The Continuum of Teacher Education in Science, Mathematics, and Technology: Problems and Issues
What does it require to be a competent—or highly competent—teacher of science, mathematics, or technology?1 Should we allow anyone to teach children in general or to teach children science, mathematics, or technology in particular, even though they might have only limited amounts of “training?” Are four years of education at the pre-baccalaureate level sufficient to produce competent teachers in these subject areas? How can professional development programs improve a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom? How should the quality of that teaching be defined and measured?
Calls for the reform of K-12 science and mathematics education and science and mathematics teacher education have been issued with increasing frequency by national and state leaders, policymakers, and a plethora of education-related organizations. Some of these exhortations seem to be supported by data that point to the generally poor or only slightly above average academic performance of U.S. students in science and mathematics on international tests. Contextually, there are several related issues that must be taken into consideration in the improvement of teacher education.
TEACHER EDUCATION ISSUES
• Research is demonstrating that good teaching does matter. An increasing amount of research suggests that student achievement correlates with teaching quality and the level of knowledge of teachers in science and mathematics. However, numerous studies and the results from a variety of the Praxis and other teacher licensing and certification examinations demonstrate that many teachers, especially those who will teach in grades K-8 do not have sufficient content knowledge or adequate skills for teaching these disciplines.
• In addition to benchmarks and standards for science, mathematics, and technology from national organizations (e.g., AAAS, 1993; NRC, 1996a; NCTM, 1989, 2000; ITEA, 2000; American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges, 1995), most states have developed their own curriculum frameworks and expectations for learning outcomes in these subjects.2 However, it is clear that many of the nation’s teachers are not adequately prepared to teach these subjects using standards-based approaches and in ways that bolster student learning and achievement.
• The preparation of beginning teachers by many colleges and universities (preservice education) does not meet the needs of the modern classroom (e.g., American Council on Education, 1999; American Federation of Teachers, 2000). Many states are bolstering their requirements for degrees and certification of new teachers, and these changes should be forcing educators in both schools of education and the disciplines to ask hard questions about their programs and teacher education in general. For example, when states mandate that all teachers graduate with a major in a discipline rather than in education, how should students who wish to become teachers be properly advised about the most appropriate major to pursue, especially if those students wish to teach in the primary grades? Should students who decide to teach at the high-school level pursue majors in a single discipline or a composite major? (The question arises in part because different states have developed different requirements about single vs. composite majors for certification at the secondary level.) How does the choice of a major affect the future teacher’s professional options following graduation or five years hence? What
Content standards for science and mathematics for every state that has developed them are available through “Achieve” (National Governors Conference) at <http://www.achieve.com>.
should the role of education programs be in states that mandate that all new teachers graduate with a major in something other than education? Given these changing regulations, how can a prospective teacher’s preparation in education be tied more closely to that student’s preparation in one or more disciplines, and vice versa?
Unfortunately, many faculty in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SME&T) at the nation’s colleges and universities may not be sufficiently aware of these changing expectations to help prospective teachers learn and understand the content and concepts that are critical to effective teaching in these disciplines and their subject areas. Nor do most of these faculty have the kinds of professional development in teaching that would enable them to model effectively the kinds of pedagogy that is needed for success in grades K-12 classrooms (e.g., NRC, 1999h).
• Accreditation standards for education programs may not reflect recent changes in expectations for classroom teaching. For example, information technology will likely play an increasingly pervasive role in teaching and learning yet, according to several recent reports, teacher education programs are not providing prospective or practicing teachers with enough preparation to enable them to use information technology tools effectively to enhance teaching and learning (Milken Family Foundation, 1999; CEO Forum, 1999, 2000). While many educators and policy analysts consider educational technology as a vehicle for transforming education, relatively few teachers (20 percent) feel well equipped to institute technology integration in classroom instruction (U.S. Department of Education, 1999).3
• Teacher licensing examinations do not always reflect recommended standards for teacher education or what states expect K-12 students to know or be able to do. The content of teacher licensing examinations often does not reflect content espoused by such national standards documents as the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996a), the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS, 1993), and Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000). Nor do
The International Society for Technology in Education released the National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Teacher Education in June 2000. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, these standards provide standards and benchmarks for “Essential Conditions for Teacher Preparation” and “Performance Profiles for Teacher Preparation” in the use of information technology at various stages of the teacher preparation process. Additional information about these standards is available at <http://cnets.iste.org/teachstand.html>.
they necessarily reflect state standards based in whole or in part on these national standards. In addition, teacher licensing examinations typically do not assess whether prospective teachers have become adept at planning and implementing the kinds of active pedagogies (e.g., inquiry, discourse) called for in national as well as some state science and mathematics standards.
• Current rewards, incentives, and school environments are not adequate to attract large numbers of the best students to teaching or to encourage them to remain in the profession beyond the first few years of teaching. These problems are exacerbated in science and mathematics, where teacher shortages already exist in many parts of the United States and are expected to grow worse over the next decade. The lack of teachers with adequate content knowledge and pedagogical skills for teaching science and mathematics is especially acute in small rural and inner city schools, where science or mathematics departments may consist of only one or two individuals and a given teacher may be required to teach several different subject areas every day (U.S. Department of Education, 1997a; Asimov, 1999; Shields et al., 1999; Public Agenda, 2000).
• Professional development for continuing teachers (inservice education) too often consists of a patchwork of courses, curricula, and programs and may do little to enhance teachers’ content knowledge or the techniques and skills they need to teach science and mathematics effectively. The quality, coherence, and usefulness of professional development programs for improving the quality of teaching and student learning vary considerably. While all states mandate a minimum level of preparation in content and pedagogy for preservice teachers, there are few specific requirements for inservice education. In most states, the regulations that do exist for inservice education mandate only that teachers obtain some number of post-baccalaureate credits or a master’s degree within some period of time after being hired and then to earn additional credits every few years thereafter. Content areas typically are not specified.
• Against increasing expectations for performance, teachers are not sufficiently supported in professional development. In addition, they often have to undertake additional professional development on their own time and at their own expense. Expectations for professional competence, performance, and accountability for teachers are increasing. These higher expectations are exemplified by the standards set forth by the
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS, 1994), the Interstate New Teacher Support Consortium (INTASC, 1999), and more strident calls by local, state, and national officials for more rigorous teacher education programs and licensing examinations. In addition, an increasing number of states have implemented (or will do so in the next several years) statewide testing programs for students, many of which place a strong emphasis on content knowledge. Because many of these tests will determine whether students can advance to higher grades or can earn high-school diplomas, teachers are under increasing pressure to become better versed in the content of the subject areas that they teach.
However, many school districts have not recognized nor responded to their responsibility to help teachers become better versed in their profession through well-planned, ongoing professional development programs. Inservice training within schools, where “one-size-fits-all” programs may be offered to teachers during the several professional development days during the school year, may not provide the knowledge teachers need to improve their ability to help students learn specific subjects such as science and mathematics. Inservice education for teachers also is among the first programs to be cut by school districts when resources are scarce or when school days are lost because of inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
This lack of support for or provision of high-quality, professional development opportunities by school districts also is becoming increasingly coupled with demands by states that teachers acquire advanced degrees to become permanently certified. As a result, teachers often must continue their education and professional development on their own time and, unlike many other professions, at their own expense.
National Board for Professional
Teaching Standards, 1994
THE TEACHING PROFESSION
As summarized below, many other professions have developed and adopted coherent, well-recognized procedures and policies for attracting, educating, and inducting new members to the profession. Many of these other professions also have well-understood and accepted expectations for high-quality performance by practitioners, the expectation that practitioners will upgrade their knowledge and skills throughout their careers, and an enabling continuing education system. Often these types of standards are developed and maintained by the members of the profession through accrediting boards and the professional societies that represent them. People who meet or exceed those professional expectations typically are rewarded and recognized in ways that are both tangible and appropriate.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (1994) has articulated such standards or guidelines for the teaching profession. That these guidelines are available but have been widely overlooked or ignored by the nation’s education system is a symptom of a lack of attention to the professional needs of teachers. This lack of attention to teachers as professionals betrays a certain lack of respectful treatment that permeates the continuum of the careers of teachers in the following ways:
• Career Advising: Colleges and universities routinely assign an individual or empanel a committee to attend to the needs of students who are preparing for other professions (e.g., medicine, law, or engineering). In contrast, science and mathematics departments rarely have people who are sufficiently knowledgeable about K-12 teaching in the sciences or mathematics to offer students the guidance they need. Many college faculty in science, mathematics, and engineering who serve as academic advisors actually know very little about career opportunities in K-12 teaching or the requirements for entering the profession and may offer very little encouragement to students to pursue a career in teaching.
• Rigor and appropriateness of content courses for prospective teachers: Perception can govern action, whether those perceptions are accurate or not. In some institutions, both faculty and students may perceive that courses in science and mathematics designed for teachers are less rigorous or challenging than courses designed for students who are preparing for most other professions (e.g., introductory physics or calculus for pre-engineering students) (see also NRC, 1997b, Lewis and Tucker, in press).
• Oversight of teacher education programs by professional organizations: Unlike the requirements and
standards that they establish for students who wish to pursue more traditional careers in a discipline, many disciplinary professional organizations do not claim “ownership” of teacher preparation programs for that discipline. Indeed, many college-level faculty in the sciences, mathematics, engineering, or technology are unaware of expectations for content or even the existence of state or national standards for teacher preparation in their own disciplines. This lack of common expectations can result in teachers with similar degrees having experienced substantially different levels of preparation during their preservice years.
• The continuum of professional development: Other professions mark the awarding of the baccalaureate degree as the beginning of a career path. Focused and directed professional growth is expected and supported in the ensuing years. For example, no doctor is considered to have received sufficient education upon the awarding of the medical degree to practice a specialty. Intensive residencies and fellowships that involve extensive additional education, mentoring, and direct work with acknowledged experts in the field are routinely expected. Following licensing in a specialty, regular upgrading of skills and knowledge within the specialty and related fields is required. In contrast, college graduates who enter teaching often are viewed as being ready to assume full duties in the classroom and too often are assigned the most challenging teaching responsibilities in their schools. Many beginning teachers in the United States cite the lack of guidance, time for preparation and reflection, and opportunities to grow in the profession as primary frustrations of teaching (Hoff, 2000; NSTA, 2000).
As with other professions, teachers must master a rapidly changing body of knowledge, serve a constantly changing clientele, and deal with the pressure of new societal expectations. For professions deemed critical to the well being of society (e.g., biomedical research and clinical practice), private and governmental agencies and organizations often expand funding to accommodate such changes and retrain practitioners. In contrast, K-12 education—although critical to the well-being of individuals, communities, and society at large—does not receive similar support, especially at the state and local levels where it is controlled and operated.
• Mentoring of new employees: Neophytes in many other professions (and teachers in other nations) are routinely placed under the tutelage and guidance of more experienced teachers—mentors—for extended periods of time. Novices may be assigned fewer specific work responsibilities during the early parts of their careers so they can
both learn more about their disciplines and become reflective about the practice of their professions. Mentoring of novice teachers in the United States has been haphazard at best (Education Trust, 1998; Darling-Hammond and Macdonald, 2000), although a new study by the Urban Teacher Collaborative4 (Haselkorn and Harris, 1998; Fideler and Haselkorn, 1999; Urban Teacher Collaborative, 2000) shows that mentoring has been successful in some large urban areas. While some districts and states pay close attention to the first few years of teachers’ careers, most do not.
• Targeted professional development programs: Professional development programs in most professions are directed toward providing practitioners with information and resources that are appropriate for their specific job responsibilities and career levels. Because employers assume that entry-level employees do not yet possess the high-level skills and insights of more senior colleagues, professional development is geared toward the acquisition of increasingly sophisticated lifelong professional skills, perspectives, and learning. Mentors are often useful in helping with this process. In teaching, however, many of the more abstract ideas (e.g., education and learning theory) may be presented before practitioners ever set foot in a classroom. Inservice programs, in turn, may offer more experienced teachers information and perspectives about teaching that might be better suited to preservice students or those who are about to begin their teaching careers.
• Encouragement and incentives for continuing education within the profession: Employers who require or encourage people in the early stages of their careers to pursue additional education either pay completely for or subsidize the costs of such advanced training. In turn, it is expected that the employees’ additional education will enhance the skills they need in their current positions and prepare them for new opportunities within the company and profession. Although many school districts now require teachers to complete master’s degrees or continuing education units to obtain lifetime certification, there are few requirements or expectations that teachers will pursue those advanced degrees in the subject areas in which they actually instruct.
• Expectations for credentialing of professionals: Statistics indicate that people are changing careers more frequently now than ever before (synthe-
sized in NRC, 1999b). People moving into professional schools or professions through nontraditional routes generally expect to take prerequisite and required courses first. And they do so because the financial and other rewards they expect, eventually, make the investment of time and money worthwhile. However, financial compensation and other rewards are much less for teachers than for other professionals.5 Therefore, those who might consider becoming teachers after experience in other professions have few incentives to spend the several years and the money required to take education or subject-matter courses for teacher certification (U.S. Department of Education, 1999; AFT, 2000). Under these conditions, a variety of alternative paths to certification have evolved.6 There has been much debate about both the efficacy of many of these alternative certification programs (e.g., Feistritzer and Chester, 2000; AFT, 2000) and the financial incentives that districts have to hire these individuals rather than teachers with more professional experience.
• Involvement of employees in decision- and policy-making: Experience in modern business and industry has pointed to the critical importance of workers at all levels being included in workplace and product design, planning, and decision-making (e.g., Murnane and Levy, 1997; Rust, 1998). Workers who have spent many years assembling products have been found often to be the best people to provide advice to management about ways to increase productivity and efficiency in an industry. And, in turn, workers are being rewarded for this.
However, these kinds of changes in the workplace have not yet reached much of K-12 education. In many school districts, classroom teachers still do not have the authority or power to effect meaningful change in what they do, how they do it, or the environments
in which they work. For example, the curricular materials that teachers are expected to use are typically either selected by committees with members drawn from diverse constituencies or mandated by the district or state. Most K-12 teachers also do not have work-spaces separate from their students or even access to a telephone within their workspace for work-related communications. Exceptional enterprise or innovation may not be tangibly rewarded due to workplace rules.7 Senior teachers typically are not asked to offer their expertise, insights, and perspectives to help improve teacher education programs for less senior colleagues.
In addition, data from TIMSS (e.g., Stigler and Hiebert, 1997) and evaluation of new approaches to teacher education (e.g., see Chapter 4 and examples in Appendixes D and E, such as UTeach at the University of Texas) indicate that, in addition to providing input to the operations of their schools and districts, teachers also need time and flexibility in their schedules to build a “teaching community” where they can actively and openly discuss content and pedagogy. As discussed by Ball (1997), this teaching community also is a place where teachers can offer constructive criticism and support to help each other improve their teaching.
• Clientele and professional working conditions: U.S. schools and teachers are facing challenges today that were largely unimagined and unanticipated even 30 years ago. The education system in the United States now works with a more diverse student population than ever before. Teachers in both large metropolitan areas and more rural locales must try to educate the children of large and varied populations of immigrants, many of whom arrive at school unable to speak English. Some of these children—as well as their parents—have received little or no formal education even in their first languages before arriving in the United States. In addition, teachers are working with more types of “special needs” students, including those who are physically challenged or developmentally or emotionally delayed, than ever before. Teachers also are working increasingly with some students who come from families that offer them little stability or support at home. For teachers of science and mathematics, this latter problem can be exacerbated by the fact that some parents from all walks of life are not sufficiently familiar or comfort-
able with the content and approaches to teaching the subjects in these disciplines to be able to help or encourage their children.
Unlike the facilities and resources that are routinely provided to people in other professions, the facilities and equipment provided to teachers in schools are often dilapidated or out-dated (Lewis et al., 2000). Many science laboratories may not conform to current codes for safety, and most were not built to facilitate teaching and learning of science as articulated in national standards (Biehle et al., 1999). Science equipment may be obsolete or in need of routine repair or calibration. There is little technical support to maintain equipment or resolve technical problems that teachers or students encounter. In those cases where concerted efforts have been made to outfit schools with modern equipment (e.g., desktop computers connected to the Internet), teachers may not receive the preservice preparation or ongoing professional training needed to use this equipment in ways that truly enhance student learning and achievement (Knuth et al., 1996; Valdez et al. 1999; Downes, 2000).
As a result of these conditions, many teachers are becoming both disenchanted with and disenfranchised from their profession. For example, a recent survey by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has concluded that nearly 40 percent of science teachers in the United States are considering leaving their jobs. The primary reason cited was job dissatisfaction stemming largely from low pay and lack of support from principals (Education Week, 2000). A report from the Texas State Teachers Association reported similar levels of dissatisfaction among teachers in that state (Henderson, 2000).
These conditions also may be influencing the career choices of young people. In 1999, a survey of 501 college-bound high-school students from Montgomery County, MD, public schools indicated that a majority of these students was reluctant even to consider teaching as a career option. Reporting out the results from the survey, Hart Research Associates (1999)8 stated that 39 percent of the students in the survey had no interest in becoming teachers in public schools, with another 16 percent expressing little interest. Participants in two focus groups also reported out by Hart Research Associates (one of boys, one of girls) concentrated their remarks on the poor image of teachers and the public’s general lack of respect for the
Additional information about the methods and results of this survey is available at <http://www.mff.org/newsroom>.
teaching profession. Although 55 percent of the respondents would at least consider careers as teachers, some are likely to lose interest in teaching as they proceed through college, particularly if they are interested enough in science, mathematics, or engineering to declare a major in one of these disciplines (Seymour and Hewitt, 1997). Further, the feedback given by the focus groups about their images of teachers and teaching was revealing. Students in the focus group recognized that, “for their entire careers, teachers remain at the level at which they began unless they decide to go into the administrative side of education. There is no higher position for which to strive, no room for promotion, and little opportunity for significant salary increases.” Hart Associates concluded, “While the polling results indicate that young people have little interest in being teachers, the focus group sessions—in which we hear the actual ‘voices’ of college-bound students—are especially sobering. Simply put, we are dealing with a generation of youth whose values, outlook, and career goals seemingly run counter to what it takes to be interested in teaching. On the one hand, most of these students profess admiration for the teaching profession; they understand that shaping young minds is important work. On the other hand, they view the job of being a teacher as work that is uninteresting.”
Thus, the Committee on Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation is convinced that the status quo in the education and professional development of teachers of science and mathematics does not meet the needs of either teachers or the teaching profession. Most importantly, current approaches to the various phases of teacher education do not and will not serve the needs of the nation’s students in the next decade and beyond. As many recent reports already have stated, improving teacher education and the treatment of teachers as professionals in science, mathematics, and technology will require the cooperation and collaboration of a multitude of disparate institutions, agencies, and organizations, many of which have had minimal contact with each other and few incentives to work together. If the United States genuinely values high-quality education for its children, its leaders and decision-makers should not allow the present state of affairs to persist.
Further, the committee’s reviews of the research data and of other reports and recommendations have led the members to conclude that teaching must involve continual professional development, growth, and progressive leadership responsibilities for teachers over the span of their careers. The committee’s vision of teacher education,
as articulated in this report, is one that involves a complex, multidimensional, and career-long process. This vision (detailed in Chapter 6) emphasizes the intellectual growth and maturation of teachers of science and mathematics and increasing the professionalism of teaching in these disciplines and in general. The vision would be achieved through genuine partnerships that exhibit the following characteristics:
They would be developed and implemented collaboratively by scientists, mathematicians, engineers; science, mathematics, and technology educators; and teachers of grades K-12.
All colleges and universities, whether or not they offer formal teacher education programs, would make teacher education one of their institution’s central priorities.9 The highest levels of leadership from postsecondary education communities would affirm their institutions’ commitment to teacher education as a basic tenet of their educational mission. Higher education organizations would assist their member institutions to develop programs to increase awareness of all faculty members about the importance of teacher education and their roles in it.
Each postsecondary institution would establish clear connections between its programs and professional consensus about what beginning and more experienced teachers should know and be able to do in their class-rooms.10 Teacher education programs would meet the highest standards that have been articulated by national professional organizations.
Institutions of higher education would maintain contact with and provide guidance for teachers who complete their preparation and development programs after those teachers leave the campus. Higher education organizations would assist higher education institution members in establishing programs for new teachers who have moved to the regions served by those institutions.
Professional disciplinary societies in science, mathematics, and engineer-
The nation’s teacher workforce consists of many individuals who have matriculated at all types of two- and four-year colleges and universities. Although many of these schools do not offer formal teacher education programs, virtually every institution of higher education, through the kinds of courses it offers, the teaching it models, and the advising it provides to students, has the potential to influence whether or not its graduates will pursue careers in teaching.
For example, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) has developed consensus guidelines for preservice programs under the auspices of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Additional information about INTASC is available at <http://www.ccsso.org/intasc.html>. Corresponding consensus guidelines for continuing professional development have been developed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Additional information about NBPTS is available at <http://www.nbpts.org/nbpts/>.
ing, higher education organizations, governments at all levels, and the private sector would become more engaged partners in efforts to improve teacher education in science, mathematics, and technology. Professional disciplinary societies also would work together to align their own policies and recommendations on teacher education.
Universities whose primary mission includes education research would set as a priority the development and execution of studies that focus on ways to improve teaching and learning for people of all ages (e.g., AAU Presidents’ Resolution on Teacher Education, 1999; NRC, 1999f). Government agencies would also set this priority. New research that focuses broadly on synthesizing data across studies and linking it to school practice in a wide variety of school settings would be especially helpful to the improvement of teacher education and professional development for both prospective and experienced teachers.
Concomitant with such collaboration would be the development of a culture of education that recognizes all of these partners as having equal voices at the table. All partners would be equally responsible for the leadership required to prepare future educators and improve the knowledge base and skills of all practicing teachers in both the K-12 and higher education sectors.