This past week, I participated in the 2011 Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C). Bringing together approximately 2500 people (PreK-12 teachers, technologists, vendors, administrators, and higher education faculty/students) from across Pennsylvania, PETE&C enables important conversations to occur around the use of technology to support the teaching and learning process.

One of the most interesting conversations I had the opportunity to engage in was around the topic of pre-service teacher education. Dr. James Bolton (Edinboro University) and Mr. Jarrin Sperry (Conneaut School District) facilitated a session titled Pre-service Teacher Prep – What needs to change? In this session, Bolton and Sperry provided question prompts and allowed everyone to contribute, both in-person, and through a backchannel conversation (once you are in the page, scroll down to see the beginning of the conversation). In this post, I will highlight the main takeaways and suggest appropriate action.

The conversation opened with a question for the administrators, “What questions are you asking teacher candidates (on a job interview)?” And, more specifically, what are the candidates responding when asked the question, how do you use technology in your classroom? The general consensus among administrators in the room was that candidates listed PowerPoint as the main use of technology in their classrooms. But, as the backchannel posts suggest, “isn’t ppt so 1994? PPT promotes passive learning.” What then, should we be asking pre-service teachers? Should we ask “show me your PLN (Personal Learning Network)?” Or is the question not about pre-service teachers at all? “Do me a favor. Teach new students how to connect with others.” This last statement suggests that this is not an issue with pre-service teachers, but with teacher educators.

What is the future of pre-service teacher education? What should we be teaching in pre-service teacher education? The answers in the discussion fell into two main categories: content vs. process. Many participants suggested that we should hire “coaches for our Higher Ed Faculty” and that we need a standards-based system to ensure that all of our pre-service teachers are coming out with the same skill-set. The other participants suggested that we should “create lifelong learners” using experience, project, problem-based learning” and require “student teachers to have digital portfolios.” And, Higher Ed Faculty should “start modeling the expectations.”

I think the future of pre-service teacher education is a combination of the two, but different. Let me explain…. a model of expertise developed by Kayoko Inagaki and the late Giyoo Hatano is useful to illustrate my point. In the model, routine expertise is distinguished from adaptive expertise in that routine experts “develop a core set of competencies that they apply throughout their lives with greater and greater efficiency” (Bransford et al., 2006, p. 26). This is similar to the medical and legal/judicial professions, where it is important for doctors and lawyers to pass bar exams that test specific knowledge. Throughout their careers, doctors and lawyers remain lifelong learners, but they develop greater efficiency with the same content. Adaptive experts “are much more likely to evolve their core competencies and continually expand the breadth and depth of their expertise as the need arises or as their interests demand” (2006, p. 26). Because of the ever changing fields of technology and the learning sciences, pre-service teachers must be trained to be adaptive experts. Yes, pre-service teachers take praxis tests, but pre-service teacher education must involve evidence that pre-service teachers have become adaptive experts. Standards are still in place, but the emphasis is on adaptive expertise, not content.

At the 2011 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference in Philadelphia in June, Dr. Bolton and Mr. Sperry will facilitate another conversation around this topic. Be there! Or if you cannot make it, I will get you caught up with a follow up post on this topic.

In the meantime, what do you think? Write a comment and join the conversation either here or on the backchannel.

Bransford, J., Barron, B., Pea, R., Meltzoff, A., Kuhl, P., Bell, P., Stevens, R., Schwartz, D., Vye, N., Reeves, B., Roschelle, J., Sabelli, N. (2006). Foundations and opportunities for an interdisciplinary science of learning. In R. Keith Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

This posting is cross-listed on the Krause Innovation Studio site.

The Future of Pre-Service Teacher Education?

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