Celeste Pea, Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Science Teaching; Louisiana State Systemic Initiative
My undergraduate education was very rich in content. When I left the university I was full of information on biology, chemistry, and physics. I could recite most of the laws of most of those disciplines. However, I did not know how to teach. I did not have what is now called "pedagogical content knowledge." I knew the content, but I did not know how to take content and change it into some format or task to get complex concepts over to my students. I knew how to make lesson plans; that is, I knew what page students should be on given a particular day. But that has very little to do with actually getting knowledge across to the students. I did not have strategies to figure out if students were academically ready for materials that I was trying to present. It became very frustrating to me and to my students. It is one thing to know the content. It is another thing to apply pedagogy to content so that students understand.
Courses for pre-service teachers need to be redefined, rewritten, and realigned, keeping in sight the content and the concepts. Methods of teaching must be presented in the context of the science content and in support of it. What is important for teacher preparation programs is the substantiality of the content, not necessarily how many hours are taken in a particular subject. The quality of the content and the methods for presenting it are more important.
As a teaching force we have stolen most of the students' yesterdays. We have their todays under siege, and we are threatening their tomorrows. Unless we change our approach to the content that we are giving, to the pedagogy that we are using, to the experimentation that we are doing, to the validation or the expectation that we have, we can expect no better than we have.
Response to the Teachers' Comments
Arthur Wise, President, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
What we have learned from these teachers is that it is not content or pedagogy— it is content and pedagogy. It is clear from our speakers' reflections that their early teaching experiences left them somewhat less than fully satisfied with their pre-service preparation. We must think carefully and systematically about how to prepare and support teachers as they develop throughout their careers.
There is a broad awakening that it is time to invest in the intellectual capital of our teachers and to provide for their initial and continuing preparation in substantially more enriching ways than we have in the past. Furthermore, we have learned that it is important to begin the preparation of teachers in college, but it is unlikely that we can fully prepare teachers to teach effectively in the confines of a four- or even a five-year college-based program. Teacher preparation and professional development are and must be lifelong or career-long processes.