kitchen table math, the sequel: first, blow up the ed schools

Sunday, March 15, 2009

first, blow up the ed schools

a comment from anonymous:
For at least 40 years, teacher preparation has focused on ed courses (process-oriented) instead of content courses. At my state university, secondary-ed majors and minors required exactly HALF of the subject-specific credit hours required by the College of Arts and sciences. Also, the ed school was widely regarded as having the worst teachers in the whole university. Strong students rarely survived the four years of edu-babble. I doubt that things have changed much.

Reid Lyon:
You know, if there was any piece of legislation that I could pass, it would be to blow up colleges of education.

I know that's not politically correct. Those are some of the most resistant, recalcitrant places you will ever get to. And I'm not sure it's going to get a heck of a lot better, because again philosophy and belief drive how their folks are taught and how their folks come out and teach others.

Rigorous Evidence: The Key to Progress in Education? Lessons from Medicine, Welfare, and Other Fields (pdf file)


Cheryl said...

I'd have to agree with that. I only did the one year of ed school required for a credential. Much of it was incredibly watered-down, compared to my university non-ed major. Many of the students in my credential program couldn't even write properly. So sad.

Catherine Johnson said...

I spoke to a woman who was a NYC school teacher this afternoon. She graduated college in 1956.

She said in her day they knew how to teach everything & they did. (She wasn't boasting; she was stating.)

She lives here & told me that at some point the district brought in an expert who told everyone that spelling "can't be taught" so they stopped teaching it.

She said they had a method for teaching spelling when she was a teacher and it worked.

Interesting factoid: they learned their method from a man who came in to speak!

It sounded as if, back in the day, they had "professional development" that actually was professional development. A person who knew how to teach something well would come and tell teachers how he or she did it. Then his audience would use it themselves.

Another interesting aspect of the conversation was that she talked about the leeway teachers have to do what they see works. She said she had adopted the man's technique for teaching spelling and then added that teachers were free to be creative but they also used techniques they had been taught. There wasn't a big contradiction between techniques everyone had learned and was using and the extra talents an individual brought to the classroom.

She was an artist (she has a show now - I'm going to go see it), so she had the kids add some drawing to her spelling lessons. I'm a little vague on what she told me about that part, but it was obviously an extension of the technique the man had taught everyone.

The technique sounds like a combination of what I imagine multisensory teaching to be and practice.

They used spelling lists - I wish I'd asked her how they put the spelling lists together. (Where they theme related, word walls, or phonetically related??)

They had the kids learn meaning & talk about the meaning, I think, and they had them write the words in the air, and do things like close their eyes and visualize spelling out each letter of the word, then open their eyes and see if they got it right.

So there was a built-in self-testing element, too.

I've been aghast of late, talking to parents of high school kids, about the fact that our teachers appear to do nothing whatsoever to make sure knowledge enters students long-term memory.

Since it's all about understanding, they do what they do, then give a test.

The kids I know are in high school now, so if material isn't entering long term memory they're becoming more and more befuddled as the course goes along.

Committing complicated material to long-term memory isn't easy. These kids have NEVER been given the slightest bit of advice or help about how one does that & "memorization" is viewed with some disdain.

But come time for the test, they're supposed to know stuff.

It's a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

"Teacher preparation has focused on ed courses (process-oriented) instead of content courses." Bingo. I teach middle school mathematics in New York City. Never, not once, have I ever been received instruction about the right way, or for that matter, any way to teach a given topic of mathematics (take your pick - solving 2-step equations, converting between percents, fractions, and decimals. Choose any topic and you can be certain that there was never a professional who told me a good way to get the material across.)

Have I personally mastered all the topics required in a middle school curriculum? Absolutely. All modesty aside, I am a math whiz, and proud to be. But knowing is not teaching. Teacher preparation is steeped in theory. My university and any professional development I have ever taken have never addressed the nitty-gritty, or for that matter, the overarching issues which crop up in the specific courses I teach (7th & 8th grade math).

Wouldn't we all feel a lot better if our elementary school teachers were actually taught "how" to teach fractions effectively, or are we all content to leave our educators to their own devices so that they can reinvent the wheel.

Luke said...

My wife was rather unimpressed with many of her ed courses. And the ed department had the distinction of having the worst teachers on campus; we often heard the quip, "Those who can't, teach."

Of course, the comm department--of which I was a part--was notorious for being very poor communicators [smile]. And this brings to mind another proverb: "The cobbler's children are without shoes."


Anonymous said...

I know a recently retired high-school teacher with 40 years of experience and an excellent reputation among both colleagues and students (those who are willing to do the work). His opinion is that teachers should major in academic subjects in the College of Arts and Sciences. They can then take the only 3 ed courses (both subject-specific & level-specific) they need, FROM A TEACHER WHO HAS RECENTLY TAUGHT THAT SUBJECT AT THAT LEVEL: (1)basic methods (2) tests and measurements (3) practice teaching.

Catherine Johnson said...


She is absolutely right.


K9Sasha said...

A teacher at my school was discussing today how she got out of doing a college English class that she was failing. The only good thing, and it is very minimally good, is that she's teaching 1st grade, and not older kids.

Catherine Johnson said...

good grief - I just saw this