Toward a New Vision of Teacher Preparation
7.17.09 | Digital media specialists and educators gathered last week to discuss how to improve teacher preparation, keeping in mind the new trends in K-12 education exemplified by the new Quest to Learn school, designed by Katie Salen. The event was hosted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
The Quest to Learn school, which incorporates elements of game design in its model for teaching and learning, has raised some interesting questions about how young people learn, how teachers should teach, and what learning environments, commonly thought of as boxy buildings called schools, should actually look like.
Despite the rapid change as cell phones, computers, and video games extend, and at times refocus, the classroom, we were amazed to find that when we got these diverse groups together in the same room to talk about teacher preparation, people were on remarkably similar pages.
Participants agreed that schools are complex systems meant to deliver a product, learning, to their students. Although this may seem self-evident, it has important implications. For example, from this vantage, teaching becomes about social relationships, deep content, and the unique setting of each institution and the young people in it. It is up to novice teachers to arrive with basic skills that allow them to understand and manage this complex system. Teaching, then, is a design challenge about building learning environments, customizing experience, and iterating past failure. More optimistically, these are skills that can be analyzed, understood, and then taught in ways that will better help students learn.
Currently, too few teacher preparation programs are preparing people to answer these challenges; programs have yet to think along the lines of teacher as designer. Convening participants agreed, however, that there were answers in sight.
Programs are needed that are based in schools, provide future teachers with clear ideas of what they must know, assess their progress in a transparent way, build ethical and social behavior into their professional identities, and build an understanding of students’ learning through incrementally advancing experiences, rather than sudden immersion in and responsibility for a classroom of students. At the same time, we must transform the teaching profession so that teachers can move from novice to experienced teachers with appropriate social professional development support.
By agreeing on what the basic skills of being a novice teacher are and how to develop more advanced ones, it now becomes possible to better prepare teachers for a range of learning environments, be they classrooms in Quest to Learn or in more traditional schools.
This gathering was part of a series of conversations about emerging lessons in digital media and learning being supported by the MacArthur Foundation. For more on the digital media and learning convenings being hosted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, go here.
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