A former ed school dean weighs in on student teaching issues

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The findings of NCTQ's recent report, Student Teaching in the United States, shine a light on fundamental problems of teacher preparation — problems with which I am deeply familiar: I worked for 20 years as a professor and Dean of the School of Education at Dominican University of California, with my service as a representative on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing providing additional statewide perspective.

I found many teacher education faculty were often motivated by ideological bias rather than the best interests of teacher candidates and the students they will teach. I repeatedly found disconnects among the faculty, field supervisors hired to oversee student teachers, and the teachers in whose classrooms student teachers were placed. Moreover, the evaluation of teacher candidates is often a subjective process removed from student performance. In California, the majority of programs use a pass/fail grading policy for student teaching, with candidates submitting a portfolio of artifacts. In my experience, the portfolios are nothing more than scrapbook collections devoid of any assessment of the teaching and learning process.

How many programs actually counsel students out of the program or even fail candidates in student teaching? At Dominican University, we guarded against the possibility of inept teacher candidates being placed in classrooms for student teaching by using a process of "advancing students to student teaching." This meant that candidates who had completed professional coursework were only advanced to student teaching after an assessment of candidate competence by a committee of faculty and classroom teachers. Also, in a model similar to that used in nurse education programs, candidates' classroom performance was reviewed bi-weekly by a team of faculty, supervisors and classroom teachers.

In general, there is much that teacher preparation can learn from the medical profession about how to train practitioners. NCTQ's recommendation that smaller cohorts of more qualified teacher candidates should be mentored by higher-quality cooperating teachers is very relevant for a field now openly seeking to emulate the medical profession by enlarging the role of clinical practice in preparation.   

Barry Kaufman, Ed.D
BK Education Consulting Services
Barry Kaufman is a member of the Technical Panel of NCTQ's National Review of Teacher Prep