For thousands of high school seniors, the winter break brings more than just dreams of their ensuing freedom as graduation nears; it brings news of college acceptance letters and emails. For those who applied early admission, the break brings relief from the grueling waiting game of whether their Dream School feels as good about them as they feel about the school.
Year after year, experts profess to have found the answer to making the most important decision of one's young life less stressful; but to no avail. Whether it's a new ranking of "The Best College Cafeterias," or "Colleges With Free Netflix Subscriptions," a lack of information is not the problem. Aspiring college students don't need more information, they need help making sense of it all. Students value data, but what they need most is the data that rankings like US News & World Report didn't measure (e.g. job placement, salaries, and level of debt). What if a tool was created that allowed aspiring educators applying to college or a graduate program to complete a profile and match them with a teacher preparation program based on personal interests?
Aspiring educators are no different. Tomorrow's teachers use everything from rankings to unsubstantiated word of mouth when deciding on a teacher preparation program. Choosing the right teacher preparation program for undergraduate or graduate school can make all the difference. The question is whether rankings of teacher preparation programs effectively match tomorrow's educators with the right program based on individual traits like their age, gender, and preference for online learning.
For some students, choosing the right date is easier than choosing the right school.
Consuming information about America's nearly 5,000 colleges and universities and matching students with the right school would be a lot easier if we applied the same innovation and analysis used by match-making sites like Tinder.
Tinder touts itself on being "like real life, but better." Tinder analyzes information based on a user profile to anonymously identify potential matches based on common interests, location, and friends in common. Here are a few examples of the questions Tinder users are asked when building a profile and how they can be applied to a teacher preparation program search:
- Gender: results could incorporate a "female student satisfaction" survey of a school like College Choice, or information about student safety
- Age: results could factor in rankings of "Best Colleges for Over 25 year olds" for non-traditional students
- Status: results could reflect programs that traditionally support students with the status of transfer, former military, and/or a mid-year enrollee
- Distance between you and match: results could reflect geographic interest for students who prefer to be close to home or further away, or students who prefer an urban environment to a rural one
A few questions Tinder does not ask but that could be incorporated in a profile include salary goals, career goals, liberal arts, interest in faith-based colleges, and interest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Researchers from the Gallup-Purdue Index Ranking call for more information about schools that offer "high-impact practices" - internships, undergraduate research, study abroad, writing-intensive classes, and interactions with professors - that could also be used when building a profile.
Tinder's analysis includes ranking the importance of personal characteristics to better filter matches and ensure a higher chance that a user finds matches. A similar final question ranking the importance of each question will increase the likelihood that the aspiring teacher is sent teacher preparation programs closest to his or her profile. The matchmaking tool can also be connected to one's LinkedIn or Facebook page to highlight friends who attended the same program.
Creating a student-centered tool to match aspiring educators with a teacher preparation program based on individual interests will not be easy for students nor for teacher preparation programs. The matchmaking tool would require students to reflect and answer honestly on what they value and why it's important. The matchmaking tool would also require teacher preparation programs to be more transparent and share information gathered from interviewing alums about their experience, salary, and job placement.
Today's students are tomorrow's teachers and it is imperative we meet them where they are. Right now students are waiting for answers. It's time we gave them some!
-- Curtis Valentine