This is in response to a blog post with the same title. The title attracted me I’ve just started work within a teacher preparation program and have some concerns about such programs being irrelevant.
Very briefly, the post reports on a study the interviewed 39 US-based national award winning teachers (part of this project). The aim being to learn about what worked for the top teachers.
31% of the 39 completed a traditional four year teacher certification program. Online 10% (4) of the 39 agreed that their official teacher training was relevant to their current practice.
It appears that these teachers came from a number of fields and that their training in that field influenced their teaching more heavily than teacher training.
I like the post because it adds some evidence to argue against an over-emphasis on standardisation and credentialism of teaching. i.e. if you haven’t done X, Y and Z you can’t be registered as a teacher. Not that is inherently a bad idea, it’s just when it gets taken to extremes…
And I don’t think anyone could argue against the ineffectiveness of traditional professional develop as illustrated by the photo in the original post. But…
This study doesn’t really establish causation.
It doesn’t answer, and probably doesn’t aim to answer, questions like:
- Are these teachers national award winning teachers because of their non-traditional background?
- Are there other teachers who have non-traditional backgrounds that are not national award winning teachers?
- Are there non-traditional background teachers who are very bad teachers?
- Will ignoring traditional teacher training and focusing on non-traditional training create a greater percentage of good teachers?
- Do teachers with non-traditional backgrounds succeed in the current system because of the nature of the system or some other factors?
The question of purpose
To figure out if something is irrelevant, the question has to be asked “irrelevant for what?”. What’s the purpose of teacher training. The purpose of traditional teacher training may not be to produce the type of teachers who win national awards. I can quite easily see a few educational bureaucrats being quite happy with the relevance of traditional teacher training.
Traditional teacher training certainly has its flaws. As does traditional training for just about every field. Whether or not its irrelevant is probably another type of question.