The five presentations described in this chapter focused on teacher education from preparation to professional development. The main focus, teacher collaboration, was preceded by an overview of teacher preparation and hiring, and succeeded by an overview of main themes in Korean research on teacher practice.
The terms professional development (PD) and professional learning community (PLC) were used by workshop participants to describe activities in Korea and in the United States. In the workshop, the Koreans used three terms: PD, PLC, and the Korean word for “training.” Both PLC and training were considered forms of PD. Training generally referred to attending required workshops and courses. PLC included nonmandatory PD such as teacher research groups. In Korea, these groups often receive government support and earn participants credit toward promotion.
Teacher Preparation and Hiring
Kyong Mi Choi of the University of Iowa, Mi-Kyung Ju of Hanyang University, and Oh Nam Kwon of Seoul National University created a brief overview of teacher preparation and the hiring process for public schools, drawing on Kwon and Ju’s 2012 article on standards for professionalization of mathematics teachers in Korea.
The overview, which was presented by Mi-Kyung Ju, began by noting several findings from William Schmidt et al.’s 2007 report on middle school mathematics teacher preparation in six countries, including Korea and the United States.1 Schmidt and his colleagues examined knowledge and course taking in mathematics, general pedagogy, and mathematical pedagogy. Future Korean middle school teachers scored well on content and pedagogical knowledge. Future U.S. middle school teachers studied only 43 percent of advanced mathematical topics compared to the 79–86 percent studied by their Taiwanese and Korean peers.
Ju described three stages in becoming a public school teacher in Korea. First, the prospective teacher, a high school graduate, must be admitted to a teacher preparation institute. Second, the future teacher is educated and graduates as a certified teacher. Third, the teacher must pass an employment test. Teachers are hired by provincial and metropolitan district offices of education. The number of teachers who pass the test is equal to the number of expected district vacancies for the coming academic year.
1 The report cautions that “the U.S. sample is probably the least representative.”
According to Ju, teacher education program entrants are among the top 10 percent of high school graduates. The passing rate for the employment test is one in 20.2 So how can we ensure these high-quality entrants, who are highly educated in teacher preparation programs, will be excellent classroom teachers? Current discussion includes the question of whether Korean education has adequately nurtured prospective teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the classroom.
Emphasis on classroom teaching has increased, said Ju. In 2006, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MEST) announced that teachers should be prepared more adequately in classroom teaching. In 2009, a new curriculum for teacher preparation programs was implemented, and the teacher employment process was altered to reflect the changes. To measure readiness, the second stage of screening was changed to include interviews and microteaching in order to measure educational disposition as a teacher, communication, and teaching skills. The first stage of screening is a written test. Part I consists of multiple-choice questions: 30 percent on general pedagogy and 60–70 percent on mathematics content and pedagogical content knowledge. Part II has four essay questions: 60–65 percent of the score is in mathematics, including proof writing, and 35–40 percent in mathematics education, for example, explaining how to teach a certain mathematical idea or how students approach a specific mathematical task. Ju concluded her presentation with examples of items from employment tests.
Policy Support for Teacher Collaboration
Rae Young Kim, a professor at Ewha Womans University, spoke about policies that affect teachers after they have been hired. As with hiring, requirements for promotion are uniform nationwide.3 Before they start to teach, new (second rank) teachers must have 180 hours of training. After three years, before they are promoted to first rank, teachers must have further training. In addition to this training, teachers who participate in research groups earn one to two research credits toward promotion.
Studies have identified five factors involved in teacher collegiality (Ham, 2011; Hofstede, 2001; Marshall, 2004; Schmidt, Wang, and McKnight, 2005). At the national level, these are culture and curriculum policy; at the school level, climate and principal leadership; and at the teacher level, uncertainty management. Kim spoke about one of these factors: how Korean education policy provides opportunities and support for teacher collaboration.
Kim described two policies that support school-level collaboration: peer supervision and teachers’ councils for curriculum. All teachers are required to participate in peer supervision, a form of planned demonstration lesson. Teachers must open their classrooms once or twice a year and obtain feedback from peers. The general format is as follows:
- Set up an annual plan.
2 This is for the secondary teacher employment test (Kim, 2009, p. 50). The passing rate for elementary teachers is higher because only graduates from the 14 elementary teacher preparation colleges are eligible, which results in fewer test takers. Admission to elementary teacher preparation colleges is more competitive.
3 There are several career paths. A teacher can become a master teacher, an assistant principal or principal, or a school commissioner or inspector in the research or administrative track (Kim, 2009).
- Prepare a lesson plan (individually or with other teachers).
- Observe and record the lesson.
- Discuss the lesson and receive feedback from peers.
- Revise the lesson plan.
- Open the class to teachers from other schools.
Each school has teachers’ councils for instruction, formed by grade in elementary schools and by subject in secondary schools. These councils develop lesson plans and assessments cooperatively, and discuss classroom issues. They meet weekly and as needed to discuss issues arising while teaching in order to deal with them promptly. Kim noted that the extent and characteristics of teacher collaboration depend on their principal’s leadership, the school climate, and the teachers’ engagement.
Kim stated that Korean teachers have a strong desire to learn and to increase their capacity as teaching professionals. This desire is supported by MEST policies and by funding distributed by MEST and metropolitan, provincial, and county district offices of education.4
Interested teachers form school- or district-level groups and register them with their local district office. These groups research and develop new instructional methods and materials, which are disseminated by their district offices for other district teachers to share. Grants are available to curriculum research groups. These range from $5,000 for school-level groups to $10,000 for district-level research groups. Grants for other activities are available, but the emphasis is on curriculum and instruction.
District offices promote teacher collaboration by sponsoring research contests and teaching contests.5 For example, in research contests for the improvement of instruction in Seoul, teams of four to five teachers compete by submitting innovative materials for enhancing teaching and learning or instructional methods.
There are many online archive sites run by government-funded institutes. Each site has a section on elementary or secondary school education, allowing information to be shared among teachers. Among these are the Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS). This houses the Research Information Sharing Service, which provides domestic and international databases for research; KERIS quality assurance, which controls e-learning quality; and EDUNET.6
4 There are nine metropolitan and seven provincial offices of education for the 16 city and provincial districts. Under these are 182 county district offices of education. County districts are also known as local or regional districts. See http://eng.kedi.re.kr/khome/eng/network/domestic.do.
5 Winners of teaching contests work as professional development leaders or as school consultants to improve teachers’ classroom teaching. In Gyungi provincial district, winners are recognized with the title of “excellent teaching teacher.” Teachers who win first prize three times receive the title of “treasured teacher.” District offices, schools of education, and teacher organizations have teaching contests. In 2011, more than 10,000 teachers participated in a teaching contest held by the Korean teachers’ union. Teaching contests often get media attention and reports in national television news.
6 EDUNET is the largest education portal for teacher resources according to the site. It provides support for teachers, students, parents, and administrators. For K–12 students, it provides lectures, education software, and self-diagnostic tests in the five basic subjects of math, sciences, social studies, Korean, and English.
Sooil Choi is the founder and a past president of the Korean Society of Teachers of Mathematics (KSTM), the largest mathematics teacher community in Korea. He discussed teacher-initiated collaboration, focusing on KSTM.
There are various teacher groups, communities, and organizations, and their numbers have been growing immensely. Some groups consist only of teachers; others also include university scholars. There are both online and offline communities. Some groups are formed within a school and some are not. Some are initiated by a government organization and some are initiated by teachers.
KSTM was founded in 1994 as Math Love and is still known by that name. Currently, about 10 percent of Korean mathematics teachers are members. It has 25 “common interest” subgroups, such as Classroom Observation and Analysis of Lessons, Elementary Mathematics, Development of Curriculum Material, International Studies, Mathematics and Culture, and Journal Editing. Choi participates in two subgroups: Development of Curriculum Material and Classroom Observation. Each meets once a week or has a weekly seminar. From the material they create, they provide professional development to teachers during summer and winter vacation. For the past 14 years, KSTM has held a math festival during the winter break.
In Choi’s view, there are five ways that teachers can grow. The first three are individual efforts, such as (1) taking courses for advanced degrees, (2) attending teacher training workshops and lectures, or (3) reflecting alone on one’s own lessons. But he noticed that individual effort does not help in classroom teaching or improving teacher quality as much as working together with other teachers. This is the motivation behind the creation of the KSTM subgroup Classroom Observation and Analysis of Lessons.
Lesson analysis is not easy to learn. Seven years ago, a format was created to help beginners learn key aspects of successful lesson analysis:
- Understanding the lesson plan.
- Preconference with the teacher, revision of the lesson plan.
- Classroom observation.
- Post-interviews with the teacher and students in the class.
- Analysis of the lesson.
- Feedback given to the teacher.
- Response from the teacher.
- Written summary of the results from the analysis.
After 2010, accompanied by the slogan “Everyone can do lesson analysis,” the format was further simplified.
Choi said that members of the lesson analysis group developed a greater interest in students and deepened their identity as teacher professionals. There was a change in professional view and outlook. This was indicated as sharing beliefs in teaching, from mere observation of classroom
FIGURE 5-1 Changes in teachers’ capacity as professionals.
SOURCE: Rae Young Kim.
teaching to critique and analysis, within a culture of collegial communities and group research, focusing more on students and learning, as illustrated in Figure 5-1.
Online Teacher Communities
Rae Young Kim briefly noted four of the many online communities created and managed by teachers.7
- Indischool, the main site for elementary teachers.
- GeoGebra Institute, a subgroup of KSTM for users of GeoGebra, a mathematics and science software.
- Kkulmat, an aid for study at home.
- A Group of Teachers for Gifted Students.
Lastly, she summarized policy- and teacher-initiated collaboration (see Figure 5-2). Korean teachers have a strong desire to learn and improve their teaching, content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and instructional capacity. She thinks that is why they participate in many activities on- and offline. They collaborate with each other within and outside their schools. They have established communities by themselves and facilitate these communities. These are bottom-up movements, although teachers also have a lot of support from the government and their schools.
FIGURE 5-2 Teacher collaboration in Korea.
SOURCE: Rae Young Kim.
Kim ended by thanking the many graduate students who helped her create the presentation.
Research on Teaching Practice
Soo Jin Lee of Montclair State University presented an overview of Korean research on teaching practice. Lee began by noting that there used to be a widespread public perception that good teachers simply need to know a lot. But teaching is not a knowledge base; rather, it is an action, and teacher knowledge is only useful to the extent that it interacts productively with all the different variables in teaching (Ball and Cohen, 1999). Consistent with this observation, few studies have found correlations between teachers’ knowledge and their students’ achievement. This connection is mediated by practice, said Lee, and is a reason to investigate teaching practice.
Together with Gooyeon Kim of Sogang University, Na Young Kwon of Inha University, and Jae Hong Shin of the Korea National University of Education, Lee analyzed articles published between 2010 and 2012 in nine peer-reviewed Korean journals in mathematics education. Of the 150 articles examined, they focused on 40. They identified five emerging themes: (1) teacher questioning, (2) pedagogical tools, (3) pedagogical content knowledge, (4) reflection on teaching, and (5) social norms.
The studies on teacher questioning focused on communication and interaction among students and a teacher in classrooms. In the past, research was often based on the process−product
tradition.8 Recent research examines the types of communication used with questioning, and the virtues of pedagogical tools such as teaching strategies, instructional materials, and technology.
Studies of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)9 have examined relationships between teachers’ PCK and their classroom instruction. The category of reflection on teaching includes research in which teachers reflected on their own teaching or that of colleagues whom they did or did not know.
A few studies investigated the culture of mathematics classrooms. Most were studies of social norms that used the emergent perspective of Cobb and Yackel (2004). One study used Lave and Wenger’s perspective on situated cognition (Lave, 1988; Lave and Wenger, 1991) to investigate teacher change via participation in a community of practice in which elementary teachers shared their knowledge and experiences.
Lee concluded by emphasizing the need to investigate the teaching practice itself, rather than focus on specific components of teaching. She noted that such investigations require a theoretical framework for in-depth analysis of recurrent teachers’ practices in classrooms. One example of such a framework is the teacher model mentioned in Alan Schoenfeld’s presentation at the 12th International Congress on Mathematical Education.10
This segment of the workshop stimulated a variety of comments on teachers, teacher preparation, and professional development in Korea compared with the United States. Examples of the comments are given below.
Teacher career ladders, rotation at public schools, private schools
- In Korea there are second-class teachers and first-class teachers. To become a first-class teacher you have to do extra study and you have to actually pass an exam. In many districts in the United States, if you get a master’s degree, then you are eligible for extra salary. The U.S. standards for the master’s degree are quite diffuse. The Korean system is much more focused on strengthening subject matter than the U.S. system is.
- Korean teachers earn points or credits that go toward their promotions and the opportunity to be promoted throughout their careers. In the United States, teachers have opportunities to earn credits for recertification purposes; some will earn credits that will go toward their ability to become administrators, but that is not frequent.
- There are 16 provincial and metropolitan school districts in Korea. Teachers are hired and tenured in one of the 16 districts. Korean teachers in public schools rotate every five
8 Research in this tradition investigates statistical relationships among quantifiable classroom processes (e.g., numbers of questions of various types asked by the teacher), and products such as students’ scores on standardized tests. See, for example, Schoenfeld, 1994.
9 Shulman (1986) defines PCK as “the particular form of content knowledge that embodies the aspects of content most germane to its teachability.”
10 “How We Think: A Theory of Human Decision-Making, with a Focus on Teaching.” Available at http://www.icme12.org/upload/submission/1900_f.pdf.
years to keep the culture of the school fresh. That is, of course, within a region; teachers do not have to change their place of residence.11
- In Seoul, rotation is not a big problem, but in the south (where districts cover a large geographical area), moving from one area to another can be a problem. On the other hand, it guarantees equity. So every school has basically the same teacher quality because of rotation.
- In Korea, there are very few private elementary schools. There are more private schools at upper levels. The percentage of public schools in Korea is high: 59 percent at the high school level; 79 percent at the middle school level; and 98 percent at the elementary school level. Salaries of private school teachers are subsidized by the government.12
Professional development: PLCs and training
- In Korea, PLCs seem to be more bottom up, organized, and run by teachers voluntarily. The advantage of top-down [professional development] is that it gets more support from government, and so such PLCs are more likely to have a longer life. On the other hand, bottom up better reflects insiders’ perspectives. The PLC has more freedom, but support might be a problem.
- There are many organizations in Korea, such as universities, teacher organizations, research organizations, government, and private industries that provide online teacher training. They develop programs and manage online systems for professional development. There are guidelines for online training courses. The programs and the number of credits associated with each workshop need to get government approval. The government subsidizes it so that it can control the quality. Teachers need to take courses with approved credits.
- In Korea, elementary teachers are prepared at 11 colleges, which specialize in professional development.
- In the United States, professional development is quite costly. Many teachers want to have professional development, but schools do not have the funds to offer it. There is a lot of professional development arranged in Korea that seems to be very cost-effective.
Korean teacher workload
- In elementary schools, Koreans teach 25 classes per week of 40 minutes each, five hours per day. Elementary teachers work from 8:40 a.m. until 4:40 p.m. Lower grade children go home right after lunch, which is 1 p.m. Upper grade students, in fifth and sixth grades, are dismissed at 2:30 p.m. Korean teachers spend three hours on out-of-classroom duties for lower elementary and two hours for upper elementary.
- Korean teachers prepare lessons in two ways: (a) preparing the next day’s lesson at home and (b) at grade-level teacher meetings. They teach all subjects in elementary school, but during teacher education, they have a concentration subject. In the grade-level meetings, teachers allocate lesson preparation work and share prepared lessons based on their area of specialization.
- There is a nonprofit organization in Korea made with teacher initiative and support that provides material for all grades to any teacher, free of charge.
11 For details, see the section on teacher rotation in Kim (2009).
12 See Kim, 2009, pp. 31, 42–43.
- In Korean middle schools, teachers teach four classes per day of 45 minutes each, 20 hours per week. They teach the same course to five classes, so for one preparation they teach five times.
- There are not as many middle school websites with free resources as there are for elementary school in Korea. Usually, teachers do some research to find material online from various sites and develop their own lesson or modify one. Since there are many [secondary] textbooks, Korean teachers use several when preparing lessons.
- In high school, Koreans teach 15 to 16 classes per week of 50 minutes each. Grades 11 and 12 have elective mathematics courses. Regular school teaching is 15 to 16 hours per week. Besides teaching during school hours, educators have to teach after-school classes, so they also need to prepare for it. They spend lots of time researching lesson material. Twelfth-grade teachers prepare by solving an enormous number of different problems, many more than students would ever need to solve.13
Evaluation of teachers and schools
- In the United States, low-performing schools are often the schools that have to really stick by the textbook and are monitored more closely. Usually, flexibility in the United States is earned by high performance. Fewer funds are given from the ministry to Korean schools that perform poorly, but they often get help from university-based researchers that, in turn, are funded by MEST and foundations.
- Annual evaluation and measurement of student achievement is done by the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE).14
- Korea has a national uniform assessment of academic performance, which is administered every year. In July, all Korean students in grade 6 take a uniform national math ability test. The test is for study purposes and carries no penalty for teachers and schools. Its results are used when distributing government funding to the 16 districts, but do not affect school-level budgets. Districts with large improvement rates get allocated more. At the school level, the effect depends on the district; some districts allocated less to low-performing schools or give low points to all teachers in a low-growth school. Some districts do not use the results of this assessment.
- Academic performance of students in Korea is not reflected in school evaluations, but school activities are reflected in school evaluations. If a school is judged as providing a good quality education, it gets some extra funding. If an elementary school is determined to have low academic achievement, the government sends assistant teachers. Those students get extra help from assistant teachers after school, with textbooks developed for their level.
- Teachers in Korea are not penalized for low student performance. In fact, due to the education fever, they are trying to cool it down by inducing fun activities, such as math festivals, to increase student interest in the field.
13 Generally, grade 12 lessons and a substantial part of grade 11 focus on preparation for the College Scholastic Ability Test.
14 According to the KICE booklet, Education in Korea, “All sixth graders, third-year middle school students, and second-year high school students learning the National Common Basic Curriculum must participate in the NAEA [National Assessment of Educational Achievement].”
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