Welcome to the Specialization!

As I listened to the talks given by the professors during the Sachs Lecture Series during the 2014-2015 school year, I recalled my own teacher education. There were so many doorways of possibilities opened to me during my teacher preparation, but as I listened to the eminent professors articulate their visions about what teacher education could be and should be, I was struck by how many doors were closed, or never even appeared in the wall for me. Teacher education–as a process, as a field of scholarly inquiry, as a form of social justice–has so much potential, and so much room for growth.

For me as an aspiring scholar and lifetime teacher, the launch of the doctoral specialization in Teacher Education is not just a new set of courses to guide my practices with pre-service teachers and future research. It represents an opportunity to become a part of a community across Teachers College that is committed to educating teachers together, rather than in isolation.

Please look around the website, email us if you have any questions about the specialization, and feel free to comment here on your experiences as a pre-service teacher, or what you hope to learn from the doctoral specialization!
–Jenna Morvay
2nd Year Doctoral Student
Research Assistant, TCTI

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One thought on “Welcome to the Specialization!

  1. One topic worth additional exploration is a discussion of the possible defenses for the various attacks teacher education receives, and how we as teacher educators can take part in these exchanges. Such attacks are, increasingly, more frequent and intense. A particular egregious example of an organization making its name by laying waste to teacher preparation is the National Council on Teacher Quality, which Dr. Pallas recently wrote about on the TC web site at http://www.tc.columbia.edu/articles/2015/october/tcs-aaron-pallas-the-national-council-on-teacher-qualitys-teacher-education-r/.

    Dr. Pallas is right to criticize the NCTQ reports on teacher preparation. The NCTQ’s methodology is laughable. They assign ratings based on reviews of course lists and descriptions, numbers of hours of clinical experiences, program web sites, and any other information they can coax teacher preparations into providing them. To my knowledge, they rarely, if ever, talk to participants in these programs, either pre-service teachers or program faculty and staff. Would you be able to evaluate a university, or even a single professor, simply by reviewing documents related to their programs or courses? I guess you could, but I’m not sure what your evaluation would really say about the experience of studying in the program or course. It would tell you something about paperwork, at least.

    The main example provided by Dr. Pallas deals with one of the teacher preparation programs housed in the Program in Social Studies. According to Pallas, NCTQ assigned low marks to the program, claiming it lacked content-specific courses that are required of any certification program in New York State. These requirements are in plain sight, located online and presumably in any institution preparing candidates for certification.

    Is this the best way to resist efforts by individuals and organizations like NCTQ to discredit teacher preparation programs? Essentially, Dr. Pallas is making an apples to apples argument; while NCTQ says the social studies program in question lacks some of the apples, Pallas claims it does, just by virtue of the fact that it is an approved program in New York. Nothing he’s saying is wrong, and I don’t mean to suggest that the Program in Social Studies has a program lacking in this or that.

    What about the substance of these programs? The quality of teaching? The kinds and types of field experiences, and how those experiences are interrogated and integrated into previous experiences with classrooms and teaching? The kinds of information that wouldn’t be present in a mere list of courses or certification programs? To find out information on what I’ve called substance, one would need to delve far deeper into the experiences provided by teacher preparation programs, and how these experiences prepare pre-service teachers for the challenges and complexities they will face in schools. NCTQ doesn’t want to involve themselves in such intricate research, as this would require far more effort, and might refute many of their criticisms of preparation programs, perhaps in many programs across the country.

    While I hope to get much out of the teacher specialization program, I definitely want to walk away being able to think about these criticisms, and defend against them–or even levy them, where appropriate. I, like the NCTQ and others, have been guilty in the past of making judgments about programs based on very limited experiences with them. It’s time to better understand teacher preparation programs, rather than simply rip them to shreds and subject them to alternative, easy entry programs. Our specialization will hopefully provide opportunities to do this, and much more.

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