Monthly Archives: January 2013

Conclusion

 

ALOED role

 

 

ALOED is happy to continue in a role of providing financial support for students , networking capabilities and advice to the college, the department and the students.  An expanded role of improving networking, communicating and mentoring would be welcomed by the alumni.  We feel very strongly that teacher education is an important piece in the mission of Occidental College, and we are happy to facilitate this in any way.  While teachers are notoriously not the biggest donors to alumni funds, due to the fact that they are not the highest paid graduates, they are dedicated and loyal, and can be successfully tapped for financial as well as moral support, if approached correctly.

“Networks matter.  The New Teachers Network, formed in January 2003 at Barnard College to support new teachers in New York City public schools, provides bi-monthly discussions, new materials, and sharing of ideas (Sacks, 2005).  New teachers find strength in these sessions from the collegial relationship with like-minded teachers.  There are other New Teachers Networks at Brandeis University in Boston and at the University of Chicago.  These networks provide a safe port and supportive environment for new teachers to share with others who have had similar preparation and educational experiences.” (Sacks, p. 194)

 Conclusion

 

We hope that we are presenting an exciting proposal of re-vamping the way teacher education is conducted to bring it into a technologically adapted future.  Such a program could be developed gradually over a few years, building on existing programs and opportunities, or it can be given the attention and resources necessary to produce a full-fledged transformation within a short period of time.  Hopefully this will align with the College’s strategic planning efforts and the opportunity to do something new and revolutionary that will be spearheaded by a visionary group of educators.

Advertisements

A Strong Teacher Education Program

      A Strong Occidental Teacher Education Program

Occidental should maintain a clinical focus to develop the best practitioners.  Theory is used as a tool to deepen understanding of concrete practices.  Praxis is key.

Courses should develop a deep understanding of a clear model of explicit direct instruction that is based on effective teacher and brain research, and teach specific, research-based instructional strategies so that all candidates have solid instructional delivery strategies.

The department should establish a teacher education director to provide cohesion, direction, and accountability for the quality of the program, and alignment of course work to a clearly defined model and vision of Oxy’s teacher education program.  The director must have proven expertise in classroom instruction, as well as educational leadership skills at a school or district level.

The faculty should develop a culture of collaboration in the department under the guidance and lead of the director.  This would be a model of what students are expected to do as education professionals.  For example, all professors and instructors would meet regularly to view lessons to practice observation and feedback, and develop consistency of expectations about elements of expert teaching; to monitor progress of students, and discuss and address successes and challenges of the program.

The college should restructure the education department to align with its clinical focus of developing excellent teachers.  For example, some current courses should be eliminated or perhaps integrated into a different department.  Professors must maintain some on-going elementary or secondary classroom work, either through research, teaching, or coaching.   Students could minor in education by completing some of the credential course work without committing to student teaching.

In conjunction with the development of laboratory or partner schools, Occidental should include more part-time instructors, who have demonstrated excellence in classroom instruction, to teach courses and supervise student teachers.  They would be expected to work under the guidance of the director and support Oxy’s clearly defined model of teacher education and identified content to ensure cohesion in the program.  In addition, these  partnerships would allow the school to connect to the “best” in the field.  Actively seek out partnerships with nearby districts which can link effective schools that have diverse populations, as a training site for student teachers.  Work on commitments to regularly place student teachers with excellent teachers (i.e. Oxy graduates, mentor teachers, award-winning teachers, or teachers highly recommended by principal or district).

It is important that the college provide necessary support to the faculty.  An administrator to deal with the paperwork required by the state credentialing board would ensure that the necessary detail work is completed accurately and in a timely fashion.  Such an administrator could also be used to find and apply for grants to help support the program.  It should be recognized that faculty members have unique responsibilities to their students that are not required of other departments.  As Linda Darling-Hammond states, “If teaching is a low-status occupation in the United States, teacher education is an even lower-status enterprise within most universities…The incentive systems of universities favor research and in-ward-looking faculty service over the intensive and time-consuming work with prospective teachers and schools demanded by professional training.” (Powerful Teacher Education p. 277)

The department must connect to Occidental’s undergraduate program.  Students will have the benefit of a strong liberal arts program to develop breadth of knowledge in multiple disciplines.  This could more firmly embed the education program as part of Occidental’s larger academic community. Again,  Barnard offers a good example of how this can be done effectively.   “Experiences required by the expanded New York State standards can be woven into existing courses.  For example, faculty of various departments from economics and philosophy to psychology and urban studies have been helpful.  Colleagues have been keen to include issues of public education and learning as topics on their syllabi from fiscal equity to social understanding to concerns for a “good and just society.”  Getting to know a community becomes an urban studies assignment, visiting a community religious center becomes a paper’s focus, creating a garden in a vacant lot becomes an environmental project, tutoring becomes a study of motivation for psychology and helping with senior citizens serves as oral history lessons.  By integrating education into the fabric of other departmental courses, support and relationships are established to enhance the students’ depth of learning and experiences in preparation for student teaching.” (Sacks, p. 179)

As emphasized previously, the role of digital learning is critical.  A linchpin of the credential program should be a focus on instructional technology.  Building on the work done at Occidental currently in the Center for Digital Learning and Research and the Information Resources, a truly unique program could be developed that would make Occidental a leader in 21st century K-12 education and  enable its graduates to be agents of change and leadership in tomorrow’s schools.

Educational Studies

 

Educational Studies Program

     It has been suggested that Occidental institute an Educational Studies major.  In the state of California, an Educational  Studies major is not considered an academic major for credentialing purposes.  It must be paired with another “academic” major.

In other states, with different restrictions on academic majors, a number of institutions have followed this path. “A substantial number of liberal arts colleges and universities offers educational studies programs …These programs offer the combination of disciplinary study, pedagogical instruction, field experience, and multidisciplinary inquiry that prepares their students to make valuable contributions to school communities.” (Bjork, p. 15).  While this may be an interesting avenue for students interested in learning about the social implications and history of the educational system, it would be worthless if such a program were to replace the traditional approach of creating new teachers.  Theory is one thing, but to effect real change in education, reform must come from professionals with a knowledge of the system from the inside out, and have an understanding of the challenges that are faced.

The Illinois Wesleyan University experience is one interesting example of the way that an educational studies program can be effective.   “The department was transformed from an “education” to an “educational studies” department, non certification programmatic alternatives were introduced to expand the department’s curricular focus and faculty with significant interdisciplinary interests were hired…First, clinical experiences were systematized…Mandatory student teaching seminars were made more rigorous.  Policies involving supervision of candidates in the field and the selection of cooperating teachers were reformed and, most importantly, the student teaching experience became more closely linked to candidates’ previous field experiences…qualified district personnel were invited to teach selected courses in curriculum and pedagogy, or to work with teacher preparation candidates as university supervisors during their student teaching experience…The expectation is that all students will complete a one-semester research project of some type…Additional curricular changes have been initiated within specific certification programs at the secondary level…”(Epstein, p. 44)

At Barnard, an approach to the oft-reviled standards issue had impressive results that should be considered. “Experiences required by the expanded New York State standards can be woven into existing courses.  For example, faculty of various departments from economics and philosophy to psychology and urban studies have been helpful.  Colleagues have been keen to include issues of public education and learning as topics on their syllabi from fiscal equity to social understanding to concerns for a “good and just society.”  Getting to know a community becomes an urban studies assignment, visiting a community religious center becomes a paper’s focus, creating a garden in a vacant lot becomes an environmental project, tutoring becomes a study of motivation for psychology and helping with senior citizens serves as oral history lessons.  By integrating education into the fabric of other departmental courses, support and relationships are established to enhance the students’ depth of learning and experiences in preparation for student teaching.”(Sacks, p. 179)

Social Justice

 

Social Justice

         Social Justice has long played a pivotal role in the mission of Occidental College.  A telling interchange occurred at the spring TEAB (Teacher Education Advisory Board) between President Veitch and Desiree Vargas, principal of Rockland Elementary School.  She commented on Occidental’s commitment to social justice, and President Veitch asked her how she defined that sometimes nebulous term.  Her definition of social justice matched most people’s definition of good teaching.  It includes concepts like making sure all students are given the opportunity to learn, believing that all students can learn, and teaching to all ability levels.

The concept of differentiation of instruction is a hot-button topic in education now.  With the increasing numbers of special needs students in the mainstream classroom, and the preference for inclusion, teachers are needing tools to address the disparate needs found in every classroom.  The skills needed to teach the special education student, the English language learners and the gifted, along with the wide spectrum of ability levels are of critical importance in today’s classroom.

In addition, Oxy’s commitment to diversity and service to the local community, makes it an ideal laboratory to train teachers to teach students from a wide range of ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds.

Linda Darling-Hammond, in Powerful Teacher Education Programs ( p. 223) makes this case for differentiation of instruction as a tool to combat social injustice.“Explicit preparation for teaching diverse learners represents an important advance in the field of teacher education.  For some time, research on teaching in urban schools has suggested that, as a result of some teachers’ limited skills and the belief that their students are not capable of learning to a high level, many low-income and minority students receive a steady diet of low-level material coupled with unstimulating, rote-oriented teaching…Program efforts also, of course, include development of teaching strategies and skills that can be successful with a wide range of learners, because without such skills any belief that”all children can learn” soon devolves into little more than rhetoric.”

 

She continues on p. 334 with, “It is no exaggeration to say that our nation is at a crossroads.  We are currently developing a sharply bimodal teaching force, just at a time when the crucial importance of teacher quality has been recognized.  Some children are gaining access to teachers who are more qualified and better prepared than in years past, but a growing number of poor and minority children are being taught by teachers who lack training and are sorely unprepared for the task they face.  This will turn the cracks into which many children fall into chasms, despite the apparent drive to raise standards.”

James Banks, known as the father of multicultural education, calls this process “equity pedagogy.” He defines it as deliberate “teaching of strategies and designing of classroom environments to help students from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural groups attain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to function effectively within a democratic society.”(Banks, Summer 1993)

Lab School or Partnership School

 

Lab School or Partnership School

 Occidental should consider developing formal partnerships with local schools or create its own laboratory school or charter school.  Such  partnership or laboratory schools would both provide a setting for research by professors and graduate students, and would ensure that student teachers are placed with outstanding, dedicated mentor teachers.  Members of the staffs of such schools could serve as adjunct professors to teach methods classes, and members of the Occidental faculty could teach professional development classes for the school staff.   Such a close collaboration would necessitate the communication and integration required of an outstanding student teaching experience.  A charter school or lab school would ensure that only interested, qualified teachers would participate as mentor teachers.  Such a program would foster reciprocity.  For example, student teachers will learn from the best teachers, and will help provide needed assistance in their classrooms.  Schools will also be able to see the student teachers in action, thus providing a strong link to prospective teachers for the district.

The community literacy center or the child development center could serve as a beginning for the development of such a laboratory school on campus.  Local schools such as Rockdale, Eagle Rock Elementary or Eagle Rock High School have expressed interest or been used in the past as such informal partnership schools.  Creating digital classrooms or a digital high school within the existing schools could provide exciting opportunities.

Any such school must reflect the diversity of the community, and allow students the opportunities of dealing with a variety of learning styles and needs.  A summer school program, taught entirely by students would be an interesting pilot program.  Such a program would not only provide a service for local students, but would allow education students the experience of planning curriculum, opening and closing a program, and dealing with all the logistics of teaching in a classroom.  They will have the experience of leading their own classrooms with coaching and support of teachers who will be on “vacation” and thus will be able to dedicate more time and focus on coaching, while the student teachers will have the experience of working with challenging students and provide a service that is desperately needed in the face of budget cuts.

Such a lab school or partnership school would also give Oxy visibility in the field of education.  Providing model classrooms, including research into the effectiveness of learning strategies and developing an environment for innovative programs will move Oxy into the forefront of teacher preparation. These schools or partnerships could be developed gradually over a number of years. A model digital school would be a good place to showcase some of the work already being done at Occidental by the Center for Digital Learning and Research.  In Taking Teaching Seriously, Susan Riemer Sacks (p. 179) discusses some of the ways Barnard College has done outreach to the community.  They have a partnership with the Bronx High School, they provide peer health educators for high school girls, they provide a curriculum project designed by student teachers called, “Science in the City” for elementary students, they provide “Saturday Science Seminars” for 11th grade girls, and they provide on-going tutoring and mentoring programs.

Address Gaps in Preparation

 

Address Gaps in Preparation

      Many teachers, even Occidental graduates who completed their credential programs elsewhere, feel that their teacher preparation programs were sadly lacking.  In contrast, most graduates of the Occidental Credential Program over the past decades,  feel that their preparation was outstanding, and that they entered the classroom prepared to teach from the first day of school.  Student teaching honed their skills.  It did not have to develop them from the ground up, because students had experienced extensive fieldwork preparation and reflective classroom discussion with strong outside support.  A strong teacher preparation program is essential to providing excellent teachers.

The National Council on Teacher Quality published a report in July, 2011, entitled “Student Teaching in the United States”.   This report states,Because teaching is so difficult and novices are not well prepared for its challenges, first-year teachers are notoriously and almost uniformly weak.  As the findings from a study below depict (consistently replicated in many studies), the majority of a novice teacher’s students lose ground, making less than a year’s worth of progress in the teacher’s first year in the classroom.” (http://www.nctq.org/edschoolreports/studentteaching/docs/nctq_str_full_report_final.PDF)

Another article, written by Dr. Arthur Levine of Columbia Teacher’s College and published in September, 2006, reinforces that statement, castigating teacher preparation programs for “inadequately preparing their graduates to meet the realities of today’s standards-based, accountability-driven classrooms, in which the primary measure of success is student achievement.(http://www.edschools.org/pdf/Educating_Teachers_Exec_Summ.pdf)

Linda Darling Hammond addresses this issue in Powerful Teacher Education (p. 80) when she says, “If teachers are viewed primarily as purveyors of information, perhaps they need little more than basic content knowledge and the ability to string together comprehensible lectures to do an adequate job.  For this kind of teaching, it is easy to believe that reasonable communication skills and a liberal arts education could be sufficient preparation.  But if teachers must ensure successful learning for students who learn in different ways and may encounter a variety of difficulties, then teachers need to be diagnosticians and planners who know a great deal about the learning process and have a repertoire of tools at their disposal.  In this view, teaching requires a professional knowledge base that informs decisions about teaching in response to learners.”

John Goodlad, in Teachers for Our Nation’s Schools, (p.25) begins with this premise.  “And to ensure 180 days of good teaching no doubt requires different and better education and training than today’s teachers received.  To guarantee that teachers and principals possess the knowledge and skills required to renew their schools undoubtedly requires components not present in today’s preparation programs.”

In regards to Teach for America, in Taking Teaching Seriously, Roellke and Rice (p. 171) have this to say: “These highly incentivized programs, which often include tuition remission grants for graduate school, retention bonuses and so forth, present a significant dilemma for talented liberal arts students considering a career in teaching…  Specifically, our respondents pointed to the need for additional instruction in multicultural education, special education, and more ample opportunities for pre-service practicum experiences in urban settings.”

Today,  we need to address specific gaps often seen by underprepared teachers.  A group of administrators (listed as participants at the end of this report) interviewed by ALOED came up with the following list of areas they feel should be addressed.

Teachers must:

1) Know how to use a clearly defined model of lesson and unit design

2) Have strong classroom management skills

3) Have a deep understanding and ability to use explicit direct instruction

4)  Have a strong understanding of the California Common Core State Standards

5) Know a variety of assessments tools and how to analyze the data.

6) Know how to use both formal and informal assessments to check for student’s understanding and modify instruction

7) Be able to identify and use strategies to differentiate, especially for English language learners.  John Dewey in 1929 noted “the better prepared teachers are, the more their practice becomes differentiated in response to the needs of individual students, rather than routinized” (Linda Darling-Hammond, Powerful Teacher Education p. 10)

8) Be able to use several research-based instructional strategies to teach reading, math, and other content areas.  Even single subject credential students need a strong understanding of how to teach and improve students’ reading and writing skills.

Here are some of the characteristics the focus group found to describe excellent teachers:

Commitment

Curriculum and lesson design

Creativity/ Ability to engage students

Collaboration

Good sense of Pacing

Classroom Management

Self-reflective and articulate

Confidence and Competence

Strong writing skills

Data analysis

Solid background in subject areas/Deep understanding of content

Strong knowledge of child development

Research based instruction

Use of technology in instruction, communication and assessment

Differentiation (meet the individual needs all students)

 

Guiding Principles of Teacher Education

 

What are some guiding principles we should consider to enhance Oxy’s teacher education program?

Several diverse groups have posited their criteria for effective teacher education programs.  Some of the key ones are summarized below:

Three critical components of effective teacher education programs include:

1) Tight coherence and integration among courses and between course work and clinical work in schools

2) Extensive and intensely supervised clinical work integrated with course work using pedagogies that link theory and practice

3) Closer, proactive relationships with schools that serve diverse learners effectively and develop and model good teaching.

(from Constructing 21st Century Teaching by Linda Darling-Hammond)

10 Design Principles for Clinically Based Preparation

1) Student learning is the focus.

2) Clinical preparation is integrated throughout every facet of teacher education in a dynamic way.

3) A candidate’s progress and the elements of a preparation program are continuously judged on the basis of data.

4) Programs prepare teachers who are expert in content and how to teach it and are also innovators, collaborators, and problem solvers.

5) Candidates learn in an interactive professional community.

6) Clinical educators and coaches are rigorously selected and prepared and drawn from both higher education and the P-12 sector.

7) Specific sites are designated and funded to support embedded clinical preparation.

8) Technology applications foster high-impact preparation.

9) A powerful R&D agenda and systematic gathering and use of data supports continuous improvement in teacher preparation.

10) Strategic partnerships are imperative for powerful clinical preparation.

(from Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers. A Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning, downloaded from http://www.ncate.org)

Components that were traditionally part of the Occidental credential program continue to be of primary importance:

1)Highly selective program

2) Providing a rigorous academic background

3) Close communication between faculty, students, schools, teachers, including on-going feedback

4) Individual attention

5) Connections with the community, including a community service component

6) A strong link betwen educational theory and practical classroom applications

7) Extensive fieldwork experience. Linda Darling-Hammond in Powerful Teacher Education (p. 100) states that “A growing body of research confirms this belief, finding that teachers-intraining who participate in fieldwork either before or alongside coursework are better able to understand theory, apply concepts they are learning in their coursework, and support student learning.”

8) Institutional support. “It is reasonable to expect that colleges and universities will take on the task of educating future teachers most seriously- or not at all. This seriousness will be revealed in, for example, a president’s expressions of commitment in addresses to alumni and friends of the institution, the careful selection of applicants, the equitable allocation of resources, the institution’s clear delegation of authority to those responsible for preparation programs, forthright s pecifications and provisions of curricula, the development of exemplary field sites, appropriate recognition of site coordinators and master teachers in the schools, and much more.” (Goodlad, p. 45)

“Programs for the education of educators must enjoy parity with other campus programs as a legitimate college or university and commitment and field of study and service, worthy of rewards for faculty geared to the nature of the field.” (Goodlad, p. 55)

9) Cohort groups/professional learning communities

(From ALOED focus group discussions)

Many of the programs we looked at reflected the experience that Occidental educators shared throughout the decades. Some of these important attributes are listed below:

1) Emphasis on the quality of relationships with education instructors, outstanding supervising teachers, and diverse learners to ensure that all candidates receive excellent instruction, supervised, guided practice and coaching, and assistance with the credential and employment process. This supports the idea that what makes a difference in the quality of the program is the quality of the people involved, not specialized course offerings that are difficult to implement on a small campus with limited resources.

2) All Education courses include fieldwork

3) Close, personalized fieldwork supervision and feedback

4) Small class sizes