TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Incoherent by design

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When we first began analyzing teacher prep programs for the Teacher Prep Review, we were surprised to find some really big differences in how well programs housed on the same campus did on NCTQ's standards. An undergraduate program might score quite high while the same ed school's graduate program got a low score.

We decided to back out our standards and simply tally what teacher prep programs are actually teaching. No value judgments. No commentary. No rankings. Just the bare facts.

What are the topics covered by teacher preparation programs and in what span of coursework?

Apparently each can be up for grabs in elementary programs—even when talking about undergraduate and graduate programs housed in the same ed school on the same university campus.

In a new NCTQ brief, Incoherent by Design: What you should know about differences between undergraduate and graduate training of elementary teachers, we quantify the fundamentally chaotic nature of elementary teacher prep for initial certification, which is by far the most popular choice of individuals who consider teaching.

For example, at DePaul University (IL), the graduate elementary program requires 56 credits and the undergraduate program requires 69 credits, almost a quarter more. Moreover, courses (or large parts of courses) in the undergraduate program pertain to five topics not apparent in graduate program coursework (children's literature, classroom management, special education, health, and elementary math content), whereas the graduate program requires a research course.

What explains the divergence? There are a number of reasons, but we believe that foremost is teacher educators' focus on development of a professional identity and a capacity for lifelong professional learning centered on self-reflective practice. Unlike training on defined content and skills, development of an identity and the capacity for self-reflection can be cultivated equally well in a variety of coursework configurations.