A Perspective on the State's Role: Motivation and Policy
William Randall, Colorado Commissioner of Education; President, Council of Chief State School Officers
About a year and a half ago, my wife and I team taught a course at the University of Colorado at Denver for education students, just before they did their student teaching. Reflecting on this course led me to believe that there has not been a lot of substantive change in teacher education in the past 30 years. These students were still struggling with some of the fundamentals of classroom management. They were struggling with the issue of conveying the materials they knew: "Do I just tell students what I know?" How do future teachers learn to teach rather than just "tell?"
In Colorado there are two ways in which we are approaching this issue from the state level. First, there is our licensure program, which is brand-new. Second, there is our State Systemic Initiative (SSI), which involves partnerships between school systems and institutions that prepare teachers. One thing we have learned is that by forcing people to have joint responsibility for programs, there is a different product and a different level of involvement than if it is just "collaborating." People who work in our teacher licensure department are involved with accreditation in areas that do not directly involve their specific job responsibility. They are sharing responsibility. People do not go to meetings and say, "Well, we collaborated." They say, "I am responsible for the success of this venture." That responsibility carries over into action that makes a difference.
We believe that if we break down the barriers within the state through the SSI, we can work with higher education, with the school systems—with anyone else—and say, "We have a joint responsibility for the success of this venture that is based on student achievement." If we have joint responsibility, then we all have to make sure it happens. Unless we have that mind-set going in, we are going to have a lot of difficulty carrying out the reforms, no matter how well organized, no matter how well structured, and no matter how great the content is.
Concern, Collaboration, Coordination, and Communication
Jane Butler Kahle, Co-principal Investigator, Ohio Statewide Systemic Initiative (SSI)
The last page of the National Science Education Standards strikes at the heart of a major dilemma in the current call for system-wide, Standards-based reform. In the discussion of system standards, the problem of educating teachers who are able to think and to teach in ways that will promulgate the content, pedagogical assessment, and program standards is addressed. I quote, "In higher education, two- and four-year college professors need to model exemplary science pedagogy and science curriculum practices." That is, teachers need to be taught science in college in the same way that they, themselves, will teach science in school. The
next sentence presents the dilemma: "The culture of higher education is such that the requisite changes will occur only if individual professors take the initiative." This passage continues on to mention superficially roles of administrators. But the onus of change is placed on individual faculty members. The roles of policy makers, particularly those who license and credential teachers, are not explicated. Yet both university administrators and state officials play important roles in the preparation and professionalization of teachers.
Jane Butler Kahle's presentation on Standards and teacher preparation, which preceded the final state team planning session, focused participants back on the issues for teacher preparation raised by the Standards and on the scope of involvement by the education community required to bring about change.
Prospective teachers have little, if any, experience with the type of teaching that is espoused in the Standards. In fact, their experience is described in the Standards in the following way: "Undergraduate science courses typically communicate science as a body of facts and rules to be memorized, rather than a way of knowing about the natural world. Even the science laboratories in most colleges fail to present science as inquiry. Moreover, teacher preparation courses and in-service activities frequently emphasize technical skills."
Furthermore, science teacher educators, the majority of whom are over 50 years of age, have little if any, experience with the type of teaching espoused in the Standards. Yet they are supposed to encourage their student teachers to teach according to the Standards. Last, and perhaps of lingering concern in this country, elementary teachers continue to have little experience with any kind of science. In 1993, only two out of three elementary teachers had at least one college course in the biological, physical, and earth sciences. Therefore, I want to take a minute to explore with you the dichotomy between what the Standards say should be taught and what teachers can teach.
First of all, the Standards say we must have high expectations for all students. Second, the Standards call for a focus on in-depth learning of a limited number of powerful concepts, with an emphasis on reasoning and problem solving rather than on memorizing facts, terminology, and algorithms. Third, teachers are to integrate the nature and processes of science and mathematics inquiry with a knowledge of science and mathematical concepts and principles. Fourth, teachers are to engage students in meaningful activities that enable them to construct and apply their knowledge of key science and math concepts. Fifth, teachers are to teach in a way that reflects sound principles from research on how students learn, including using cooperative learning and questioning techniques that promote interaction and deeper understanding. And finally, sixth on my list, teaching is to incorporate appropriate and ongoing use of calculators, computers, and other technologies in science and mathematics.
That is the vision of what our science teachers should be doing. Let us now contrast those expectations with what research tells us about teachers:
Over one-half of the science and mathematics teachers do not feel prepared to use computers as an integral part of instruction.
Over one-third of all elementary teachers and one-half of all high school teachers feel unprepared to involve parents in the science education of their children.
Roughly 40 percent of all science and math teachers lack the preparation to use performance-based assessment.
About one-quarter of all science and math teachers feel poorly prepared to use a textbook as a resource rather than as the primary instructional tool.
One-third of all science teachers feel poorly prepared to take into account children's prior conceptions of natural phenomena when planning curriculum and instruction.
The preparation of teachers must close this gap between the expectations of the Standards and the reality of practice.
We need radical changes in pre-service science teacher preparation. In fact, we are faced with the need for radical changes in two fairly recalcitrant populations: science faculty, who teach undergraduate science courses, and education faculty, who teach methods courses and supervise field experiences. These changes call for massive collaboration. One example of the need for collaboration is provided by the promulgation of the University of Washington's Physics by Inquiry course throughout one state as part of its Statewide Systemic Initiative (SSI). The course was developed to provide prospective teachers with in-depth inquiry experiences in physical science; the SSI has adapted it to practicing teachers. Individual faculty members in about 15 universities across Ohio now use Physics by Inquiry as a physics course for in-service teacher professional development, and individual faculty members in about 18 colleges and universities across the state are using pieces of it in their physics courses or in their science methods courses. Yet it has been institutionalized into the teacher education program at only one institution. Why? Although the course is widely discussed among science faculty, many education faculty members do not understand how it is different from the physical science courses traditionally offered in pre-service programs.
The chasm separating the arts and science faculty from the education faculty is deep and wide. Bridging it will require active initiation and support at both the dean and provost levels. With Physics by Inquiry, an individual faculty member took the initiative as recommended in the Standards. But that step has not been and will not be enough. The risks are too great for individual faculty members to undertake such actions unilaterally. On-campus collaboration may be easier
to achieve at the dean level than the faculty level, and faculty members must see evidence of that collaboration as well as support for it from all administrative levels.
There are two reasons why it is difficult to reach collaboration. First, it is much more costly to teach Physics by Inquiry than a lecture course in introductory physics. Physical science for elementary teachers historically has been one of the college of education's highest enrollment courses, bringing in lots of state support. Historically, it also has been a traditional course taught by a science educator in a way that epitomizes the classic lecture and the cookbook laboratory. The second issue is time. Where do you spend your time when the university is going to reward your research, not your teaching, record? Without incentives for change at the highest levels of the university—promotion, tenure, and release—individual faculty initiatives will not result in program change. Individual initiatives will not affect teacher preparation in a systemic and sustained way. Essentially, senior faculty and administration must promote and accept the needed changes, validating them through the reward system of promotion and tenure.
Local and state agencies also must play a critical role in coordination. The science teaching standards call for "coherent and integrated professional development programs." International studies suggest that opportunities for teachers to discuss content and pedagogy as part of their teaching day result in both better teaching and enhanced learning. Examples of the approach advocated may be found in other countries that have allocated educational funds to have better educated and better paid teachers, countries in which teachers comprise virtually all of the employees in schools, and countries where teachers make most of the curricular and teaching decisions. While fewer than one-half of all public education employees in the United States actually are teachers, more than three-quarters of all education employees in Australia and Japan are teachers, and more than 80 percent of education employees in Belgium, Germany; the Netherlands, and Spain are teachers.
In the past, heavy administrative oversight of teaching has led to reduced investments in the professional education of teachers and teaching activities. Because the competency of teachers has been questioned in the past, we have developed a system of supervisors and specialists to manage, practice, and administer a wide array of special programs. In fact, between 1950 and 1990, the proportion of public school staff who actually taught declined by 17 percent. Only coordination among local and state stakeholders can begin to address changes that are focused on the improved preparation of teachers and on increased teacher responsibility for education of students.
Neither teacher preparation nor professional development has tackled the difficult issues of assisting teachers in understanding how children and adults actually learn science. Although this issue is not a prominent