to develop coherent and innovative programs that can prepare teachers to teach. The majority of teachers are educated in state colleges and universities, the budgets of which are controlled by state legislators and governors, and they teach in public schools that are affected by local politics through school boards, as well as by the same statewide influences (Elmore and Sykes, 1992). It is not surprising that these many forces do not lead to the most innovative teacher education programs.

The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (1996) identified several problems with current preservice teacher preparation programs:

  • Inadequate time: 4-year undergraduate degrees make it difficult for prospective elementary teachers to learn subject matter and for prospective secondary teachers to learn about the nature of learners and learning.

  • Fragmentation: The traditional program arrangement (foundations courses, developmental psychology sequence, methods courses, and field experiences) offers disconnected courses that novices are expected to pull together into some meaningful, coherent whole.

  • Uninspired teaching methods: Although teachers are supposed to excite students about learning, teacher preparation methods courses are often lectures and recitation. So, prospective teachers who do not have handson, “minds-on” experiences with learning are expected to provide these kinds of experiences for students.

  • Superficial curriculum: The need to fulfill certification requirements and degree requirements leads to programs that provide little depth in subject matter or in educational studies, such as research on teaching and learning. Not enough subject-matter courses are included in teachers’ preparation.

The effects of these problems can be seen in the complaints that preservice teacher education students have about foundations courses that seem disjointed and irrelevant to practice, or are “too theoretical” and have no bearing on what “real” teachers do in “real” classrooms with “real” students. They also complain that methods courses are time consuming and without intellectual substance. When methods courses explore the theory and research bases for instructional methods and curricula, the students complain that they are not oriented enough toward practice.

These problems in preservice education impede lifelong learning in at least two ways. First, a message is sent to prospective teachers that research in education, whether on teaching or learning, has little to do with schooling and, therefore, that they do not need to learn about the findings from research. Second, the importance of viewing themselves as subject-matter experts is not emphasized to teachers—especially teachers in the early and middle grades: they fall into believing the old saw that “those who can, do;



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement