It’s an unavoidable reality that today’s students will be tomorrow’s educators. The professors involved in teacher training initiatives and teacher education programs today are the ones responsible for training tomorrow’s teachers. With that said, it’s increasingly important for those involved in education to be aware of innovations and trends that apply to the teaching profession and what strategies are most effective when it comes to making teacher education programs a success.
Recently I sat down with Dr. Maria del Carmen Salazar, associate professor of curriculum studies and teaching at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, to discuss this challenge of training tomorrow’s educators and what can be done to make these efforts a success.
Q: What are some of the most important trends in education currently and what impact do you think they are likely to have on the teaching profession in the future?
A: The most important trends in education are related to evaluation and accountability. These trends will have a significant impact on the teaching profession because new teachers will be held accountable for results. Teachers will need to demonstrate that students are making gains, including the students who face significant opportunity gaps. These trends will likely have positive and negative consequences for the teaching profession.
Q: Tell me about your experience with teacher education programs. What are some of the most important trends you have noticed?
A: I have collaborated on the design of three teacher preparation programs, including two Urban Teacher Residencies (UTRs) and a hybrid program that integrates traditional and residency-like elements. The trends I have noticed in teacher education include a tension between conformity and innovation, and a tension between accountability versus connectivity (e.g., defining value added). On a more practical note, programs are trending toward increased field work hours, a focus on meeting the needs of diverse learners to meet district needs and a focus on outputs versus inputs.
Q: What are some of the most significant challenges to teacher education programs?
A: Teacher education programs face significant challenges, including a lack of statewide data systems that link teachers to their preparation programs; misconceptions and myths about alternative teacher preparation versus traditional teacher preparation; increased competition between preparation programs; and a lack of diverse teacher candidates and diverse teacher educators.
Q: How are the current teacher training programs measuring up given the current and predicted future trends in education? How well prepared are the teachers of tomorrow?
A: This is a difficult question because measures of teacher effectiveness vary from state to state and across districts. However, promising data is emerging from CAEP and edTPA.
Q: What is your advice to educators and administrators involved in teacher training programs? What strategies have you found most useful for addressing the challenges and minimizing program issues?
A: Anchor your program to a framework for teaching. The best strategy we have used is to anchor our program to our Framework for Equitable and Effective Teaching (FEET). The FEET has provided a sense of cohesion and purpose that guides the dispositions, knowledge and skills every apprentice teacher is expected to master. This tool is focused on meeting the needs of diverse learners, thus placing students from marginalized communities at the center of effective teaching.
Q: Approaching the issue from a different angle, what is the significance of innovation in teacher training programs given the current trends in education?
A: Innovation is essential in all elements of education. However, evaluation can promote compliance and conformity, thus stifling incubators for innovation, transformation and reform.
Q: What strategies have you found particularly useful for promoting innovation in teacher education programs?
A: We teach our apprentice teachers to understand when to follow and when to lead. We use the analogy of knowing when to get in the box, knowing when to poke holes in the box, and knowing when to dismantle the box and create a new structure.
Q: How, specifically, can innovative teacher education programs best train tomorrow’s teachers?
- Create a strong foundation using a framework for teaching.
- Start with the needs of diverse learners.
- Ensure theory and practice connections for real-world application.
- Model good teaching.
- Provide opportunities for apprentice teachers to teach, lead and transform.
- Be flexible, adaptive and community-oriented.
- Prepare change agents.
- Think locally and globally.
This concludes our interview. Thanks to Dr. Salazar for taking the time to answer my questions.