Not knowing what they don't know

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Like novices in any field, new teachers face the challenge of not knowing what they don't know. Seems obvious, but this has real implications for how their knowledge and skills grow and develop. New teachers and teacher candidates need concrete, explicit feedback on what they need to improve on and how to make those improvements. Observations provide the perfect opportunity to provide such feedback.  

The ACE assessment system TNTP uses with its fellows, just released as part of their new Leap Year report shows just how to put this into action. They've added more frequent observations for their new teachers and ensure that following each observation, teachers receive specific feedback on how they can improve. We were especially excited to see such specific feedback in the observation rubric address classroom management, an area where all too often new teachers use trial and error to figure out what works.

Unfortunately, through our Teacher Prep Review  we are finding that not all traditional teacher prep programs provide such explicit feedback to their teacher candidates. But the picture is not uniformly grim. Some programs we examine are structuring their student teaching experiences so that candidates receive frequent and explicit feedback on key classroom management skills. These programs serve as exemplars for others to follow and we look forward to highlighting them in our upcoming Review.