Professional Learning

The Key Components of Effective Teacher Preparation: The Experts Speak

January 29, 2007

Linda Darling-Hammond | C. Emily Feistritzer | Linda G. Roberts | Arthur E. Wise | Sonia Hernandez

Linda Darling-Hammond

Professor, Stanford University: School of Education

A good teacher education program, first of all, is coherent. That is, it has an idea about what good teaching is and then it organizes all of its course work, all of the clinical experiences, around that vision. So it's not just a random assortment of courses and experiences for people -- the courses are very much connected to practice as well as to theory. They say, in fact, that there's nothing as practical as a good theory, and in fact there is nothing as theoretical as good practice. And good teacher education programs have students in the classroom working constantly with expert master teachers while they're also teaching students for a variety of ideas about how students learn, about how to assess their learning, about effective teaching strategies that will allow them to build a repertoire.

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C. Emily Feistritzer

President, National Center for Education Information

I think the most important, top-of-the-line issue in teacher preparation and most important variable is getting prospective teachers into real-life classroom settings early with mentor teachers. I think those two components are absolutely critical in ensuring that a prospective teacher really learns how to teach and develops the competencies to teach. And there's research that supports that. You know, if you ask teachers what's most important to you in developing competence to teach, the number-one thing they cite is doing it. And the number-two thing is working with other teachers. So, field-based teacher education with mentor teachers, I think, is absolutely critical.

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Linda G. Roberts


When I looked at how universities and other programs are preparing teachers, what comes across as really important is an opportunity for teachers -- prospective teachers -- early on to have experiences that put them in the classroom, that give them, in a sense, the practical experience. And that practical experience then gets linked to the theory and the knowledge base that we have about what works and how kids learn.

The other really critical element about preparation -- and you see this, by the way, in the preparation of doctors -- is this idea of being able to have mentors, people who are already very experienced and knowledgeable. And whether we're talking about patient relations or we're working with students, we're talking about a knowledge base that grows over time and can be shared between the novice and the expert.

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Arthur E. Wise

President, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

Teaching today is where medicine was just about one-hundred years ago. Indeed, there was a revolution in both the practice of medicine and in medical education that occurred between 1890 and 1910. And I like to believe that we are in the middle of a comparable revolution in our field. It started around 1985 or '90. And we are sort of about ten or twelve years into it. We probably have another ten or twelve years more to go before we fully consummate this.

The key is that members of the profession themselves in the lead work to insist upon high standards -- high standards of preparation, high standards for licensing, high standards for certification. And you can see it well-documented in history that when medicine was organized and when physicians became active at the state level and began to insist that doctors be graduates of nationally accredited medical schools, things started to change.

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Sonia Hernandez

Education Consultant, Los Angeles County Alliance for Student Achievement

When candidates really understand the teaching profession -- when they really understand the level of competency and skills that's required of them -- I've seen people really be transformed by the notion that what they know and what they do can really make a difference in the lives of children.

Moving it from theory to practice is what a really good program can do. And again, that notion that we're not just thinking about it and we're not just talking about teachers and teaching, rather but that they're actually participating in seeing how it's made a difference in the lives of children. There're very few people who have ever gone into the profession and stayed who didn't see that as their most important, most critical role.

A good teacher preparation program that prepares folks to understand what they're going to be meeting, that understands what it takes for them to be successful, is really really important in the retention of teachers. In very poor programs, on the other hand, I've seen teachers just really challenged by walking into the classroom for the first time when they're the actual teacher of record. And they are literally scared of the children, they're scared of the parents, and of the community. Why would anybody want to stay in a job like that? No one with any kind of common sense would stick around.

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