No more teacher ed

Schools of education will be obsolete by 2036, predicts Peter Wood, provost of The Kings College in New York City.

In 2036, we will still need teachers. Educating and civilising children will always require real adults who enter into sustained relationships with students. But the kind of teachers we will need will be people who know their subjects deeply and who can inspire a love of learning in young people. We simply won’t be able to sustain a system in which teaching is hack work for the untalented and the ideological.

Global competition will force change, Wood argues.

. . . teachers will be recruited from the ranks of the liberally educated and will learn, as good teachers have always learned, by devotion to the task itself.

. . . People who aspire to become real teachers don’t need training in theory and methodology. They need to learn their subjects and kindle to the task of helping young people become owners of their own minds.

I’m not sure how the kindling part will be done. People who’ve mastered history, math or science still need to learn how to help young people learn. Take a look at Dan Greene’s Exponential Curve. He’s a math teacher working with high school students who’ve failed to learn the math fundamentals until now. How does he get them to understand what was easy for him to learn but is difficult for them?

California abolished the education degree decades ago. Would-be elementary teachers major in something called “liberal studies” (as in “liberally educated” not liberal politics). Secondary teachers, who do not have low SAT scores, on average, are supposed to major in the subject they’re going to teach or pass a test on subject-matter knowledge. It hasn’t proven to be a silver bullet through the heart of mediocre teaching.

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  1. Indigo Warrior says:

    Schools of education will be obsolete by 2036, predicts Peter Wood, provost of The Kings College in New York City.

    Schools as we know it may well be obsolete by 2036. Some reasons: distance education, internet-based alternatives, education as a real service provided by teachers rather than something to be endured by students, emphasis on individual needs rather than tribal dictates, vouchers and other alternatives to government schools, parenting renaissance based on love, more emphasis on education as opposed to religious and political indoctrination – the list goes on.

  2. “will be obsolete by 2036″…actually, they’re obsolete right now. This is kind of like saying that gas lighting for homes and offices will be obsolete by 2036.

  3. SuperSub says:

    I have to disagree with Wood. Why? Because state and federal governments will never give up on the right to license teachers and to require them to be “highly qualified.” The education schools are a component of that bureaucracy.
    Until states give up on their need to regulate teachers and trust districts’ hiring processes, the teacher colleges are here to stay.

  4. SuperSub says:

    On a side note… I just received my Master’s from a program that admitted that much of what we did was useless… most of the coursework was just designed to meet NYS certification requirements. The worthwile parts were required graduate level classes in our disciplines and a year-long internship for practical experience.

  5. Let say someone wants to be a math teacher. So he majors in math in college. He takes classes like differential equation, complex analysis, topology. Does that really help him to be a better math teacher? I think universities should offer courses like Algebra for Secondary School teaching, Geometry for Secondary School teaching, where the subject matters are covered in greater depth, and the issues of teaching such topics are explored.

  6. Greifer says:

    —How does he get them to understand what was easy for him to learn but is difficult for them?

    By this logic, we still don’t need education degrees, just people who were bad students and learned despite it.

    But the real answer is by drawing on the experience of a time something was difficult for him. This is why teachers who have more experience living have an easier time than younger teachers, despite their age being closer to their students.

    The next thing you do is think about what it is that the student doesn’t understand–by thinking of it as a puzzle to solve. WHY are they making the mistakes they are making? What mis-heard concept is in their minds? What inference are they incorrectly making? What bad datum is in their heads?

    Pedagogy classes never taught how to do that any better than simply doing it provided. Because they don’t know how to quantify that. They claim to help by teaching about different modalities, etc. but how to recognize when to do X ,and when to do Y? Please. If teaching programs knew the answer to how to get an idea into a kid’s head, then there wouldn’t BE mediocre teaching, or poorly performing students.

    So where can you learn it? By learning the craft, the TRADE, of teaching. You learn that from an experienced teacher. But you don’t need pedagogy classes, just apprenticeships.

  7. You have to muck around in the article but Wood eventually gets down to the heart of the matter: ed schools will go away because the reason they exist in their current form, the school district, will go away.

    Homeschoolers don’t need ed schools at all, of course. Private and charter schools can’t be as cavalier about teacher skill as a school district so they aren’t a market for the contentless, politically-driven curriculum that masquerades as teacher education in many ed schools.

    It’s only school districts that can afford to ignore the difficult to measure quality of teaching skill preferring the easy to measure existance of a teaching certificate.

  8. Dan Greene says:

    I agree with supersub, and disagree with some of bd’s points.

    I took plenty of math in high school and college, and I think that knowing higher level math is important to being able to teach lower level math, so you can see the big picture and understand the relationships more deeply. However, knowing this level of math has in no way prepared me to teach high school students.

    The credential program I went through was, in all honestly, horrible. Most of the classes were a waste of time and provided neither useful theory nor practical ideas. Picture this: a “literacy development” class, where we were assigned a 30-page article to read, and then spent three 3-hour class periods summarizing (and not even analyzing) the article, 1 page per person. Can you imagine? I felt sometimes like I was ready to jump out of my skin. Most of the classes were like this. I really liked my math methods class, and found it incredibly helpful (we read research, analyzed case studies, learned theory, and applied that learning to developing our own units). However, this was only 1 class for 1 semester. How crazy is that? If the filler classes were dropped, and actual classes about teaching the various subjects in math were added, then we would be doing a whole lot better.

    In terms of bd’s comments, I agree that life experience is helpful when learing how to teach. But I don’t think any amount of life experience directly translates to how to best structure a learning path for students to develop their mathematical ability. That’s like saying you don’t need to learn how to teach reading, you just need to be a well-rounded, experienced person, and you will get it. This may be true over time, but only after lots of work, self-reflection, reading, and help from colleagues – and isn’t that what an education is supposed to be all about? Why have each person discover anew for themselves what has already been studied and learned by so many people. There is not just one way to teach (as different student populations have different needs, skills, backgrounds, etc.), but I would rather be presented with at least some good models and research, so I have something to go from, than to be forced to discover everything from scratch (think of all those people who revile inquiry-based learning for students!).

    I think that the key to improving math education (and education in general) is not to abolish the credential, but to make the credential meaningful and useful. Right now, anyone with a pulse could get the credential I got (and I really worry about the people in those classes who were struggling with the material).

    See info about Deborah L. Ball‘s work into math teacher education reform.


  9. Wait, I did not say anything about life experience. All I say was that universities should offer courses to re-teach high school Algebra and Geometry in greater detail.

  10. Oops! As my students say, “just kidding!” I was misaligned.. replace “supersub” with “bd” in my last comment, and “bd” with “greifer”. Sorry for the confusion.

  11. Robert Wright says:

    There is a huge gulf between the world of ed classes and the world of the classroom.

    In some of my ed classes, we talked about how to teach students to think instead of just memorize.

    When I became a teacher, I found out quickly that it didn’t matter if students learned anything.

    What mattered was taking accurate attendance, keeping your classroom quiet, and above all, never, never, never cause your principal’s phone to ring.

    Education classes have very little to do with schools, and schools have very little to do with learning.

    If you can keep your head down and pretend it all makes sense, then you know how to operate on good terms with absurdity and you’ll get tenure without a problem.


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