Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Education School Promotes Teacher Competency, But Questions Remain

The American public school system has long struggled to recruit and retain high-performing teachers, particularly in schools in lower income areas where there are less resources to go around yet more obstacles to learning to overcome. Another issue that needs improvement is that there there are not enough "high-performing" school teachers to begin with.

Critics believe that this is due to the lack of competency-based graduate level teacher education schools. As more and more teachers have some type of specialized graduate degree in education, with about 185,000 Master's in Education degrees awarded in 2010, issues with graduate education degrees have become more apparent. One planned school, created by outspoken teacher-education critic Arthur Levine, seeks to focus on critical competencies achieved rather than the amount of time spent in class learning how to teach.

The principal of establishing competency for educators may hold just as much value for those who teach in higher education as it does for those who teach in primary and secondary settings. Many faculty members at universities are in teaching positions because they are experts in their fields, but they are rarely required to demonstrate teaching competencies or educational standards. One group, , has proposed a competency-based system or teachers in higher education, including badges for mastering learning environments, assessment techniques, ethics, and leadership.
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Several problems with the school's proposed approach have yet to be reckoned with. First, the criteria for these competencies is nebulous, with no goals or practices specifically enumerated by the new school. Which competencies are critical, and what they are composed of, must be clearly delineated for both secondary and post-secondary educators.

Second, what is the best way to measure how good or competent a teacher is? Surely it has something to do with a unique ability to bring out the best in their students and to enable them to learn what they will need to succeed. However, although there are outcomes that reflect effective teaching, there is no set of accurate or quantifiable measurements to determine what effective or competent teaching is or how it is achieved. These issues are just as relevant for school-teachers as they are for higher education faculty.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the proposed school is an entirely online curriculum. This format gives freedom to future teachers to work at their own pace to achieve the competencies and skills deemed necessary to graduate, but it seems unlikely that an online learning curriculum with no social interaction between teachers and no experiences with students will prepare graduates for an extremely person-focused profession. Results remain to be seen.

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