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Practice and Theory in Teacher Education

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Adeline Emihe
May 29, 2015

Contemporary education policy and discussions have centered on improving teacher education in order to provide students with the best education possible. Concurrently, educational research provides new tools for teacher effectiveness and students’ success. These processes have greatly influenced policies and laws such as the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.N. Millennium Goal of Universal Primary Education and the broad descriptions of expected attributes of the effective teacher. However, questions remain as to how to effectively enhance theory and practice for the preparation of professional and reflective practitioners.

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It is pertinent to generally look at interventions in teacher education that would be appropriate at different levels. Perspectives into new areas of research that promote appropriate teacher development and professionalism is also needful. According to Fred Korthagen, in his Teaching and Teacher Education article, “In Search of the Essence of a Good Teacher: Towards a More Holistic Approach in Teacher Education,” he recommends a  comprehensive teacher education package that promotes the theoretical insights and requisite aspects of the process of teacher practices relative to student learning.

Analysts propose that a teacher education package should comprise criteria for initial entry into education, induction processes across school levels, content in areas that affect child development such as educational psychology, student learning, assessment, technology integration, instructional delivery, lesson plans’ techniques, etc. New areas of research that enhance theory and practice should be included in the study of special class provision in primary and second-level schools that yield valuable insights into the nature of provision for students with special needs.

Researchers suggest the inclusion of school, teacher and student experiences in the integrated classroom teaching (ICT) and the school completion program (ICP). The ICP is designed to promote school engagement, retention and the provision of additional funding and support toward schools serving disadvantaged populations. Additionally, teacher education must incorporate the impact of community and family status experiences on a child’s well-being, the ability of the child to transition into and through the various levels of education.

Administrators have emphasized specialized training for teachers in specific areas of subject, content and expertise. Student teaching and classroom instructional practices, competency in assessment of students’ progress, administration of students’ learning with requisite instruments, writing reports and knowledge of content are very important for educators. Pre-training before the job is also necessary.

In his book, Teachers for Our Nation’s schools, John Goodlad writes that a major part of pre-service teacher education has now become the responsibility of the schools. Researchers insist that contemporary teacher education programs must prepare prospective teachers for the realities of the classroom. In-service training of educators as a complement to pre-service teacher education should comprise workshops and professional development sessions that are carried out on the job. This is the best training that is corrective, improvement-based, with on-the-spot feedback from student learning activities and teachers’ instructional actions.

Commendably, current teacher education should target pivotal interventions appropriately applied at the different levels of change in student learning experience and referred to as “response to intervention” (RTI). Initially, it fulfilled the practice aspect of teaching but has progressed to become an academic and behavioral approach that targets all students. Research suggests that as a multi-level approach, it aids students and is proposed as an alternative to IQ testing.

Although the methods of identifying students with learning disabilities have been controversial for years, Fred Korthagen, Jos Kessels and Bob Koster insist the RTI process brings more clarity to the specific learning disability (SLD) category of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004). The RTI is implemented on three tiers and support systems. 

Tier 1 provides all students with core classroom instruction based on differentiation and utilizes scientifically researched intervention strategies, materials and techniques to promote positive behavior.

Tier 2 targets interventions that offer more support to students who are not responding to tier one techniques and focuses on monitoring and scaffolding. It is presumed effective because it is driven by educational psychology theories, data based learning and check-in, check out plans (CICO) implemented as effective behavioral education program (BEP). CICO curtails students’ behaviors and help them rely on school, home, and themselves for support in reaching their behavioral goals. 

Tier 3 strategies are more intensive and target students who require more intense, explicit and individualized instruction. This targeted instruction is delivered for a minimum of two 30-minute sessions every week for nine to 12 weeks. 

In conclusion, the requisite qualities of a good teacher include the ability of the teacher to combine synergistical and practical terms as well as the positive qualities enumerated above.

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