Elite colleges should take the lead in redesigning teacher training, writes Susan Engel, director of the teaching program at Williams College, in the New York Times. She envisions selective (and free) teacher training programs taught by outstanding professors. Future teachers would study their subjects as well as learning the mechanics of teaching. They’d be subsidized for their first three years of teaching.
. . . students should learn their craft the way a surgeon learns to operate: by intense supervision in a real setting with expert mentors. Student-teachers are usually observed only twice during a semester and then given a written evaluation. But young teachers, like young doctors, should work side by side with skilled mentors, getting plenty of feedback, having plenty of opportunities to observe and taking on greater and greater responsibility as they improve.
. . . In much the same way (as family therapists in training), young teachers need to record their daily encounters with their classrooms and then, with mentors and peers, have serious, open-minded conversations about what’s working and what isn’t.
Engel also suggests giving schools incentives to hire groups of newly prepared teachers so they’ll “feel part of a robust community of promising professionals.”
Is this practical on a large scale? We’ll never staff all our schools with Ivy League grads, but we could hire and retain more smart new teachers if they had a chance to learn the job before going solo in a classroom.
Robert Pondiscio praises the use of “craft” to describe teaching rather than “art” or “science.” Check out the discussion in comments as well.
Alliance for Excellent Education also has ideas on improving teacher preparation programs.