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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
Examine Existing Practice Through the Lens of This Volume
9. Review the structure and practices of teacher education for alignment with the principles of learning. For teacher education and professional development programs to be aligned with the principles of learning, they need to prepare teachers to think about the enterprise of teaching as building on the existing knowledge base and preconceptions of their students, to teach skills for drawing out and working with existing understandings, and to continually assess the progress of students toward the goal of deep understanding. The programs need to provide for their students the opportunity to develop a deep understanding themselves of the subject matter they will teach and the ability to facilitate students’ transfer of knowledge to related areas. They need to prepare teachers to be aware of and directly teach metacognitive skills. And they need to convey a model of the teacher as learner, who continually develops expertise that is flexible and adaptive.
These are implications for what schools of education and professional development programs should teach. But the students in those programs will themselves learn more effectively if they are taught according to these principles. The principles and findings in this volume therefore have implications for how schools of education do their job. Do those schools have program structures and practices that reflect the principles of learning discussed here?
It is recommended that evaluation research be conducted to examine current program structures and practices at schools of education through the lens of this volume. This effort should not only synthesize what is already known about teacher training programs, but also undertake a new evaluation. The sample of schools should be chosen to reflect the wide range of program formats (which currently include undergraduate and postbaccalaureate program designs), as well as the widely varying enrollment demographics that exist across the more than 1,000 universities and colleges that offer teacher certification programs. The goal of this research is largely descriptive: to understand better how teachers are being trained relative to current understandings of learning, teaching, and the development of expertise; how much variation currently exists in teacher education programs; and the factors that contribute to such variability. Of special concern are program structures, course content, and instructional practices that seriously conflict with the principles of this volume. The proposed research should also bring into focus features of teacher education programs that correspond to the principles of learning, and that enhance the capability of future teachers to incorporate the principles into their practice.