CURRENT PROBLEMS AND ISSUES IN TEACHER EDUCATION AND THE TEACHING PROFESSION
A large and growing body of research data—as well as recommendations from professional societies—indicate that the preparation and ongoing professional development of teachers in science, mathematics, and technology1 for grades K-12 needs rethinking and improvement, and not just on a small scale. There is now a great deal of evidence that this situation permeates much of the system of teacher preparation and professional development, including the recruiting, preparing, inducting, and retaining of teachers. Indeed, many teachers themselves report frustration with current methods of and approaches to teacher education.
After extensive review of the research literature and the recommendations of professional societies, the National Research Council’s Committee on Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation (CSMTP) has determined that fundamental restructuring of
teacher preparation and professional development is needed to best serve the interest of students’ learning and of their future success as individuals, workers, and citizens. The committee also has concluded that such change is in the best interest of teachers of science and mathematics themselves, who, quite incontrovertibly, are not accorded the respect and recognition due professionals who hold such responsible positions in our society.
Increasing expectations under national, state, and local content standards are raising the stakes for what K-12 students need to know and to be able to do in science and mathematics. Concomitantly, expectations have risen for what K-12 teachers need to know and to be able to do. These expectations are reflected in part by bolstered state requirements for the type of postsecondary education and degrees required of new teachers.
Most instructors of these new teachers—including postsecondary faculty in science, mathematics, engineering, technology, and education—have not been able to provide the type of education that K-12 teachers need to succeed in their own classrooms. 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 background for teaching these subject areas. Indeed, in some states, middle school teachers (typically, grades 6-8) with generalist backgrounds are being assigned to teach science or mathematics exclusively. 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 provide the appropriate type and level of instruction needed by students who would be teachers. Nor do most of these faculty have the kinds of professional development experiences in teaching that would enable them to model effectively the kinds of pedagogy that are needed for success in grade K-12 classrooms. Similarly, some faculty in schools or colleges of education, especially those who are engaged with graduate programs, may have had little or no recent direct contact with teachers in classroom environments.
Once teachers reach the classroom, they often do not receive the support they need to keep their pedagogical skills and content knowledge current. Unlike in other professions, in education, few specific requirements and even fewer opportunities exist for teachers to engage in meaningful professional development (often called inservice education). Whereas other professions
expect their practitioners to pursue advanced programs of study that increase and broaden their specific competencies for the profession, in education, most state regulations require only that teachers obtain post-baccalaureate credits or a master’s degree within a certain period of time after being hired and then earn additional credits every few years thereafter. Content areas typically are not specified. These kinds of amorphous requirements for teachers may actually reduce the number of experienced teachers in classrooms, since many teachers who continue with their education pursue degrees in educational administration, allowing them to take better paying jobs outside of the classroom. In sum, current expectations for continuing education may not contribute to the retention of experienced teachers. In addition, recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers, especially those who are qualified to teach science and mathematics, has become a problem in some school districts across the country, especially where numerous professional opportunities exist not only outside of teaching but outside of education.
Unlike in teaching, in many other professions, coherent, well-recognized procedures and policies have been developed to attract, educate, and place professionals. Many of these other professions not only also expect their practitioners to upgrade their knowledge and skills throughout their careers but also have in place an enabling continuing education system. Importantly, most other professions do not view those who have recently entered the profession as being fully qualified or expert. Rather, there are full expectations that neophytes will continue to learn and grow through participation in regular professional development programs and as a result of mentoring by more senior colleagues. This trend is now infiltrating teaching; beginning teachers are sometimes now referred to as “competent novices” (for example, Schempp et al., 1998).
In addition, performance standards exist for many professions, often developed and maintained by members of those professions through accrediting boards and professional societies. Professionals who meet or exceed the standards are rewarded in tangible and appropriate ways. Although such guidelines exist for the teaching profession (for example, as developed in 1994 for practicing teachers by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and in 2000 by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education), to date only a few of these guidelines have been incorporated systematically into the fabric and culture of the teaching profession.
THE EVIDENCE THAT HIGH-QUALITY TEACHING MATTERS
As noted in the extensive body of evidence cited throughout this report, research is confirming that good teaching does matter. In reviewing the literature, the Committee on Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation (CSMTP) found that studies conducted over the past quarter century increasingly point to a strong correlation between student achievement in K-12 science and mathematics and the teaching quality and level of knowledge of K-12 teachers of science and mathematics. Other studies have found positive correlations between teachers’ performance on state examinations, years of teaching experience, and advanced degrees and student tests scores in reading and mathematics. Specific content preparation of teachers also has been found to make a difference in student achievement. Several studies conducted over the past 15 years and detailed in the committee’s report have concluded that “in-field” teachers—i.e., teachers holding specific certificates in certain subject areas—not only know more content in their subject area than their “out-of-field” colleagues but also use their content knowledge more effectively in the classroom.
Teaching effectiveness, defined as the ability to produce desired changes within the classroom, has been found to relate positively to the number of education courses taken by teachers, their grades as student teachers, and teaching experience. Some recent studies also have found that teacher quality accounts for a greater amount of the variance in student achievement than do variables such as the racial composition of schools or students’ economic levels.
The CSMTP believes that these and other studies have clear implications for teacher preparation. Science and mathematics educators as well as practitioners have concluded that content knowledge must be a central focus of a science or mathematics teacher’s preparation, with the result being a deeper understanding of the fundamental science, mathematics, or technology that he or she will need to teach. These conclusions are consistent with an emerging body of research in cognitive science that is contributing to our understanding of the processes by which people learn.
TEACHER EDUCATION AS A PROFESSIONAL CONTINUUM
Many national organizations have recommended improvements in the education of teachers of K-12 science and mathematics, including the National
Association of Biology Teachers (1990), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1991), the Mathematical Association of America (1991), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (1994), the National Science Foundation (1996, 1998), the National Research Council (1996a, 1997a,b), the Association for the Education of Teachers of Science (1997), the National Science Teachers Association (1998), the American Institute of Physics (1999), and the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (in preparation).
In recently released teacher education standards, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC, formed by the Council of Chief State School Officers) has specified that teachers of K-12 science and mathematics need to meet the National Research Council’s standards for science and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ standards for mathematics. INTASC has emphasized further that teacher education should focus understanding of content in subject areas and knowing how to apply that understanding in problem-solving and inquiry-based situations in the classroom. More than 30 states now belong to INTASC.
Based on its review of the literature and of the recommendations of professional organizations, the CSMTP has concluded that teacher preparation must be seen in the future as much more continual and seamless than it is today. The college education that leads to initial certification to teach (also known as preservice education) should be viewed as only the first part of a complex, career-long learning process that involves continual intellectual growth both inside and outside the classroom.
Standards for K-12 teaching coupled with increasing demands for improved teacher quality have created unprecedented opportunities for all players in the education community (with input and cooperation from the larger community, including industrial and research scientists and mathematicians) to design and implement new collaborative approaches to teacher education. In fact, over the past 10 years, many institutions have begun to develop such collaboration, often called a Professional Development School (PDS). Through-out the report, the committee has used this term to describe an intentional partnership between a college or university and the K-12 sector for teacher education and the improvement of teaching and learning in the schools. Although the objectives and infrastructures of PDS arrangements can vary widely, the committee found that some PDS models have become living laboratories for observation, experimentation, and extended practice—sites where
teachers, students, and college and university faculty create new knowledge about effective teaching and experiment with, evaluate, and revise teaching practices.
Like student learning, teacher learning and professional development are part of an extremely long and complex process. Thus, a PDS encourages educators to restructure teacher education comprehensively, as opposed to incrementally and in a series of disjointed reforms. The PDS provides more systematic teaching experiences for preservice and novice teachers, where content and pedagogy are integrated and where teacher education takes place in environments that more closely resemble the classrooms in which these future teachers will work. At present, there are more than 1,000 PDS models in the United States, with some institutions of higher education exploring several different models. Examples of such partnerships are provided in Appendix E of the report.
The committee has concluded that when the partners in these kinds of collaboratives establish mechanisms for making decisions that are mutually supportive and collegial and when they invest the time and money needed to sustain the partnership, they can improve the quality of teacher education and teaching in general. The committee’s vision to improve teacher education that builds on the PDS approach is detailed in Chapter 6. Specific recommendations to various stake-holder communities are provided in Chapter 7.
VISION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
After examining what is known about the effectiveness of the PDS approach, the committee concluded that the entire professional community’s2 level of commitment to and input in both individual schools and districts can have significant effects on student achievement. Systemic support from the larger community in which a school is located also can make a critical difference in the success of teachers and their students (Smith and O’Day, 1991). This larger community includes policymakers, superintendents, district administrators, teacher unions, faculty and administra-
tors from local colleges and universities, individual school staff, and parents. It also includes scientists and mathematicians outside of academe, who can bring their understanding and everyday applications of science and mathematics concepts and skills to K-12 teaching and learning improvement.
The approaches taken by PDSs, the vast body of literature that is reported and analyzed here, and the many examples of effective teacher education programs and policies and practices of other professions in the United States reviewed for this report by the CSMTP led committee members to develop a vision for a new type of partnership for teacher education. In the committee’s vision (articulated in Chapter 6), the various communities involved with specific aspects of teacher education work much more closely together toward common goals. The current separation of programs to educate prospective and practicing teachers lessens considerably to the point of becoming a seamless continuum. Institutions that collaborate in these partnerships re-examine and, in some cases, redefine their roles in teacher education. The ultimate goal of the partnerships under the committee’s vision is to offer teachers ongoing opportunities to improve their understanding of the subjects they teach, the ways they teach, and their standing as professionals.
It was in this regard, then, that the committee took particular note of the partnerships between medical schools and their teaching hospitals that involve collaboration between teaching and clinical faculty in the education of new generations of physicians. The committee emphasizes that the primary goal of any partnership arrangement would be to improve teacher education in ways that contribute to enhanced student learning and achievement.
In reflecting on its findings and conclusions, the CSMTP established the following six guiding principles on which further action to improve K-12 teacher education in science, mathematics, and technology should be based:
The improvement of teacher education and teaching in science, mathematics, and technology should be viewed as a top national priority.
Teacher education in science, mathematics, and technology must become a career-long process. High-quality professional development programs that include intellectual growth as well as the upgrading of teachers’ knowledge and skills must be expected and essential features in the careers of all teachers.
Through changes in the rewards for, incentives for, and expectations of teachers, teaching as a profession must be upgraded in status and
stature to the level of other professions.
Both individually and collectively, two- and four-year colleges and universities must assume greater responsibility and be held more accountable for improving teacher education.
Neither the higher education nor the K-12 communities can successfully improve teacher education as effectively in isolation as they can by working closely together. Collective, fully integrated efforts among school staff and administrators in individual schools and districts, teacher unions, faculty and administrators in institutions of higher education, policymakers from local colleges and universities, parents, and the private sector are essential for addressing these issues.
Many more scientists, mathematicians, and engineers must become well informed enough to become involved with local and national efforts to provide the appropriate content knowledge and pedagogy of their disciplines to current and future teachers.3
To initiate action based on these principles, the committee envisions a new partnership arrangement between K-12 schools and the higher education community, with support and assistance from the broader community, that is designed to promote high-quality teacher education over the continuum of a teacher’s career. Two- and four-year colleges and universities, and especially those that have teacher education programs, would enter into long-term partnerships with one or more school districts. Large school districts could partner with more than one institution of higher education (for example, with their local community college and a four-year institution). The objectives of such partnerships would include the sharing of responsibility for teacher preparation and providing on-going
In a recent study of Columbia University’s Summer Research Program for Science School Teachers, Silverstein (2000) found that students of teachers who had participated in summer research received higher scores and pass rates on the New York State Regents Examination than the students of teachers from the same schools who did not participate in such programs (teachers who participated in this program were drawn from a broad spectrum of schools in the New York City area). Additionally, participation in Westinghouse/Intel Talent Search projects, science clubs, and extra-curricular activities in science was higher for students whose teachers participated in this program compared to students from the same schools whose teachers did not participate. Additional information about this program is available at <http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/physio/>. The program at Columbia University is one of approximately 70 such programs across the U.S. that are part of the Science Work Experiences for Teachers(SWEPT. A listing of SWEPT programs is available at <http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/physio/swep.html>.
professional development for the school districts’ teachers.4 The committee envisions that each of the contributors and stakeholders in these partnerships would be recognized and utilized for their particular professional expertise in science, mathematics, and technology education. The partners would work collectively toward improving teaching and ongoing professional development for all teachers in the partnership community, including those in higher education. These partnerships collectively would establish and implement goals for improving the learning and academic achievements in science, mathematics, and technology of students in affiliated institutions, including students in teacher education programs and the children in the schools that are members of the partnerships.
It is important to note that this new type of partnership envisioned by the committee would involve a restructuring of the various phases of teacher education. Responsibility for student teaching experiences would be vested primarily in school districts that participate in the partnership. In turn, professional development would fall primarily within the purview of the higher education partners. The committee’s vision also would involve a corresponding rethinking of how each partner uses its resources in support of the partnership.
Thus, in the new teacher education partnership envisioned in this report, master teachers in partner school districts could have adjunct faculty appointments in the partner two- and four-year colleges or universities. These teachers would take on a much more significant role in the mentoring of future teachers during their practicum experiences. In turn, faculty in both the school of education and in science, mathematics, and engineering departments at partner colleges and universities would assume much greater responsibility for providing ongoing professional development opportunities for the school districts’ teachers. The partnerships would base their approaches to improved teacher education on the scholarly literature, recommendations about improving teacher education from professional and disciplinary organizations, and an ongoing analysis and evaluation of the partnership itself. A major component of this evaluation would be the academic
achievement in science, mathematics, and technology of the students in the schools that are members of the partnership. The partnerships also might undertake directed research within the member organizations to find ways to improve further teacher education and student outcomes in science, mathematics, and technology. Faculty in schools of education could play an especially critical role in directing some of their research efforts to evaluating systemically the efficacy of teacher education programs in these partnerships.
The committee acknowledges that achieving this vision will not be straightforward, easily accomplished, or inexpensive. It will require fundamental rethinking and restructuring of the relationships between the K-12 and higher education communities in SME&T, including financial relationships. It also will require fundamental revamping of teaching as a profession.
The CSMTP recommends that
Teacher education in science, mathematics, and technology be viewed as a continuum of programs and professional experiences that enables individuals to move seamlessly from college preparation for teaching to careers in teaching these subject areas.
Teacher education be viewed as a career-long process that allows teachers of science, mathematics, and technology to acquire and regularly update the content knowledge and pedagogical tools needed to teach in ways that enhance student learning and achievement in these subjects.
Teacher education be structured in ways that allow teachers to grow individually in their profession and to contribute to the further enhancement of both teaching and their disciplines.
As outlined, then detailed in its vision, the CSMTP believes that the goals and objectives of these general recommendations can be achieved by all two- and four-year colleges and universities (those with and without programs in teacher education) working with school districts to establish partnerships for teacher education.
The CSMTP further offers the following specific recommendations:
Local, state, and federal governments should recognize and acknowledge the need to improve teacher education in science and mathematics, as well as assist the public in understanding and supporting improvement. Governments should understand that restructuring teacher education will require large infusions of financial support and make a strong commitment to provide the direct and indirect funding required to support local and regional partnerships for improving teacher education in these disciplines.5 They also should encourage the recruitment and retention of teachers of science and mathematics—particularly those who are “in-field”—through financial incentives, such as salaries that are commensurate and competitive with those in other professions in science, mathematics, and technology; low-interest student loans; loan forgiveness for recently certified teachers in these disciplines who commit to teaching; stipends for teaching internships; and grants to teachers, school districts, or teacher education partnerships to offset the costs of continual professional development.
For Collaboration Between Institutions of Higher Education and the K-12 Community
Two- and four-year institutions of higher education and school districts that are involved with partnerships for teacher education should—working together—establish a comprehensive, integrated system of recruiting and advising people who are interested in teaching science, mathematics, and technology.
For the Higher Education Community
Science, mathematics, and engineering departments at two- and four-year colleges and universities should assume greater responsibility for offering college-level courses that provide teachers with strong exposure to appropriate content and that model the kinds of pedagogical
approaches appropriate for teaching that content.
Two- and four-year colleges and universities should reexamine and redesign introductory college-level courses in science and mathematics to better accommodate the needs of practicing and future teachers.
Universities whose primary mission includes education research should set as a priority the development and execution of peer-reviewed research studies that focus on ways to improve teacher education, the art of teaching, and learning for people of all ages. 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. The results of this research should be collated and disseminated through a national electronic database or library.
Two- and four-year colleges and universities should maintain contact with and provide guidance to teachers who complete their preparation and development programs.
Following a period of collaborative planning and preparation, two- and four-year colleges and universities in a partnership for teacher education should assume primary responsibility for providing professional development opportunities to experienced teachers of science, mathematics, and technology. Such programs would involve faculty from science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines and from schools of education.
For the K-12 Education Community
Following a period of collaborative planning and preparation, school districts in a partnership for teacher education should assume primary responsibility for providing high-quality practicum experiences and internships for prospective teachers.
School districts in a partnership for teacher education should assume primary responsibility for developing and overseeing field experiences, student teaching, and internship programs for new teachers of science, mathematics, and technology.
School districts should collaborate with two- and four-year colleges and universities to provide professional development opportunities to experienced teachers of science, mathematics, and technology. Such programs would involve faculty from science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines and from schools of education. Teachers who participate
in these programs would, in turn, offer their expertise and guidance to others involved with the partnership.
For Professional and Disciplinary Organizations
Organizations that represent institutions of higher education should assist their members in establishing programs to help new teachers. For example, databases of information about new teachers could be developed and shared among member institutions so that colleges and universities could be notified when a newly certified teacher was moving to their area to teach. Those colleges and universities could then plan and offer welcoming and support activities, such as opportunities for continued professional and intellectual growth.
Professional disciplinary societies in science, mathematics, and engineering, higher education organizations, government at all levels, and business and industry should become more engaged as partners (as opposed to advisors or overseers) in efforts to improve teacher education.
Professional disciplinary societies in science, mathematics, and engineering, and higher education organizations also should work together to align their policies and recommendations for improving teacher education in science, mathematics, and technology.
These recommendations are elaborated in Chapter 7.