy crisis, and an impetus to extract and extrude future educators. To wit, the pipeline analogy lends itself to further symbolism such as “refueling” (Goldhaber et al., 2015/6); “widening” (Gagnon et al., 2019), “excavating” (Goldhaber & Cowan, 2014); and dealing with numerous “breaks,” “holes,” or “leaks” (Barth et al., 2016; Shah et al., 2018; Stohr, Fontana, & Lapp, 2018; TNTP, 2020). 

What Zoom Reminded Me about Effective Teaching

Video call group business people meeting on virtual workplace or remote office

Like many educators, I experienced a crash course in teaching via Zoom during 2020. More than another technological tool, videoconferencing has helped me rethink and refine my pedagogical practice—for both online and face-to-face settings. 

Classroom Norms

In my typical class sessions, we jump into instruction and activities to model “on-task” productivity. However, Zoom has reminded me that giving attention to procedures and expectations is time well spent.

In a videoconference setting, these “norms” often relate to technical set up—microphones, chatroom, camera, etc. Such issues relate to all sorts of teaching environments. How can students use phones or other devices? What should they write down or record? When and how do they talk with one another and the instructor? These are all important questions, and answering them at the start establishes expectations for successful learning (Finley, 2013).

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