Some Thoughts on Teacher Education

This post was inspired by another post I read by another young teacher.

I just completed my first education class at the graduate level, where we examined the process for developing a rationale for teaching a course (yes, there’s a reason I’m teaching you chemistry!), a theme for the course (yes, the topics in chemistry are all connected!) and developing ALL of the learning objectives for the entire course (categorized into skills and cognitions and aligned with state standards). The whole purpose of this was to lay a firm foundation for the reasoning behind teaching your course – which gives a great amount of perspective and longevity to what drives the instruction, keeping the rationale and theme at the focus of everything, making it much more continuous and (hopefully) easily-digested by students.

I will be the first to admit that I am still a bit “green behind the gills” when it comes to teaching, having only completed 2 full years of teaching. But after this three week course, I feel as though I’ve learned more fundamental skills for my teaching than any single class that I took as an undergraduate. I’m not trying to make the point that the teaching program I enrolled in was sub-par; I just feel as though a class like this that teaches processes involved in laying a theoretical foundation for a course would be extremely beneficial to an undergraduate teacher seeking licensure. As I’m sure it is with many other programs, we learned the basics of lesson planning and then eventually planned a whole unit. But we never addressed how all of the units fit together. We talked about state standards, but didn’t do much to address a common theme for the course that would cover them all. Yes, these are useful* skills, but I firmly believe that understanding how to develop a rationale, theme, and objectives that are all connected within a course is an extremely worthwhile practice as an educator.

The other great benefit of this class was that we were all science teachers, so all of the work that we did was focused around science – what a concept! I realize that the feasibility of having all education classes be subject specific would be unsustainable (especially at smaller, private schools) and would also take away for the development of interdisciplinary themes, which can be beneficial to a certain extent. My argument instead is that there should be more time spent collaborating with teachers of the same discipline; my undergrad program had a single, semester long “science methods” class when all of us were together. Other than that, the only differentiation was between secondary and elementary in the second year of the program, which would be silly not to do. Perhaps it would also be beneficial to spend some time working with the elementary-level science teachers to look at doing scope-and-sequence for all levels, which we (barely) talked about. Just a thought.

Maybe someday when (if?) I become an education professor I’ll make all of these changes at my college/university and have the best, most successful teaching program ever… I can dream, right?