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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Essentials for Educators: Reinventing the Well-Prepared Teacher

This Wisconsin college puts teachers-in-training to the test.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
Related Tags: Teacher Development

More than twenty years ago, Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, realized that a well-prepared teacher is someone who can do more than just get good grades and pass traditional tests in undergraduate education courses.

The urban liberal arts college for women in Milwaukee remade its entire approach to teacher education to focus on thirteen essential abilities that teachers need to succeed in the classroom (eight are required of all Alverno undergraduates, such as the ability to communicate effectively; five are specific to education students, such as the ability to diagnose learning difficulties and the ability to coordinate resources to support learning goals).

There are no grades or final exams in the undergraduate teacher preparation program; instead, students demonstrate what they know in other ways. To show that they can coordinate resources, for example, Alverno students might download fine arts resources from an electronic community network and integrate them in an elementary curriculum for arts, physical education, and social studies. In a math methods course, students demonstrate conceptualization skills by approaching a problem from three different perspectives: arithmetically, geometrically, and algebraically. Student presentations are videotaped and reviewed by the student and her professors to identify areas needing further study.

The future teachers also spend a great deal of time practicing the thirteen essential skills in local classrooms, often in Milwaukee's inner-city neighborhoods. Alverno alumni are prepared to continue learning throughout their careers and many choose to work in the city's most challenging schools.

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