Sunday, May 28, 2006

Core Content for Teacher Education

We had a meeting the other day where we discussed beginning a process of looking for the 'core' of our teacher education process. In a way I do agree that we do need to find those ideas, concepts, attitudes and skills that all teachers need to have. But I resist using the word 'core' A colleague pointed out that if the core becomes the 'canon' then we are in trouble - academic freedom, independent thinking, individualistic approaches and thoughts will all be put in jeopardy.

So what are the commonalities? And how do we find them?

I don't think this will be an easy project. On the other hand I think there are some things that I can easily identify that every prospective teacher should know. From the most mechanical - how to create a plan for teaching, how to find resources, how to do basic student assessment, to the most esoteric - an opportunity to delve into themselves and discover if and why they are driven to become teachers. Regardless of where a person teaches there are many commonalities - schwab's commonplaces are a good place to start.

But then what makes teaching one area different from teaching in another area?

My thinking so far is that if we analyzed the content of each of our courses we would find considerable overlap. Some of the overlap would be because the material wasn't available to everyone elsewhere - the example that comes to mind is lesson planning. There are small differences between planning a lesson in Phys. Ed and planning a lesson in Physics - but the differences are marginal and easily picked up. Other bits of overlap are contextual and require the overlap - the example there is content analysis for instructional planning - the analysis is basically the same but the context of the subject area requires that students learn the process under the guidance of a subject area specialist using subject area material.

Once we identify where and why the overlaps exist I believe that we can start to build a common experience for all students in our programs. Once this is firmly established then the subject areas, which are able to rely on the common experience, can focus on the unique needs and demands of their area. In my case I would be able to work with my students in the Business Education context, addressing the wide range of content, the demands of technology, career and technical education, etc.

I think we will need to be creative and collaborative in our efforts to accomplish this task. But I also think that a coherent, integrated program with faculty and staff that are invested and committed to the program will help prospective teachers understand teaching and the education context as well as be able to operate and improve that context.

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