Redesigning a teacher education program: hopes, motivations, promises, and realities

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Virginia Tech

Like a significant number of teacher Education Programs, Pinetree College encountered difficulty meeting new, more rigorous standards put into place in 1988 by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). As a result of failing to meet some standards in the spring of 1989, significant changes in the Teacher Education Program occurred. These changes began with the development and articulation of a conceptual framework, the informed, thoughtful decision-maker (I.T.D-M). The resulting program led to Pinetree College having accreditation of their Teacher Education Program restored by NCATE in the spring of 1991.

The purpose of this study is to attempt to answer the question, what evidence shows that the teacher education K-8 multi-subjects curriculum at Pinetree College serves to develop the behaviors, characteristics and skills that are thought to be important for teachers who are informed, thoughtful decision-makers? This study describes the influences the conceptual framework has had on the program, the faculty who deliver it, and the students who are served by it. The participants in this study include K-8 multi-subject student teachers, faculty who teach required courses in the program, and public school personnel who work with student teachers. Data include program documents, required textbooks, assigned activities, course syllabi, transcribed audio interviews with faculty, public school personnel and student teachers and journals written by student teachers during their professional semester. These data sources were analyzed for the purpose of learning what the nature of the faculty’s understanding of the I.T.D-M. conceptual framework is; how they provide opportunities for students to learn about classroom decision making; how students come to understand the I.T.D-M. framework; how that understanding influences their practice, and finally, how public school personnel perceives Pinetree College student teachers’ skills in making informed decisions as they experience the demands of the classroom.

Findings indicate that multi-subjects K-8 student teachers do indeed make preactive and interactive classroom decisions. They report that their understanding of the I.T.D-M. conceptual framework came from faculty who teach required education courses. Faculty report providing experiences which promote an understanding of the framework and practical application of its basic tenets. Public school personnel view Pinetree student teachers in a positive light. They report that recent student teachers are as well prepared or exceed earlier student teachers’ level of competence. This suggests that the multi-subject curriculum and the faculty who implement it provide a context in which students develop a repertoire of skills, behaviors and characteristics that promote the development of a thoughtful, informed individual who makes effective classroom decisions.