By Sharon P. Robinson
Most U.S. citizens associate age 65 with retirement, signaling a time to slow down, unwind, and relax. As AACTE turned 65 this year, however, slowing down was the farthest thing from our minds. Indeed, we have never been more energized, excited, and emboldened by what lies ahead of us.
Those who joined us in Orlando can attest to the fact that our 65th Annual Meeting was one of our most successful and spirit-filled conferences to date. Rather than indulging in a retrospective, we focused on what is yet to come with the theme of "Embracing the Future: Vision, Venture, and Values." Our dedication to the millions of PK-12 students who rely on our work was reflected in this theme in a refreshing new way.
Amidst the ever-shifting educational landscape, steeped in accountability expectations and technological advances, we championed the need for new tools, new approaches, and new plans of action for educator preparation to embrace—and influence—the future. Instead of slowing down, we are ready to tackle these challenges with vigor, curiosity, and dedication.
We introduced an exciting new initiative during the Annual Meeting that aims to accomplish this work: Inventing the Future: Educator Preparation 3.0, or Ed Prep 3.0. This initiative will support innovation in the professional community and speed the pace of change by creating a forum in which our members, partners, and other colleagues can share experiences and findings as they address the most urgent issues of student achievement, curriculum reform, and the advancement of educator preparation. It will encourage preparation programs to respond to the needs both of PK-12 students and of the workforce required to serve them.
Ed Prep 3.0 will be enacted through the creation of the Center for Innovation in Educator Workforce Development. The needs of diverse learners, in addition to the needs of the education workforce and the capacity of schools of education, will be the chief considerations as we develop the Center. In addition, the results of our annual survey, the Professional Education Data System (PEDS), will inform the work as an indicator of the changes taking place in the characteristics and productivity of higher education-based educator preparation.
Other influences on the Center’s structure and content model will include recent recommendations from key reports of organizations such as the American Federation of Teachers, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and the National Education Association. Specifically among these priorities, the Center will support reorienting teacher preparation around clinical experiences, developing performance-based assessments of candidates’ readiness to enter teaching, and ensuring that candidates possess strong content knowledge and discipline-specific training.
The Center will guide Ed Prep 3.0 using four interrelated yet distinct domains as frames to implement programming: Pedagogy, Workforce Development, Capacity Building, and Documentation and Synthesizing Research. Although there is much to explore within each of these domains, I will focus here on what I see as the most salient: pedagogy.
A commitment to quality pedagogy is the glue that binds us together as educators. While credentials may be important to consider in the current accountability climate, we don't want to get lost in conversations about degree qualifications that have little impact on teachers’ classroom performance. Rather, we want to understand as much as possible the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that candidates must develop within their preparation programs in order to become effective teachers.
First, we must be more attentive to how we frame teacher candidates’ vision of what good practice is and model it for them during their programs. Ed Prep 3.0 will call greater attention to the learning experiences we design for candidates and collect research-based evidence for what pedagogical practices they need before their assignment in classrooms. As there is some truth to the maxim how you were taught is how you will teach, it is essential that candidates experience good pedagogy in their programs and that they learn how to implement it in their own practice. I see four main components driving this focus:
1. Candidates must experience practices in their preparation that stimulate optimal literacy growth. For instance, candidates who receive ample formative feedback over the course of writing several iterations of an assignment are more likely to turn around and deliver that same high-leverage practice to their own students.
2. Candidates must work collaboratively in their course work and in their clinical placements. Teachers who experience various team-based assignments within their preparation programs can better provide collaborative learning structures for their own students.
3. A third facet ties closely to the second: We must train both teachers and administrators to work on real problems of practice, and work on these problems together. For instance, when school leaders introduce a reform initiative, its chances for success are augmented when the teachers and other school workers agree that the reform addresses an issue that is a real barrier to their work. We need to train educators to collaboratively identify the issues and obstacles in their practice and work to develop a shared plan. (The same holds true for students learning in any field!) Educators must employ pedagogy in ways that engage students in real-world problems and teach them to work collaboratively on solutions.
4. Finally, we must assess educator knowledge in authentic and formative ways that culminate in a capstone event. Teacher performance assessments such as edTPA help us meet this goal. Our students must be ready to show how they commit themselves to student development, provide evidence that they are skilled in constructing meaningful learning experiences for students, and display critical reflections on the impact of their work.
If our candidates experience and master these critical components, they will be ready for their initial classroom placements. Even this subset of goals is ambitious, and AACTE realizes that Ed Prep 3.0 will not succeed overnight. In the coming years, we intend to make sizeable investments in time and resources because we believe that the areas to be addressed by the initiative are of critical importance—especially pedagogy, which is job #1. It is most closely tied to the learning and engagement of students, essentially driving everything else.
We look forward to working with you on this exciting new initiative! Please stay tuned to our web site, e-blasts, Tweets, and this blog for further developments.