University, the seat of early calls for reform in teacher
education, remains a leader in improving the preparation
Its five-year program, launched in the early 1990s, includes a bachelor's degree and a postbaccalaureate internship and ensures that students who want to teach are shortchanged on neither a liberal education nor hands-on teaching practice. Other MSU innovations are new and evolving, proving that self-improvement must be ongoing.
"It's a very ambitious place," says Suzanne
Wilson, chair of the Department of Teacher
Education at the university's College of Education.
"You have to try things, find out what doesn't work,
and then figure out the next step."
Students take only five education classes as undergraduates,
focusing mainly on general subjects.
To give candidates a context for their studies, however,
each education course entails twenty to thirty
hours of fieldwork. Throughout the fifth year, every
candidate serves as an intern in a school, gradually
working up to lead teaching and then returning to
the university to debrief and study further.
A coordinated platoon of support staff
guides the interns. Field instructors, part-time
faculty with little obligation for academic
research, observe the interns and
provide feedback. Cluster leaders support
and supervise field instructors. And collaborating
K-12 teachers -- typically
handpicked by the university instructors
most involved in the public schools -- give
interns daily advice in the classroom.
"The internship year helps us work
with students about things that you
wouldn't see in a four-year program,"
Wilson says. "It's a hard first couple of years
in teaching, and we're with them when other
teacher-education programs are not."
The university had once been what Wilson
calls a degree mill for teachers. In the 1980s,
Group, a coalition
by those at
MSU, prompted the
school to refocus on
with K-12 schools.
in the making
include a three-year
for a New
Era grant from the Carnegie Corporation of
New York and the Ford and Annenberg foundations.
Through the pilot program, now in its third
year, carefully selected and trained mentors meet
weekly with groups of new teachers in the Lansing
schools. Mentors are released from teaching one day a
week, when they observe their charges.
"It's way different from models where the mentor
just pats you on the back or is there for you once
in a while after school," says program director
MSU is also developing a program tailored
to candidates with a passion for urban teaching,
as well as scholarships for Detroit high
school students who pledge to teach for at
least three years in city settings. Enrollment
in the Urban Educators Cohort Program
jumped from thirty-eight in its first year (last year)
to fifty-four this fall. "I think we're onto something,"
Naturally, faculty are busily examining
how well these inventions
work and how to make them better.
This is just a beginning.
Location: East Lansing, Michigan
Degrees conferred: Five-year bachelor's, master's
Annual graduating class: 480
Time in the field: 1 year, plus more than 100 hours in previous courses
Induction and mentoring pilot program
Urban Educators Cohort Program
Recruitment and scholarships for Detroit high school students
Grace Rubenstein is a senior producer at Edutopia.