Flipping teacher education

Let’s flip teacher education, proposes Justin Baeder.  Now education schools take in $20,000 per teacher candidate for providing classes, while school-based mentors are paid $50 to $500 per intern.

 What if teacher education were done by master teachers who currently work in schools (perhaps part-time, perhaps full-time with assistance), who could supervise all aspects of the teacher’s internship?

Say a master teacher obtains accreditation to take on three interns at a time, and charges them $10,000 or $20,000 each (or better yet, charges a third party such as a school district or foundation). Over the course of the year, this master teacher supervises their teaching, reviews and provides feedback on their academic work, and ensures that they emerge from the program ready to teach.

All of the content that’s currently taught on college campuses could be delivered online, Khan-Academy style, and the candidates’ work could be scored by the mentor teacher, who can make better connections to their daily teaching practice.

Teachers, what do you think?

About Joanne


  1. More time in class is always important, but I’m not sure I like the total online style for the rest of the classes. It’s not quite the same as being in a class with others.

  2. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Most ed school classes are worthless–the material could be covered just by spending a weekend reading the text book and writing a paper on it. Meanwhile, discipline and classroom control need to be learned on site, and a master teacher could help with other practical matters too!

    This would be awesome for wanna-be-teachers who already had a subject-area undergrad degree and good language and math skills. It wouldn’t be very good for undergrad ed majors who needed to work more on their basic skills. On the other hand, if we ELIMINATED education as an undergrad degree, this program would be ideal. (And you’d pick up a lot of potentially great teachers who have avoided MAT degrees precisely because of the quantity of brainless busy-work.

  3. I do think the emphasis in most teacher credential programs ought to be flipped. At my local CSU, for me to get my credential, I would need 3 courses of supervised student teaching and 9 courses of politically correct edu-babble (e.g “The Multi-Cultural Foundations of a Diverse Classroom). I think it should be the reverse: 9 courses of supervising student teaching and subject-specific methodology and maybe 3 courses’ worth of the rest.

    Would you want to go see a dental hygienist who only had 3 courses’ worth of learning to clean teeth and 9 courses’ worth of learning how to work with a diverse patient population?

  4. Undergrads wanting to teach MS-HS should do a regular major and minor in the appropriate departments (no ed courses), followed by a master’s program like a relative took. All students were assigned to an experienced local teacher in their subject and at their level, for the entire year. They acted as an aide, but with increasing teaching responsibilities over the year, and took ed courses at night. The focus on the coursework was on the practical and useful and they had lots of real-world, in-class practice, as well.

    I don’t know if ES teachers were in the program or not. I’d get rid of the undergrad EL ED degree, but a master’s program should require coursework (exam pass should absolutely be an option) across the disciplines. In other words, they should have a thorough grounding in math, phonics, grammar, composition, good literature, geography, history (including art, music, econ), civics and the sciences. I’ve run across too many who can’t write decent English, spell or do math. Many said that’s why they chose el ed; liked kids and wouldn’t have to take any math or science in college.

    A very experienced teacher relative says that the only ed courses needed, other than practice teaching, are methods, tests & measurements and child development (all level and subject specific); the rest is just hot air and busywork.

    CW is right; there’s no substitute for supervised practice. I had nursing classmates who started in the hospital as first-semester sophomores with 12 hours a week, and the hours increased each of the following years. As seniors, they were assigned, on several roations, as staff, with the same patient responsibilities. I remember hearing about one’s rotation on neurosurgery during ski season, major snow/ice, and a flu epidemic; healthy nurses were borrowed from all over the hospital and the two senior students were supervising them!

  5. I found that as a student teacher, I learned so much more than I did in the classroom. In my masters program, I remember doing “social contract” discipline, where you would negotiate with the students as to what the rules would be. In the actual world? Doesn’t work so well.

  6. I think assessment and child development do need some class time, either online or in person, but the methods can be taught through some book learning combined with classroom placement. The only part that online courses cannot replace is the class meetings of students at the same point in their education with an experienced practitioner. There are many things that need processing in a safe space, and it’s hard to do that in a school building even if your mentor teacher is trustworthy.

    All in all, though, pre-service teachers need more time in a classroom with good teachers (not just anyone who will take them, but good ones) and less time with the fluffy classes. Personally, I’d prefer for there to be an intern year after student teaching, where the new teacher gets paid a small, livable salary but has frequent support from one or more mentor teachers. It’s really hard to be a new teacher, especially if your previous placements weren’t with excellent teachers and you’re making it up as you go along.

  7. Justin Braeder can propose but if you drop this master teacher, and their attendant polliwog teachers, into a school in which the principal’s year-end bonus isn’t tied to student performance then the principal has what incentive to not go their merry way including, if it’s advantageous, undercutting the work of the master teacher.

  8. I’d even go and do what hospitals do- create teaching schools. Assign prospective teachers who already have a subject specific undergrad degree and a year in a classroom learning assessment, ed law, development, etc. to schools run by a local college or BOCES. Assign two or three to a master teacher to work as TAs for a year, then have them progress with increasing independence over the next five years.

  9. Hospitals don’t create teaching schools. The students, whether nursing, med tech, PT, pharmacy, medical etc, belong to their colleges, which have formal agreements with the hospitals or other facilities. Whether they are supervised by hospital/facility staff, college faculty or independent contractors depends on the contract between the institutions. In the case of medicine, staff physicians typically have faculty appointments at the university (responsibilities including teaching residents etc), and residents may have clinical instructor status (allowing them to supervise med students).

    At one time, hospitals did own and run diploma nursing schools, which were phased out starting in the 60s. Their quality was very uneven; some (large university teaching hospitals like Mass General and many others) were excellent but many small hospitals could not offer appropriate clinical experiences. The move from state-by-state licensure requirements, to reciprocity with comparable states (national exam now) meant that weak states had to strengthen rules determining who could take the exam (program/clinical experiences) and the nature of the exam itself . The days when most people remained in their state of birth also helped the changes along, as did economic issues and increased involvment by lawyers. I wouldn’t recommend that education adopt that original model, although formal contracts between colleges and various schools could be explored.

  10. Stacy in NJ says:

    Don’t doctors and nurses both undergo rigorous internships and residency after their technical educations? Lawyers also spend years doing grunt work as training.

    Do we want professional teachers with sophisticated skill sets?

    • Medical internships have been dropped, in favor of direct entry into residency (with the year added to the total). Nurses do not typically have an internship, but 6-12 weeks of orientation (originally because of the wait for licensure test results; maybe they’re computerized and instant now). Orientation has been a combination of classroom and floating through various departments, with specific experiences (skills and hospital-specific policies/procedures, such as admission, post-op rules etc) required. Specialty certification (critical care etc) and master’s or practitioner programs (nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist etc) typically require several years graduate experience in the field prior to entry.

      If nurses can learn the required social and biological sciences and the necessary clinical knowledge and skills in 4 years (and there are also 2-yr associate degree programs) and be ready for independent practice after a short orientation, I can’t see why teachers can’t be prepared in the same time frame, including practice teaching. After all, prospective el ed teachers should know almost all the content across the disciplines before they enter college; the idea they can’t be prepared to teach in four years is preposterous. The old normal schools and the mother houses of Catholic teaching orders prepared HS grads to teach in one year; the k-5 foundations haven’t changed that much. Phonics, grammar, composition, arithmetic, geography (political geography has changed the most of anything), and the basics of government, history and the sciences are pretty much the same, for that age group.

  11. What a wonderful discussion about how to improve teacher training. Partnering teacher candidates with mentor teachers is one of the core principles enshrined in a bipartisan bill recently introduced in the Senate, S. 1250 — the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act. You can find out more here: http://www.newschools.org/blog/great-act-qa

    Disclosure: I work for an organization that supports the bill, and I’d be very curious to hear thoughts from teachers and practitioners in the field! Those who are interested can email me at briley AT newschools.org.

  12. Kronosaurus says:

    There is some merit to this idea but some major pitfalls. As we know now, it is hit-or-miss on the quality of your mentor teacher. Imagine having a crappy mentor teacher? There needs to be safeguards in place and ways to diversify a teacher-candidates exposure to mentors. One of the strengths of the current system is that teacher candidates get exposed to numerous professors and mentor teachers.

    I agree that much of the time at the university could be better spent teaching. However, there needs to be a major component of reflection, where teacher candidates get a chance to teach and then reflect based on theory. Your model seems like it would place the reflection and the theoretical component in the virtual world with the online component but I fear it is not good enough. Perhaps professors could be housed in the schools or something.

    What does get lost in this whole process though is that teaching gets relegated to a “training” degree when it gets ousted from the university. There is no longer a focus on looking at education critically but instead, it becomes a training ground or a “how to”process. As much as students dislike ed schools they do have the strength of exposing students to alternative views. They do not have to accept the system as is but ponder the what-could-be. It helps create future leaders instead of followers and technocrats.

  13. So many great comments. I would urge you to email your congressperson. It’s quick and easy at http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s1250/blogs. Here, you can express opinions, enter your vote, and set a tracking feed so you can keep up with it. Right now, there is only one vote in favor – and many comments against.

    Also, tell your friends and colleagues so they can enter the discussion.