Changing the pedagogical practices of higher education was a necessary condition for changing the pedagogical practices in the K-12 schools. We looked at the universities, our own practices, and our own courses. Originally, we thought that course revision could be accomplished quickly, with new ways of looking at content and new ways of teaching that would also serve as effective models for the future. Our idea was to provide release time for a course revision team during a summer or a semester. Those of you who have been involved in this effort on your own campuses know, as we learned, that course revision takes a long time.
There was also a need to focus on areas that traditionally have been relegated to administrators alone, such as recruitment of new faculty. For example, we urged deans to choose the outstanding researcher who was also an outstanding teacher, and interested in course reform. We now are working with administrators to give promotion and tenure credit for improving instruction, not just research.
As we instituted new and better ways of teaching science, math, and methods courses at the university, we also worked closely with those schools involved in student teaching. The National Science Education Standards say that becoming an effective science teacher is a continuous process that stretches across the life of a teacher from his or her undergraduate years to the end of a professional career. The Montana STEP project has developed a beginning teacher support system that works with teachers during student teaching and continues into their first years of teaching. We are now experimenting with this mentoring system in a rural setting.
Finally; we have found that it is extremely important to work harder on articulation agreements between the two-year and the four-year colleges so that a student who starts out or completes a two-year degree at a tribal or community college does not then have to spend four additional years at the university to complete his or her teacher preparation program.
The Louisiana Collaborative for Excellence in the Preparation of Teachers (CEPT)
Kerry Davidson, Louisiana Board of Regents Linda Ramsey, Carolyn Talton, and William Deese, Louisiana Technical University
CEPT first and fundamentally recognizes that significant shifts are required in some long-standing educational values and behaviors—shifts that directly affect stakeholders along the entire K-16 spectrum. Central among them is an understanding that colleges and universities must lead from the center and not follow from the margins. Indeed, it is our view that the K-12 effort will not be sustained without the Standards-based reform of undergraduate mathematics and science in general and of teacher preparation in particular. It is clear as well that the way in which graduate students are prepared cannot be left out of the
equation, for what models will these beginning faculty follow as they enter classrooms of future teachers?
Standards-based K-16 instruction, which at its heart centers on activity and inquiry, must be viewed as a connection of links or a seamless web rather than as separate compartments that parallel traditional organizational levels and bureaucracies. An overarching issue for campus renewal grants is to encourage the integration and coordination of course work across disciplines. Continuing reviews of existing academic programs and departments will make certain that subject matter departments under review demonstrate contributions to teacher preparation and undergraduate reform. Education departments under review must demonstrate their bridges with subject matter departments.
The CEPT project at Louisiana Tech is an interdepartmental effort. The main thrust is to develop model pre-service courses, with an instructor from the education department working with his or her counterpart in the content areas. Another goal has been to develop cooperating teacher sites that are supportive of reform-based strategies. There is a lot of emphasis on working with classroom teachers on campus, and then using those teachers for field placements. A side effect is that the idea of different teaching strategies has spread to a group of practicing teachers.
A third part of the project has focused on much-needed professional development for university faculty. This collaborative effort has given a unique opportunity to university faculty that they may not have had otherwise: the opportunity to go to conferences and also to return the following year as presenters. We have brought in speakers who have attracted faculty from across our campus and other campuses to look at issues such as critical thinking skills and how to reform teaching strategies at the college level. Ultimately, math and science must be taught better for all students. Changes in education courses will effect changes in content courses. Faculty who have participated in the pre-service programs already are implementing many of these strategies in courses that are not designed for pre-service teachers. The next step, of course, is to involve all faculty in our undergraduate programs, not just those who work with pre-service teachers.
A strong point is the team-teaching approach in pilot courses. A scientist, a science education specialist, and an outstanding public school teacher are in the classroom together. While this is not realistic for long-term reform, it has been tremendous in helping to see where each person has strengths and weaknesses. One thing the students learn from this experience is that the teacher does not know everything.
It is important that young, nontenured faculty are involved in research, that they publish research, and that they get research dollars. To encourage them to participate in activities to improve course content and teaching, a formal mechanism should exist that shows how this area will be given consideration in the tenure process.