What did you learn during your teacher education?

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A few days ago, I tweeted out a horribly typo-ridden poll that gained quite a number of votes. It should have read, “During your time training as a teacher, were any ideas presented to you as facts that you now believe to be untrue?”

It is hardly scientific. A sample from people who follow me or who follow people likely to retweet my poll is not a representative sample of the teaching workforce. We are constantly being told that the preoccupations of educators on Twitter are not shared by the majority of teachers and I am inclined to agree. Nevertheless, around 500 responses from people who are at least pretending to be teachers agreed that they had essentially been taught falsehoods.

I wonder whether other professions feel this way about their professional training?

The quality of teacher education is a difficult issue to grasp because it is hard to research the totality of teacher education courses. If I point out, for instance, that a particular university was teaching learning styles in its teacher education courses, at least until very recently, a critic may reasonably suggest that this is a rare exception. We cannot know whether this is typical without wider research and yet it would be hard to collect, digest and synthesise the curriculum materials of lots of different education courses.

A more systematic way to evaluate the quality of teacher education courses is to survey the knowledge of trainee teachers. We should be able to infer something about the quality of education courses from what new teachers know.

I was reminded of a recent article by Jennifer Stephenson of Macquarie University who sought to review papers published on the knowledge of Australian preservice teachers. Stephenson obtained data from 52 peer-reviewed articles and it makes for depressing reading. The 52 studies identified a number of holes in content knowledge and knowledge of teaching. However, we should avoid drawing firm conclusions because the studies were often limited in scope and in some cases it was not clear that the sample of preservice teachers was representative.

This is an area that clearly needs more rigorous research.

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8 thoughts on “What did you learn during your teacher education?

  1. There is a Catch-22 at work here. Whenever one suggests such a thing (that teacher training courses are full of unhelpful nonsense), the Ed academics yell in perfect chorus “Anecdote is not data!”. Quite correct. And yet this is not the sort of thing that anyone *within* Ed academia is ever going to gather any data on, for obvious reasons. So how do we ever know for sure?

  2. I was in a unique position of being an experienced language teacher trainer who had to complete a pre-service programme when I returned to Australia.

    I was very disappointed to see things such as learning styles, nebulous lectures on “using data”, and the “ideologically-charged common sense” that fueled units such as “transforming learning through ict” (which was essentially a unit in generating a list of apps, educational or otherwise).

    I wonder if the main issue is the disconnect between who we pay to train our teachers, and those who pay our teachers.

  3. When teaching French and English from the late 70s it was thought that grammar put students off.Numerous departmental meetings approved this view.All learning was “contextualised”.
    When I fought this my points were dismissed by people who had been taught the rules of grammar.Such hypocrisy and folly.An underestimation of student potential and unfair as private schools taught grammar.Things are changing now(I hope)Retired

    1. I don’t think so, sadly.

      Whenever I encounter young language teachers freshly out of Uni, they’ve all (and I mean all) had the whole “all lessons must be communicative!” mantra constantly drilled into their brains. It’s left to the senior teachers in their department to drill this out of them over their first couple of years, so that the kids can actually learn something.

      1. I think you’ll probably find that communicative lessons are based on behaviorist models of learning, which do have some credibility. Contemporary language teacher training actually emphasizes the role of both direct input and open ended fluency practice…so anyone who ignores the role of both does so at their peril

    2. Not sure that things are changing. I learnt French grammar in the sixties (so could generate sentences etc) but not English grammar which was learned by ‘osmosis’ – I read a lot so got a lot of osmosis, others did not. Not sure what Modern Languages is like these days (ten years ago ML departments were still teaching contextualised language, not grammar) but the criticism of teaching English grammar to primary school children is fierce, which makes me think that teachers do not want to teach grammar (probably as they don’t know any – my grammar was immeasurable improved by linguistics, but even so my writing skill is less than my partner’s, who was taught English grammar at school). Sorry to be depressing, but there it is.

  4. It’s worse, not only was I taught falsehoods during my training as a teacher, my trainers were aware they were falsehoods.

    The first day of my teacher’s accreditation program was devoted to learning styles. We spend the entire day discussing it, taking little tests and determining each other learning style, reading theory about it, etc… At the end of the day the trainers admitted that the most recent research suggested that paying attention to our students learning style didn’t pay off, but that they still thought it was useful to know about it.

  5. Hattie’s research indicates Teacher Training and Teacher Subject Knowledge have a low effect size. But this conflicts with his Teacher Professional Development which has a high effect size.

    A deeper look at the studies Hattie used shows the studies were not about Teacher Training at all but rather USA Teacher Certification after at least 3 years of teaching! Many of the SAME studies Hattie used for Teacher Training were also used for Teacher Subject Knowledge. A look at these studies shows the same problem for much educational research – what was being measured and how and is this consistent across other studies that are being combined or compared?

    In the case of Teacher Training, this is an example of what was measured – “student achievement was represented by a single state-level mean and paired with the proportion of certified teachers in the state.”

    The certification is expensive and takes a lot of time to prepare, so many experienced teachers do not go through the process. Also, school districts in poorer areas do not require certification as there is major turnover and a shortage of teachers.

    The cost of certification is between $18,000- $31,000 per teacher and about 400 hours work. One of the aims of the original research was to determine whether the cost and time of certification are worth the effort. The low effect size indicates NO.

    So NONE of these papers is about Teacher Training, yet Hattie has included them in this category.

    More details here – https://visablelearning.blogspot.com/p/teacher-training.html

    This shows teachers need to be critical consumers of research and for teacher training and subject knowledge, we are a long way away from making any definitive conclusions.

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