In 1908, what's now known as Montclair State University began as
a modest two-year college focused on helping young women become
grade school teachers. A hundred years later, this New Jersey institution
offers 16,700-plus students degrees in the arts, sciences, business, and
VIDEO: A Learning Laboratory Prepares Tomorrow's Educators
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Universities such as this sometimes obscure their humble beginnings by
eliminating teacher-education programs or turning them into cash cows.
"That has never been the case at Montclair State," says Ada Beth Cutler,
dean of MSU's College of Education and Human Services, which applies
an interdisciplinary approach to innovations borne from the
needs of public schools.
The college's Center of Pedagogy, for example, is where representatives
from the education, arts, and sciences colleges and the teaching
programs' twenty-five partner school districts gather, primarily, to make
policy decisions about teacher preparation at MSU. The center
takes this all-hands-on-deck approach because the academic colleges
and partner schools play essential roles in teacher training.
"For our students to have a vision of teaching as something that is an
intellectually challenging and collaborative learning experience, they must have experiences in schools where teachers learn together," Cutler explains. Which means MSU faculty -- aside from instructing and mentoring education students -- often teach model classes and serve in residence at partner schools. In reverse,
those K-12 teachers who complete courses on critical thinking,
mentoring and coaching, and cultural responsiveness qualify
as clinical faculty.
All teacher candidates must complete at least one urban
field experience early in the program. During the senior or
culminating year, two semesters are usually spent in one
Guiding the students throughout their education
is the "Portrait of a Teacher," a twelve-point
declaration of what an educator should know and
do. It's informed by a nurturing pedagogy adaptive
to all learning styles and the notion that we live in an
imperfect democratic society. The "portrait" teacher is, in
brief, a community-oriented subject-area expert who advocates
for social justice.
Teacher candidates are continually assessed for adherence to
the portrait's standards. The result is a microscopic examination
of one's strengths and weaknesses so that graduates "essentially have
a portrait of themselves as teachers," says Jennifer Robinson, executive
director of the Center of Pedagogy.
Courtesy of Montclair State University
Most graduates end up working in New Jersey and, in surveys, typically
praise their preparation; any negative feedback serves as fodder for
program improvement -- an ongoing process that's resulted in numerous
awards. One, given by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher
Education in 2002, was for MSU's work in diversifying the teaching ranks.
Recent tweaks in the program have resulted in innovations such as the digital
backpack, a package equipped with a laptop, a digital camera, an MP3 player, and other technology tools used in partner schools by MSU
students and cooperating teachers.
The college deliberately chooses partner schools where student
teachers are considered junior faculty and where new teachers --
alumni among them -- are nurtured and encouraged to
take on leadership. It is through these partnerships, says
Robinson, that MSU underscores "the whole continuum
of teacher development."
Location: Montclair, New Jersey
Degrees conferred: Bachelor's and master's
Annual graduating class: 700
Time in the field: 2 semesters, plus 6 short-term placements
Center of Pedagogy, an interdisciplinary body establishing policies and practices