Professional Learning

David Imig: Thoughts on Teacher Preparation

September 1, 2001

David G. Imig, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), describes effective models of teacher education.

1. What are the different models of teacher preparation?

Right now there are two or three different models that have emerged. I think one of the models that has emerged very clearly is one in which students complete an undergraduate experience and an immersion in a discipline with all the subject matter content that a person is going to need to function effectively in the classroom. The completion of that then leads you to a high-quality teacher education program. It is the master's program. It is the Master of Arts of teaching program. It is almost a post-baccalaureate -- that is, a model that's emerging. Another model would still be undergraduate. It is the undergraduate in which there is an integration of content and the teacher education throughout the program. And a little place like Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is an example of that, in which there is a deep interaction between arts and science faculty and teacher educators throughout the duration of its students' enrollment in the four-year program.

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2. What role does field experience play in teacher education?

Student teaching is always the high point in a prospective teacher's experience in teacher education. Fifty years ago it was the high point of teacher education, and it remains so because, I think, that's the first time that you really have the responsibility for your own set of students, and now you're able to demonstrate what, in fact, you can do.

And so there's this reward of being in charge and having a peer or a mentor who gives you feedback, and you're able to interact with students. But more importantly, you're able to interact with the university people and the school people toward the end of knowing just how effective you are. The field experience, I think, is increasingly important, and we're trying to find ways in teacher education to make that a more consistent and persistent part of the teacher education program.

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3. What is a professional development school and why is it a good model for teacher preparation?

One of the most intriguing developments in teacher education over the last few years has been the emergence of the professional development school. It is a structure that in some sense serves as an exemplar or a model institution between the university and the K-12 school setting. It is a K-12 school, but it is a school that really has four purposes: It is a school that on the one hand serves as a model or a demonstration site. In this school, good practice takes place.

A second thing that a professional development school does is help provide a venue for beginning teachers -- for students in teacher education -- to really understand how to become a good teacher, to observe good practices, to watch exemplary or outstanding teachers.

A third thing that occurs in a professional development school is very robust professional development. This is a site to which a practicing teacher in a school district can come and see outstanding teaching taking place, to examine issues. If you will, it's a derivative of the old teacher center notion, but here in the professional development school is a center for good teaching for practicing teachers.

And finally the fourth -- and probably the most controversial, and yet a most important function of a professional development school -- is a place that shows it can make a difference -- a place that takes on the challenges of demonstrating with a wide diversity of the student population that they in fact can promote student learning.

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4. Why is ongoing support for new teachers in their first three years so critical?

There is the continuing concern about the first three years of teaching, and that concern has to do with the fact that we know there is an extraordinarily high attrition rate at the end of that period. We know that people become dissatisfied because they feel that they're less effective. There is some recent research that says teachers are far more effective going into schools than they are in their second year. And so one of the things we've got to do is create an infrastructure or a support structure for beginning teachers. And it allows them not only to maintain their effectiveness of the first year but to enable them to grow and be even more effective.

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5. How does the Internet facilitate the mentoring of beginning teachers?

One of the intriguing things that's just beginning to emerge that I've had an opportunity to look in on is a system that is increasingly using the Internet for this purpose. Around the alternative preparation program in New York City, there are now beginning to emerge a set of retired teacher-educators and others who are interacting with these beginning teachers and essentially giving them the opportunity to try out ideas. These retired faculty now are able to interact with people and talk about the problems or the needs, all the way from, "How do you organize a classroom?" to "How, in fact, do you present a concept and pursue a concept?" to even some basic questions around assessment or diagnostic work in terms of determining where students are and how you move them further.

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