Does a Longer Teacher Education Program Make a Difference

I (Said) recently read an article in the Toronto Star about Ontario’s new two-year teacher education program that left me a little disappointed https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2016/06/08/double-trouble-for-teachers-college-expansion.html. The recent move by Ontario’s Ministry of Education intends to “help address an oversupply of graduates, enabling Ontario’s qualified teachers to find jobs in their chosen field” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013). However, the lack of pedagogical renewal, combined with condensed courses, increasing class sizes, and fundings cuts are characteristic of reform that does not signal improvement.

The extra year of training, while providing more classroom experience, will not necessarily produce better teachers. Some may argue that more time can be spent on areas such as mathematics and special education, but this approach assumes that candidates enter the programs with deficiencies that need to be remedied before they become practicing teachers. A more sensible approach would seek to redesign the admission process, thereby selecting the best-suited candidates for the profession. By identifying qualities relevant to good teaching and utilizing an approach that can highlight them in applications, we can improve the quality of our candidates, even if the process becomes tougher (Kosnik, Brown, & Beck, 2005).

The decision to increase the length of the program, followed directly by finding strategies to help students graduate as fast as possible is an indicator of a system that wants to continue to rapidly produce teachers rather than emphasize the quality of the education that it is providing. Topics such as the micro-politics of teaching continue to be ignored despite the well-known fact that there exists a large disparity between what candidates learn in teacher education and the realities of the classrooms they end up teaching. As a result, beginning teachers will continue to suffer in a profession that “eats its young” and has a hard time retaining young, innovative teachers who are struggling to find employment.

In their chapter on reform efforts in teacher education, Kosnik, Beck & Goodwin (2016) present a constructivist vision of teaching and teacher education that ultimately promotes human well-being and rejects “reforms that stifle dialogue and impose a crassly political or narrowly economic agenda” (p. 294). Unfortunately, teacher education reform in Ontario has leaned towards the latter, but gradual progress will hopefully convince policymakers and the general public that short-sighted solutions will not unlock the potential that the teaching profession has to change the world.

References:

Kosnik, C., Beck, C., & Goodwin, L. (2016). Reform efforts in teacher education. In J. Loughran & M.L. Hamilton (Eds.). Handbook on Teacher Education (pp. 267-308). Dordretcht:            Springer Academic Publishers.

Kosnik, C., Brown, R., & Beck, C. (2005). The preservice admissions process: What qualities do  future teachers need and how can they be identified in applicants? The New
Educator, 1
(2), 101-123.
Ontario Ministry of Education (2013). Modernizing Teacher Education
in Ontario.
Retrieved from  http://news.ontario.ca/edu/en/2013/06/modernizing-teacher-education- in-ontario.html

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