RETHINKING TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAMS
If we are expecting educators to be able to create links between subject areas and to be flexible in their thinking, then perhaps we need to rethink the way universities are currently preparing new teachers – the approach being used and the manner in which the courses are offered. Perhaps one of the reasons teachers are reluctant to collaborate and adapt to meet school and student needs is simply that they haven’t been taught the necessary skills.
As I can recall, and it still seems to be the case, each subject area in an undergraduate program is a stand-alone course, both at the elementary and the secondary levels – how to teach math, how to teach science, etc. And so, new teachers are being trained to see each subject area as a stand-alone – they aren’t being pushed to find the links and make the connections between each of the courses they are taking. What if universities could offer the courses in a manner in which their students would be asked to find the links as they are planning? In a way that required students to plan with others, not only in the classes they are taking, but to make connections with those students attending classes for training in specialty areas, such as music and P.E., etc. How would that change the way graduating teachers arrived at their new schools? What difference would it make if new educators were aware of the necessity to collaborate with others and to link subject areas together, and were taught the skills enabling them to do so?
As for flexibility in thinking and the ability to change with the times, it comes down to the planning tools that universities have been and are currently providing to their students. A single unit planner and a single lesson planner … the same ones are used for all courses … they don’t change. Students are taught there is one way, and one way only. But what if the various styles of unit planners and lessons planners presented were dependent on the course? What if students were encouraged and taught how to develop their own unit planners and modify existing planners based on both subject area and potential school scenarios, such as split-classes, multi-level classes, team planning, etc.? What if students were taught that planners are fluid, that they do change over time, and that they change in order to meet different teaching philosophies and teaching methods? Would graduating teachers be more flexible in their thinking? Would they, over the course of their careers, be able to adapt to change more easily, knowing that they have the ability to modify and create new planning tools to assist them in doing so?
Flexibility, adaptability, collaborating and making connections are all valuable skills for a teacher to have throughout their career. What if instead of schools having to encourage staff to be open to change, teachers already came prepared with the mentality, the tools, and the ability to adjust? What if, instead of schools needing to teach their staff to find the links and make the connections, teachers already knew how because it was the way they were taught to look at things. Isn’t it time we rethink the undergraduate university programs in the field of education … you be the judge.
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