In a new approach to educating tomorrow’s teachers, officials in the School of Education plan to overhaul the school’s current teaching methodology to place a greater emphasis on training in the field.
Spearheaded by Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education, the School of Education has launched a concept called the Teacher Education Initiative. According to Ball, this initiative will change the way the School of Education will familiarize teachers with the material they will be teaching.
The program aims to model teacher training after medical schools or nursing programs by increasing direct supervision and the hours logged in field training. Ball said she believes that, currently, there isn’t enough careful supervision applied to teacher training.
School of Education officials are hoping to unveil a completely new teacher training program next fall for their students. But first, they’re encouraging faculty members and researchers at the school to pilot the programs they’ve developed.
One such program, which has garnered recent national attention, involves a new way of preparing for student teaching–the period of time when an education student works alongside a teacher in a classroom. School of Education Prof. Elizabeth Moje and Robert Bain, an associate professor of history and social science education, collaborated to create a system where students would observe specific teachers who excel at certain aspects of teaching.
Both Moje and Bain began their project, which has been in the works for four years, with the goal of de-compartmentalizing the undergraduate education of their students.
They noticed a disconnect between their students’ classes in LSA and the work the students were doing in the School of Education.
“A major goal of our work,” Moje said, “was to try to defragment and bring coherence to teacher education and really the whole educational experience for pre-service teachers at the point when they enter the School of Education, actually even before.”
Pre-service teachers are education students who have yet to begin their student teaching term.
The major shift towards their goal of defragmentation came when Moje’s core literacy course, which explores reading and writing for all majors, was separated into concentration specific sections.
In addition to making the literacy course subject specific, officials are testing out another pilot program.
Much like medical students on rounds through a hospital, students in the social studies section of the School of Education rotate between classes at high schools to observe certain techniques that each teacher does well.
In their first semester in the School of Education, students participated in three rotations between Detroit Western High School and Novi High School and were exposed not only to the skills of the chosen teachers, but also to English as a second language classrooms and to the different socio-economic levels of the students in the classes.
This kind of movement for a pre-student teachers, or education students who have yet to start student teaching, is not the norm, as most students typically get to see one or two classrooms.
In their second semester in the School of Education, students experienced two rotations.
This jump “into the deep end” as Bain put it, has paid off. Several students who participated in the first wave of this program said they feel more confident in their first three weeks of student teaching in schools around metropolitan Detroit.
School of Education senior Ted Doukakos said this program has given him the tools to successfully interact with students.
“I’ve had all these opportunities to get all these different experiences in my pre-student teaching,” Doukakos said.
“It’s been immensely beneficial because now that I’m actually doing my full-time student teaching I’ve been able to immediately get up in front a class and have the confidence that I needed to focus on working out my lesson plans and interacting with the students and really developing as a teacher.”
Doukakos said that he believes this intensive training teaching program will bring more respect to the profession of teaching.
“This program is putting educators on a higher level of respect,” Doukakos said. “It’s treating them like the job that we are going into is important enough and it’s a grave enough responsibility that we expect you to be extremely prepared, we expect you to have all this experience and we expect you treat it like a very important responsibility.”
Lauren Bennett, a senior in the School of Education, said that she feels more prepared to enter the teaching world than some of her classmates in other subject areas.
“The other cohorts don’t have this, it’s only specific to the social studies. And even within students at Michigan having talked to my friends that are, for example, in science or in English, I really feel that I have had a lot more experiences that have really prepared me for entering the teaching world, “ Bennett said.
The program may expand to include the science section within the next year, said Moje.
Ball said that Moje’s and Bain’s project is one of many research initiatives currently happening at the School of Education. She hopes that the development of “a more interesting, challenging and attractive” program will help to recruit a diverse body of future teachers to the School of Education and at the same time provide other institutions with a model to train teachers.
In the meantime, these programs are helping current School of Education students understand the responsibility placed on them as teachers.
“They are treating our responsibility like it is very important and should not be put in the hands of anyone who has not had intensive, intensive training,” Doukakos said.