Change teacher prep, but how?

We need to change teacher training dramatically, writes Tom Kane in a Brookings Institution report. His model is the Flexner Report, which transformed medical education 100 years ago.

Kane thinks the new model will combine higher admissions standards for prospective teachers, improved training and greater selectivity — perhaps through “performance assessments” — in placing pre-service teachers in classrooms.

But it’s not clear what will work, he concedes. Can we really predict who’s going to be a good, average or lousy teacher?

Assigning one person to one classroom is a “profound error”, writes Grant Wiggins.

It hampers ongoing professional development, it breeds egocentrism, and makes it far too hard to get appropriate consistency across teachers concerning instructional quality, assessment, and grading.

So, what if we hired 4 teachers for 3 classrooms?

Teachers could observe each other, monitor novice teachers and specialize in their areas of strength, he argues.

About Joanne


  1. Good points, Joanne. As someone who went through teacher training (for music and secondary ed.), I feel like there could be more done in our colleges and universities on prepping teachers for today’s classrooms. Programs should spend more time in practicum and hands-on teaching experience than telling them about methods and styles. We need to get prospective teachers in the classroom sooner, and they need to be paired with examples of good teachers so they can learn from the best.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    I agree with William Wheeler: less “training,” more doing. Of course, this will mean fewer jobs for ed school professors. But since they work for a non-profit and are motivated by the public interest, not private greed, I’m sure they won’t mind.

  3. Some years ago, I read that Japanese schools had larger classes than American schools, but that the teachers ahd more prep time — which they spent, not in their classrooms, but in a shared teacher’s area. It seems to me that kind of arrangement would naturally lead to the sharing of good ideas among teachers.

  4. Patti W. says:

    Completely agree. At my middle school each math teacher takes a period for intervention, which means pulling kids out to give them extra support in math during their math classes. A side benefit–one I would argue is just as valuable as giving kids small group and individual support–is that we all get to see some of the other teachers’ lessons. It’s given us some really good discussions during department meetings. I believe those few, regular minutes of observation plus the discussion that comes up afterward benefits our students on a daily basis. Sometimes we improve the workflow of the classroom, sometimes just the way something is explored or explained. None of that would happen if we were all stuck in our individual classrooms all day.

  5. SuperSub says:

    Schools should take on a model similar to teaching hospitals. After a necessary degree program, new teachers should be placed in schools as apprentices under the direct supervision of a master teacher. Initially the apprentices would be 1:1 with a master teacher and act essentially as a TA for them in the beginning but shifting to take over classes as the year progresses. In following years they would be given their own classes, sharing a master teacher with other apprentices. This frees up the master teachers to observe, guide, and evaluate the new teachers in a realistic setting.

    There would be two levels of certification – one granted after a degree program that gets new teachers into these schools and one that is granted after successful performance at these schools.