Should teachers train like doctors do?

National Journal’s Education Experts — including me — discuss teacher residency programs modeled on doctors’ training. In the Boston program, “residents” spend four days a week in a classroom with an experienced teacher while taking master’s degree courses. Most applicants have work experience or degrees in the area they are going to teach. Is residency a better way to train teachers?

I say “yes. ” So far, it’s unanimous.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    Yes, but skip the “masters” classes.

  2. I think the idea is great, but only if after their “residency” teachers could expect to make the salaries that doctors do.

    I’m a little sarcastic, yes, but most teachers I know couldn’t possibly afford to do something like this. Full time at a school four days a week and then classes in the evening? For those of us who worked our way through graduate school, how could that possibly work?

    I was barely able to afford student teaching–and that was just one semester. I’m in my ninth year of teaching, and I still have a long, long way to go to pay off those student loans.

    Yes, teaching would improve hugely under something like this, but I just don’t think most teachers I know could afford to do it.

  3. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    If teacher training was solely an apprenticeship program (a better analogy than residency) then it would be much more affordable.

  4. “Yes, but skip the “masters” classes.”

    Agreed. In addition, these individuals should have to take an entrance exam similar to the MCAT that measures their reading, math, and writing skills. Set a rigorous cut point. Then, put them in the program. And, no Masters classes.

  5. tim-10-ber says:

    Personally I would love to see student teaching match one full school year from when teachers are called back to school through the closing day ceremony. The student teacher will work with a master teacher. What better way to know if someone can cut it or not for the full school year and be effective. This way they get real time feedback throughout the year and see how school truly operates. The fifth year could be the master year – maybe three full days in class and the academic classes on Saturday?

  6. As usual: “What works?” is an empirical question which only an experiment (multiple, locally-controlled school districts or a competitive market in education services) can answer. No statistical, empirical evidence supports policies which require College of Education degrees for teachers.

    Here’s Eric Hanushek: “The dilemma faced by policy makers, parents and other decision makers is: How do we insure high quality schools and how do we measure them? How do we know when we have achieved something? The problem is that once we have said we want high quality schools, we go to simplistic measures of the resources available in schools. We look at what the class sizes are. We look at what the teachers are paid.
    We look at the degrees of teachers.
    Unfortunately, these are bad metrics. They are bad ways to measure quality. As much as we do not like to believe it, none of these are closely related to student performance. When we go too quickly into the debate about these issues, we lose sight of the fact that we are really concerned about what the students know and student outcomes.”

    I expect that schools could do no better than to require of prospective teachers subject-area knowledge, fluency in the students’ language, and a blank criminal record. Hire people with subject-area expertise (not to say a degree, but that could work) for a probationary period as teachers’ aides, graders, department gofers, and in-house substitutes. Observe if the individual works well with kids.

  7. How to pay apprentice teachers? Transfer the College of Ed budget to K-12 schools.

  8. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    As far as metrics go, it seems that many people in education land can’t, or won’t, conceive of any objective measure of anything. Education land pretty much reminded me of an artist colony.

  9. I agree. I am entering a fast-track teaching program in the fall. It’s two semesters of supposedly best-practice methods courses with a minimum of a full day a week in a classroom plus one semester of student teaching under a supposed master teacher.

    As someone who comes from the business world, I do feel that teachers need to learn about best practices and how to learn from current research. Now, whether the research is any good is debatable, but I see some of the “great” teachers in our school districts continue to use methods that are widely doubted as being successful because that’s what they learned in their teacher training 20 years ago. With the demands placed on them it’s hard for them to find the time or motivation to update their own learning.

    I also agree that making the content area requirements rigorous would be a good thing. The field experience student I had in my nursery school classroom last was, let’s just say, not the brightest bulb in the pack. Two-year-olds were walking all over her and her eventual license was going to go all the way up through 3rd grade (she’s a student teacher this semester in an elementary school). Personally, I test well and I am comfortable picking up textbooks and research articles to learn from, so I’m not particularly afraid of content area testing. I know plenty of people who would rather spend semester after semester learning teaching “stuff” rather than prove they know it and move on to the practice of teaching it.

    I’d prefer to spend more time in the classroom than I’m required to do in my program with someone(s) who is (are) really, really good at what they do. I’ve already made arrangements with a very good kindergarten teacher to do just that on my days off, but it won’t be every week or every day like I’d like it to be. They way they’ve structured the courses and field experience time there will be three days a week I don’t get to see my own children, which is just as much of a hardship as the finances.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    From time to time, somebody points out that successful college and professional sports coaches were rarely stand-outs in the sport.
    In part, I imagine, it’s because the stand-outs could afford to retire young.
    Knowing something is different from knowing how to teach something.
    With athletes, of course, there is the additional factor of neuromuscular coordination, fast-twitch vs. slow-twitch muscles, peripheral vision, and so forth.
    Successful coaches know the sport, know how to teach the sport, know how to organize, know how to motivate.
    One university in our area has student teaching for almost an entire year. Another is for about one semester, or a bit less.
    Good teachers can teach successfully in their minors–in high school–if they know how to teach. They don’t need masters-level familiarity with the material, especially if they’re in the first or second year of the subject.

  11. It seems like a fairly good idea to me. I kind of wish I had had more opportunity to ‘shadow’ experienced profs before I became one – ideally, observing several people with different styles.

  12. Roger Sweeny says:

    As a present physics teacher, I say:

    Yes, but skip the “Masters” classes.

  13. I expect that schools could do no better than to require of prospective teachers subject-area knowledge, fluency in the students’ language, and a blank criminal record.

    This doesn’t sound right. How about:
    – teaching reading, and where kids are likely to go wrong in learning this and how to avoid it
    – identifying hidden disabilities, including eyesight, hearing.
    – teaching handwriting to left-handers
    – where kids go wrong in learning basic mathematics, and how to avoid said problems
    – design of good tests, and interpretation of the results? (Hint, if the smartest kids in your class get the answer wrong, there was probably something wrong with the question).
    – practice at making use of feedback from said tests to adjust future lessons
    – classroom management skills.

  14. In addition, these individuals should have to take an entrance exam similar to the MCAT that measures their reading, math, and writing skills. Set a rigorous cut point. Then, put them in the program.

    This is already the case in California and indeed in most states, I think. But definitely in California.

    At most elite ed schools, students teach in school for an entire year. In my case, I worked 20 hours a week. Unpaid.

    I don’t know where these ed schools are where the students teach for 6 weeks and then done. But you could certainly see if the “resident” program helped by comparing Stanford ed program grads to one of these schools and seeing who is more effective with the same population. I recommend doing that before people get all dewy-eyed about the “residency” plan.

  15. Tracy,

    Your corrections make sense, for elementary school. I intended my recommendations for intermediate and h.s. teachers, who teach a single subject. Even so, the knowledge that you indicate makes a difference can be learned on the job. Apprenticeship makes more sense than Ed-school coursework.

    (Richard): “From time to time, somebody points out that successful college and professional sports coaches were rarely stand-outs in the sport…Knowing something is different from knowing how to teach something…Successful coaches know the sport, know how to teach the sport, know how to organize, know how to motivate…Good teachers can teach successfully in their minors–in high school–if they know how to teach. They don’t need masters-level familiarity with the material, especially if they’re in the first or second year of the subject.”

    Agreed. a high school Physics teacher would not need “masters=level familiarity” in the subject (but it probably would not hurt). Student motivation is key, and an enthusiastic mentor can inspire even if s/he does not know the subject well. All that said, Ed school coursework contributes nothing to the factors beyond subject-area competence, and since Ed school coursework contributes nothing to subject-area competence, it contributes nothing.

  16. A relative recently completed a pre-service master’s program where the classes were held mostly in the evening and several days were spent in the classroom. Each student was assigned to an experienced teacher (level and subject specific) for the whole year. At first, it was mostly observation and then the actual teaching opportunities increased. She found it very helpful and her classes were more useful than she anticipated.

    I still don’t understand why undergrads can’t be taught how to teach, especially at the el ed level, where they should already know most of the academic material. Instead of focusing on physician residencies (a vastly different academic population that has already completed med school), why not look at nursing? In four years, they have to learn large amounts of new academic material and they have supervised clinical practice with increasing responsibilities over time. When they graduate, they not only pass a real exam but are ready to practice.

  17. Ex-PhysicsTeacher says:

    Cal,

    My student teaching was a whopping 11 weeks, with only 5 weeks in the high school setting, which was the most relevant part.

    The whole thing was 8 credits, and was the most expensive college course I ever took. All the school provided was an ignorant supervisor to come out half a dozen times to observe me.

  18. I didn’t student teach at all. Just jumped in. Whee.

    My student teachers are interns for a full semester, then they student teach the next semester. The internship is flexible, so we can agree on something that works both for the experience and their need to earn a living (believe me, I get this). Essentially they are with me for the full year. I’ll only take student teachers from this program now and only those who are doing post-bachelor’s certification (iow, are serious about wanting to teach). I’ve seen too many of my colleagues burned hosting a student teacher who is just going through the motions to graduate and has no intention of ever teaching. There’s no burning need for more English teachers; selectivity can work here.

    Because I teach AP and dual credit, I happen to need my Master’s degree.

  19. Malcolm Kirkpatrick – actually my mother taught geography at high school. Originally after she got into teaching she taught for a couple of years, and then a combination of life events meant that she went to teachers college to get the professional qualification. She said that she thought that was a good way round to do it, she already had the classroom management skills and learning the education theory expanded what she could do with her class.
    Of course Mum was a third generation teacher so classroom management was probably easier for her than for most new teachers.
    And a teacher nowadays can find themselves needing to teach basic mathematics at any stage, so that’s still likely to be useful. Along with good test design, classroom management, identifying hidden disabilities.

  20. The Hawaii DOE requires of prospective teachers that they obtain a College of Education degree. I had a BA in Math, so I took an additional 30 hours in the College of Education. In these classes, Professors of Education often insisted on the superiority of hands-on learning and “authentic” evaluation, evidently tone-deaf to the irony of presenting this idea to a class of students who were then going to teach Math, History, Literature, and Biology to classes of students.

    Perhaps one could defend K-12 school as an institution apart, in the case of sub-adults, on paternalistic safety considerations. I saw very little in the College of Education that I could not have learned by reading on my own. Whatever practical knowledge, such as classroom management, that Ed schools teach prospective teachers could more effectively learn on the job, as teachers’ aides and in-house substitutes.

    The case for most formal post-secondary education seems extremely weak to me. You want to learn Russian History or appreciate George Elliot? Read a book or ten. You don’t need to kiss some professor’s
    toes.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JoanneLeeJacobs, Adam MacLennan. Adam MacLennan said: Yes, but only if they get paid like doctors RT @JoanneLeeJacobs New blog post: Should teachers train like doctors do? http://bit.ly/cpPLvk […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by kriley19, JoanneLeeJacobs and 21stprincipal, Adam MacLennan. Adam MacLennan said: Yes, but only if they get paid like doctors RT @JoanneLeeJacobs New blog post: Should teachers train like doctors do? http://bit.ly/cpPLvk […]

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by JoanneLeeJacobs: New blog post: Should teachers train like doctors do? http://bit.ly/cpPLvk