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Article

Lawrence J. Maheady and Angela L. Patti

Teacher preparation programs are undergoing a shift from knowledge-based to practice-based, meaning the emphasis is on what teacher candidates can do, rather than what they know. In light of this movement, high leverage practices (HLPs)—a set of core practices that educational experts agree all teachers should be able to do upon entering the teaching field—have been developed in several different educational areas (e.g., general education and special education). As experts develop sets of HLPs, they identify practices that (a) are researched based, (b) are often used by teachers during the school day, (c) can be applied across grade levels and subject areas, (d) are fundamental to student learning, and (e) can be taught, practiced, and developed to some degree of fluency by teachers entering the profession. The idea is that these practices can be used as a core curriculum for teacher preparation programs. While initial work with HLPs is promising, additional questions must be answered before moving forward. Institutions of higher education that choose to use HLPs to frame their teacher preparation programs need to determine (a) which HLPs to use, (b) how to integrate HLPs into the program, (c) how to assess teacher candidate fluency with HLPs, and (d) how to evaluate the effects of HLPs on P–12 students. As these questions are answered, further light can be shed on what truly makes a practice worthy of the designation “high leverage.”

Article

Mary Hauser and Sarah Schneider Kavanagh

Practice-based teacher education (PBTE) is an approach to preparing novice teachers that focuses on the importance of developing novices’ ability to enact teaching practices. Ambitious approaches to PBTE attend to the development of teacher belief, knowledge, and judgment but do so through work on practicing instructional routines that occur with frequency in the work of teaching (e.g., facilitating discussion, modeling). Some scholars of PBTE have emphasized the role of practices or common professional activities in PBTE, while others have foregrounded the importance of practicing teaching for the purpose of improvement. PBTE contrasts with other approaches to teacher education that focus on building teachers’ knowledge or beliefs without focusing on how that knowledge and belief gets instantiated in action.

Article

Mirjamaija Mikkilä-Erdmann, Anu Warinowski, and Tuike Iiskala

Finland has gained increasingly more global interest among educationalists and politicians because of its excellent results on large-scale international student assessments like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). An interesting question is how a small country in the Global North with only 5 million inhabitants has managed to develop a school system that has gone from undistinguished to top-performing in two decades. The reasons for Finland’s successful and egalitarian school system can be investigated from many perspectives. One view regards teacher education, with the assumption that it has special characteristics that contribute to the success of Finland’s educational system. Factors include systematic selection, a progressive curriculum design that supports teachers’ learning of content knowledge, and the creation of teachers’ didactic skills. In addition, systematic teaching practices in special schools, called training schools, are used to help students integrate theoretical understanding and the practical skills needed for the teaching profession, especially those related to individual student learning in everyday classrooms. Furthermore, the role of empirical research skills in facilitating the development of teacher expertise is essential in Finnish teacher education. Generally, the concept behind Finnish teacher education seems to work very well. However, the system will face challenges in the future, such as how to develop new research-based methods of student selection that are valid and reliable. The educational path—from academic preservice teacher education in a university context to in-service teacher education—is developing and offers the newest research-based knowledge for all teachers, but there is still a lot work to be done in order to link all teachers within official continuous learning systems with universities throughout their careers. Finland’s teaching profession offers a great deal of autonomy and freedom, and the quality of school learning is based on teachers’ evaluations, not standardized tests. Like other countries, Finland is rapidly changing. Hopefully the most important feature of the Finnish educational system, the transparent dialog between the educational research community, the government, teachers, and parents, will carry over into the future. Without dialogue, educators cannot learn about the shared values supporting current and future schools.

Article

Jane Abbiss and Eline Vanassche

A review of the field of practice-focused research in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) reveals four broad genres of qualitative research: case studies of teacher education programs and developments; research into student teacher experience and learning; inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning, identity, and beliefs; and conceptual or theory-building research. This is an eclectic field that is defined by variation in methodologies rather than by a few clearly identifiable research approaches. What practice-focused research in ITE has in common, though, is a desire on the behalf of teacher educator researchers to understand the complexity of teacher education and contribute to shifts in practice, for the benefit of student teachers and, ultimately, for learners in schools and early childhood education. In this endeavor, teacher educator researchers are presented with a challenge to achieve a balance between goals of local relevance and making a theoretical contribution to the broader field. This is a persistent tension. Notwithstanding the capacity for practice-focused research to achieve a stronger balance and greater relevance beyond the local, key contributions of practice-focused research in ITE include: highlighting the importance of context, questioning what might be understood by “improvement” in teacher education and schooling, and pushing back against research power structures that undervalue practice-focused research. Drawing on a painting metaphor, each genre represents a collection of sketches of practice-focused research in ITE that together provide the viewer with an overview of the field. However, these genres are not mutually exclusive categories as any particular research study (or sketch) might be placed within one or more groupings; for example, inquiry into teacher educators’ own learning often also includes attention to student teachers’ experiences and case studies of teacher education initiatives inevitably draw on theory to frame the research and make sense of findings. Also, overviewing the field and identifying relevant research is not as simple as it might first appear, given challenges in identifying research undertaken by teacher educators, differences in the positioning of teacher educators within different educational systems, and privileging of American (US) views of teacher education in published research, which was counteracted in a small way in this review by explicitly including voices located outside this dominant setting. Examples of different types of qualitative research projects illustrate issues in teacher education that matter to teacher educator researchers globally and locally and how they have sought to use a variety of methodologies to understand them. The examples also show how teacher educators themselves define what is important in teacher education research, often through small-scale studies of context-specific teacher education problems and practices, and how there is value in “smaller story” research that supports understanding of both universals and particularities along with the grand narratives of teacher education.

Article

In light of the need to prepare reflective and effective teachers who can differentiate their instruction to support the learning of all students in inclusive classrooms, this article describes the collaborative process faculty have used to incorporate universal design for learning (UDL) and evidence-based practice (EBP) into an inclusive teacher education program’s curriculum and practicum experiences. Initially, faculty mapped the curriculum by agreeing upon a common definition of UDL and EBP, reviewing the research to create EBP documentation charts, which were used to constructing self-assessment tools known as innovation configurations (IC). Faculty used the IC to identify and address the strengths and gaps within the program’s courses and clinical experiences and align courses with online interactive instructional resources related to UDL and EBP. To bridge the gap between research and practice and guide educators in making evidence-informed decisions, faculty developed a 10-step practice-based evidence assessment and instructional model to collect and analyze classroom-based data about the efficacy, acceptability, and fidelity of one’s instructional practices and use of UDL and EBP. Faculty revised and field-tested a lesson plan template that prompted educators to personalize their instruction and make it more explicit by addressing such factors as student diversity and collaboration, and employing UDL, EBP, instructional and assistive technology and formative and summative assessment. Faculty also redesigned the program’s lesson observation form used to better evaluate preservice teachers working in inclusive classrooms and provide them with feedback related to their effective use of EBP, UDL, instructional and assistive technology, and assessment and classroom management strategies. The lesson observation form also was revised to make it more reflective of the program’s curriculum reform efforts related to the use of UDL and EBP, and to align it with the national teacher education accreditation standards, national and statewide teacher evaluation, curriculum and teacher education certification standards.