Traditional and initial pre-service teacher education programs play an important role in preparing educators for the realities of the classroom. The program provider responsibilities include helping teacher candidates develop knowledge about content, pedagogy, and learners while at the same time nurturing dispositions that lead to a successful career. However, pre-service teachers enter education programs with existing beliefs and experiences that influence their ideas on what teaching entails. These conceptions pose a challenge to teacher education programs working to prepare teachers ready to advance teaching past wholesale, traditional approaches that fail to meet the unique needs and diverse abilities of learners (Darling-Hammond, 1996).
More issues teacher education programs face are poor reputations of having a theory-practice disconnect and a lack of impact on teacher preparedness. For example, locally in Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE, 2015) surveyed 1,036 teachers who had five or less years of experience and reported (a) 50% were not prepared to enter the classroom, (b) 42% were not prepared to address the needs of diverse learners, and (c) 49% did not know how to analyze data to set goals and plan instruction (p. 2).
Informal feedback gained through personal communication with area in-service teachers confirm that teachers believe they their preparation programs did not provide enough opportunities to practice what “real teachers” do in local diverse schools. One solution Louisiana policy makers hope to mandate is that teacher preparation programs afford opportunities for pre-service teachers to engage in longer residencies with “expert mentor teachers.” Although the solution i...
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... in a way that would qualify it as a high quality professional learning (PL). According to Desimone (2009), the essential features of professional development include: (1) active learning, (2) collective participation, (3) content focus, (4) coherence, and (5) duration over time. In addition, effective PL experiences are reflective (Caro-Bruce, Flessner, Khler, & Zeichner, 2007; Webster-Wright, 2009), relevant and situated in authentic practice (Croft, Coggshall, Dolan, Powers, & Killion, 2010; Putnam & Borko, 2000; Webster-Wright, 2009), and prove to positively affect student learning outcomes (Guskey, 2002). Finally, PL that organically emerges from practice and allows teachers to collaboratively solve problems in their practice leads to generation of knowledge and inquiry as a stance teachers take to improve practice and schooling (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999).
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