Original Source: http://www.nyu.edu/education/teachlearn/ifte/newman.htm
Restructuring Teacher Education
We're in one Hell of a
Judith M. Newman
Two years ago, just before the IFTE Conference in New York,
I began to pull together my thoughts about teacher education.
I got about half a paper written before the conference,
and in spite of honorable intentions I didn't get back to
the writing afterward. Events overtook me, and now two years
later, looking at what I wrote then, I think about what
I learned about restructuring teacher education. My experience
at the University of Manitoba leads me to believe we're
in a terrible muddle.
Let me start with what I wrote then because the muddle, at least at the
University of Manitoba, has not changed substantially in the intervening
I want to share my thoughts about restructuring
teacher education from my perspective as a Dean of a Faculty of Education
rather than as a language/literacy educator. My experiences over the past
two years has made it clear to me we're dealing with a context that's more
encompassing than simply literacy/language education. The concerns facing
English/language teacher education are the same ones everyone in teacher
education are attempting to deal with.
Several factors are affecting the Faculty of Education
at the University of Manitoba: budget cutbacks, which in turn necessitate
eliminating resources for programs; unplanned attrition -- faculty not
being replaced so there is no systematic rational downsizing. Pressure
from government to reform -- the nature and direction of that reform contradictory;
the Faculty's own reform initiatives -- which have been going on for more
than five years but haven't resulted yet in any actual full-scale implementation;
the university context of change -- in this case, various university wide
program initiatives which are only partially supportive of the directions
in which the Faculty wants to head; the broader context of school reform
and the role of teacher education in such change; and enormous pressures
to reduce the number of teachers in initial preparation programs because
of a drastic shortage of classroom jobs for graduates.
Then there are the many players who have a say
in this particular situation -- the Faculties of Arts, Science, Human Ecology,
Phys Ed and Recreation, and Music, the University of Winnipeg whose education
students presently come to the University of Manitoba for their final certification
year, Red River Community College with whom we run joint programs for a
small number of industrial arts, business and vocational teachers; the
Manitoba Teachers Society, the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents,
and the Manitoba Association of School Trustees, as well as Manitoba Education
and Training (the provincial government department which regulates certification
-- everyone expects to have input into shaping Faculty programs. You can
just imagine the complexity of the situation and how these constraints
affect morale and planning activities within the Faculty.
Let me provide some background about the Faculty
of Education here. Before I joined the Faculty as Dean two years ago, people
had already been engaging in extensive undergraduate program restructuring
for several years. The debate which produced the most tension among Faculty
members was whether the program could remain a four-year integrated/concurrent
one (students taking both education and arts and science courses contemporaneously)
or whether education should become consolidated into a two year program
following an undergraduate degree. A second tension which affected program
development was the polarization of theoretical orientation -- faculty
members involved in Senior Years education were primarily concerned with
transmitted knowledge, while those involved in planning for Early Years
teacher preparation were operating from a more constructivist position
-- they wished to develop an integrated program, with substantial school-based
components, based less on 'courses' and more on large integrated, mentored
experiences. The Dean at that time wanted a uniform implementation across
the Faculty. He expected congruence between the Early, Middle and Senior
Years Streams -- that's where things stalled.
When I arrived, I took a different tack -- I asked
program stream groups (Early, Middle, and Senior Years) to begin, not by
planning a two-year program implementation, but by experimenting with the
current final certification-year and implementing some of the changes they
thought they'd like to see in a two-year program to discover where that
would get us. In fact, that did get us somewhere.
A group of faculty members in the Early Years
Stream, working with two cohort groups of 35 students each, decided that
while they wanted to work more closely with teachers, they couldn't see
a way of managing school-based change; instead, they opted to build a cadre
of 60-70 classroom teachers drawn from several school divisions. They went
after 'exemplary' Early Years teachers and began intensive conversations
with them. A part of that conversation was a Summer Institute involving
nearly 80 Early Years teachers, many of whom worked with our final year
students. The faculty team experimented with team building for themselves
and for a while they were able to get somewhere with that. Far enough,
in fact, that when they met for a week of intensive planning at the end
of the year, they were able to bring several new faculty members into the
process and have them become excited about the program potential that had
started to emerge.
A Middle Years group began more modestly with
a single group of 30 students. There were moments in the beginning when
I wasn't sure whether this team would get off the ground. However, faculty
members managed to pull together enough to discuss courses and find common
themes and issues they wanted to raise with prospective grades 5-8 teachers.
They were able to agree upon a focus course to deal with Middle Years issues
and several of the team members decided to take on a student teaching advising
role and explore ways of building a partnership with a school. This group,
then, adopted a school-based model of collaboration and it worked reasonably
well, given that a "Middle School" concept is not well developed
yet in Winnipeg/Manitoba schools.
One thing this team learned for sure was that
creating a cohort of students and having everyone working with the same
group provided loads of opportunity to have students work with and become
responsible for one another. By the end of the school year the co-operating
schools and the mentoring teachers were strongly supportive of the initiative.
The following year the team moved toward a more integrated curriculum --
that effort didn't get far because people still think in terms of 'courses'
but faculty were aware they had to work more closely in terms of some common
assignments, touching on common issues, making connections explicit. Not
as radical a vision as Early Years, but workable.
Two Senior Years groups emerged. One group decided
to build a cohort of 25 physical education majors. In some ways they went
farthest of all. These four faculty members were able to integrate many
foundations courses with curriculum and instruction experiences. Much of
the program was delivered primarily in a single high school and they opted
for an extended ten week practicum during the winter term which involved
the classroom teachers in a major mentoring way. Again, the faculty team
members were surprised by the strength of the cohort and the connections
students were able to make between the theoretical and practical. Mind
you, participating faculty members also experienced serious resistance
from students who had a hard time, initially, figuring out who was teaching
them what. As one student complained "I don't know which notebook
to put these notes in!" The second year, the team expanded their efforts
to include three more schools. While showing some valuable potential for
program change, this initiative was discontinued after the second year,
however, because the rest of the Senior Years faculty members rejected
the model as viable for new program development.
A second Senior Years effort got underway, but
much more modest. A team of eight faculty members met with administrators
and teachers from eight 'progressive' high schools in three different school
divisions. The attempt, here, was to negotiate a program collaboratively.
This involved monthly team meetings (faculty members and school personnel)
to hash out beliefs/assumptions about education, about initial teacher
preparation, about the role of the schools and the role of the faculty.
They spent a year exploring how to work together. In the end, they decided
to begin by diverging only slightly from the current, traditional course-based
program -- they decided to move two elective courses off-campus to be offered
by faculty/teacher teams to two cohorts of students -- one in four 'north'
Winnipeg schools, one in four 'south'. Their focus was on exploring how
to use the discipline expertise available in the schools to augment the
declining, or absent, resources in the Faculty -- a crucial inquiry because
with unplanned attrition (and no faculty replacements) the Faculty becomes
less and less able to provide instruction in several traditional high school
That's as far as I got with the prose at the time. I based my presentation
at the conference on the notes which follow.
What did I take away from this experimenting?
HOW WILL PROGRAMS HAVE TO CHANGE?
What intrigues me at this point is
how my perception of what has to happen to teacher education had a coherent
shape. Two years later, following a mutiny that resulted in my stepping
down as Dean, after a year of administrative leave, and a decision to leave
the University of Manitoba altogether, I still believe these are the ways
in which programs and faculty members will have to change if teacher education
is to have any impact on learning in schools.
It's not just a matter of English/Language Arts teacher preparation -- it's
all teacher education. The longer I work with children and their teachers,
the more I see the impact of standardization on individual learners. In
the intervening two years, the Government of Manitoba has instituted a wide-ranging
program of standardized testing -- at grades three, six, nine and twelve!
The provincial Department of Education has worked closely with the other
three western Canadian provinces to create standardized curriculum for the
four western provinces (a precursor for a pan-Canadian curriculum which
has been a firm objective of the CMEC (Council of Ministers of Education
of Canada). Funding to schools and universities has continued to be cut.
Legislation has been passed which eliminates the rights of teachers to engage
in collective bargaining, to participate in curriculum development, to have
much of a say about the conditions in which they work.
As far as the Faculty of Education is concerned a recent letter from the
Minister of Education to the Deans and Heads of the various teacher education
programs in Manitoba makes it clear that much of the decision-making regarding
teacher preparation and continuing education could be taken out of `our'
April 3, 1997 from the Minister of Education
...In moving towards implementation I will be referring a number of related
issues to two bodies which I believe are well placed to provide insight
and helpful advice: the Council on Post-Secondary Education, and the Board
of Teacher Education and Certification.
The Council on Post-Secondary Education will be asked to advise on the
- That the current delivery sites for teacher education
be reviewed, and recommend whether or not the present configuration of
sites be maintained or altered;
- That the current intake of students into teacher
education programs be reviewed, and recommendations be provided as to whether
this number should be maintained, expanded, or diminished;
- That the feasibility and desirability of a common
graduate studies program in Education among the University of Manitoba,
Brandon University, and the University of Winnipeg be reviewed and assessed.
The Board of Teacher Education and Certification will be asked
to study and report on the following:
- Given that the practicum component of the teacher
education program is integral to the successful preparation of an aspiring
teacher, how can the practicum be improved? What linkages need to be in
place between student teacher, faculty member, principal, and cooperating
teacher to ensure that the in-school experience is mutually beneficial
- Moving from 120 credit hours to 150 credit hours
should not mean more of the same. How can curriculum content in the teacher
education program be made more relevant? What changes would BOTEC (Board
of Teacher Education and Certification) suggest to the academic/professional
studies portion of the program to better prepare young teachers for life
after university and in our school classrooms? What advisory/monitoring
structure would BOTEC suggest to ensure that the recommended changes are
in fact implemented and updated as necessary?
In view of the fact that implementation of the
150 credit hours model is targeted for September 1998, a prompt
response to these questions is desired. I am asking for both bodies
to give me their replies by or prior to October 30, 1997. ...
Now this is an interesting kettle of fish! I joined
this conversation four years ago. Nothing absolutely nothing has changed
in that time. These were the very issues on the table at the first BOTEC
meeting I attended in June 1993.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh -- the Minister has f-i-n-a-l-l-y agreed
to increase the number of credit hours for teacher certification -- this
will permit the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba to orchestrate
a two-year after-degree B.Ed. Will that help the deliberations? Not much,
I shouldn't imagine. The players at the table are still the same -- the
Department of Education, the Faculties of Education, the Manitoba Teachers
Society, the superintendents and trustees -- all with various vested interests
and quite different views of what should count in the preparation of teachers.
A September 1998 implementation? For that to occur
BOTEC would have to agree on what elements should be in an initial preparation
program, who would be responsible for dealing with them, what `courses'
should be offered, etc. Given the membership of the group and the fact that
these discussions have been going on long before I was a direct participant,
I don't hold out much hope for BOTEC being able to reach any agreement.
That leaves the Minister free to lay out a program of teacher education
from within her Department. Whether this current Conservative government
would actually do that remains to be seen but given recent changes to education
in Ontario, for example, it's not inconceivable.
Yes, teacher education is in a terrible muddle. With many faculty members
wedded to a transmission/expert model of teaching, with the government grabbing
control of the teacher education agenda, with the Teachers Society fighting
for survival, a thoughtful, reflective, restructuring of teacher education
isn't likely. The kind of changes I believe we need aren't going to see
the light of day.
Is there any hope for teachers then? The answer is as it has always been
-- individual teachers, caring, motivated by their concern for their students,
engaged in developing and changing themselves. Can I as a teacher educator
do anything to help them? I'm convinced that the underlying problems in
teacher education are essentially political, not educational, and any efforts
at resolution must be political. That means each teacher educator assuming
responsibility to work collaboratively with those teachers interested in
transforming themselves. It's as simple and as difficult as that!