George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teacher-Development Overview: A Survey of Top Programs

What happens in schools of education does make a difference in the classroom. 
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Teacher-Development Overview: A Survey of Top Programs (Transcript)

Teacher: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, let's rock and roll.

Narrator: A good teacher is a precious commodity.

Teacher: That’s a pretty cool way to encrypt this.

Narrator: There just aren't enough to go around, especially in urban and rural districts.

Teacher: Do you think these Cray computers could break this?

Student: In about two seconds.

Teacher: About two seconds. Do you know--

Narrator: Schools of education have come under fire for turning out teachers with inadequate content knowledge, insufficient classroom experience, and few technological skills.

Teacher: And my favorite matrix, obviously, is two negative seventeen eleven--

Narrator: But there's a quiet revolution underway in schools of education across the country.

Teacher: Okay, so we're getting a lot of sugars--

Narrator: A movement that puts student teachers in classrooms early, and supports their development with peer groups, mentor teachers and even extraordinary students.

Randy: This represents the bone in your head, and I would be the earth and that's about the right scale, all right?

Narrator: At the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, incoming students begin a five year program by studying core subjects and discovering engaging ways to teach them.

Randy: We've got your head is the earth, this is the moon, and see if you can work out the phases by having the moon orbit the earth.

I wanted there to be an opportunity for students to experience the phenomena in a classroom. They have a basic understanding of their content, or their subject area. They're pretty green when it comes to knowing how to teach that, and I wanted to model how you can start something that really engages students.

What is it about this activity that made it effective?

Student: I think anything where you make the learner like a really active part, definitely it makes it relate to them. So I think anything where you can do that, like change your perspective, just makes it all that more fun and interesting.

Teacher: You find that picture that you wanted.

Narrator: Curry students get into classrooms early and often in the program. As sophomores, they spend most of the year observing mentor teachers at work.

Teacher: Thursday. Can you see my tongue does something different?

Sandra: Watching an experienced master teacher work with those children, seeing how the children react and seeing how the teacher adjusts with each child, and with the group of children, it's totally invaluable. I mean, you can't just imagine this. You have to see it at work.

Teacher: Try doing file, quit and see if that works.

Narrator: Later in the Curry program, students get involved in one on one tutoring. They also develop and present some class lessons before honing their teaching skills as full time student teachers.

Jessica: I want you guys to think of a person who you think exemplifies, you know, you like the way they present--

It looks so easy until you get on in there and do it, and then you're like, "Whoa, this is so hard." I mean, getting ready for a lesson, hours go into it. Classroom management, I mean, that is a huge issue.

When you present information that--

Mary: There's nothing like walking into a classroom with twenty, twenty-five, thirty active students, and you've got to teach them. And the first thing you've got to do is to be able to manage the classroom, because if you can't manage a classroom, you're going to teach very much of anything. And the second thing you've got to do is to be able to present the lesson or lessons in a way that the children understand, they can learn and they'll want to learn.

Jessica: And then who's going to do the biography.

Mary: There's no place to do that better than to actually be in a classroom with a group of students.

Teacher: We have kind of a full agenda tonight, so we're going to go right ahead and get started.

Narrator: Another teacher trainer program that stresses extensive classroom work is Colorado State University's Project Promise, a yearlong graduate degree program for people who are changing careers to enter teaching.

Carrie: And I really like love these kids, and I finally had that feeling. Like for a full hour, I'll have that feeling, you know.

Narrator: For Carrie Hanson, it meant making the adjustment from the solitary life of a chemical engineer, to the collaborative enterprise of teaching high school science.

Carrie: Ionic compounds, from now on, you're never going to look at the label the same, right? So speaking of ionic compounds, we've got this cool card game that you've seen before.

Narrator: Project Promise students are exposed to the classroom teaching environment just three weeks into the program, but they don't go it alone. They are constantly monitored and evaluated by their peers.

Teacher: How do you think it went?

Teacher: I was really excited about the students.

Narrator: Their mentor teachers.

Teacher: It worked well, and it worked well for review.

Narrator: And by one of the program's directors.

Teacher: Your transition from the food labels to the game was a little rough.

Emily: Peer review is very important. You have the advantage of having people who are very close to the situation. It's not somebody who taught ten or fifteen years ago. I mean, you're right there, you just did it. And if you're working with a mentor teacher or an experienced teacher or college professor, that interaction can be very effective in learning how to teach.

Steve: So I'm going to put up a code on the board. I want to see if anybody can break it.

Narrator: While half of the teachers entering the profession nationwide leave teaching during their first five years, the retention rate for Project Promise grads, like Steve Sayers, is 80 percent.

Steve: That is a word.

Narrator: He credits the program's success to the camaraderie of peers and staff.

Steve: You know when they walk into the room or walk down the hall, they will come up to you and say, "How are things going, what can I do?" and they are there for you. Any phone call and they respond. So the support is there.

Narrator: In addition to mastering core content and teaching skills, today's teachers are confronted with the challenge of teaching in the digital age.

When it comes to acquiring vital technology skills, pre-service teachers need all the help they can get, and at Washington Middle School in Olympia, Washington, help comes from seventh graders.

Student: The title's here, and that font is good for the titles 'cause it's big. It's big enough that you can distinguish the letters, and--

Teacher: Okay, do you see anything you would change?

Student: Yeah, there's no home link here.

Teacher: Okay.

Student: I notice that on your previous page, like you have on here, and that's really good, but some browsers don't have back buttons, so they have to retype the URL, which is really annoying.

Narrator: Begun in nineteen ninety-six, the Generation Y program pairs tech savvy grade schoolers with tech challenged teachers, to help them integrate new technology into their lesson plans.

Teacher: Right now, what we have is a couple websites for our research purposes, but that's about it, so what kind of suggestions do you think you might have as far as wording to use technology.

Student: Well, like for a presentation about how they did a PowerPoint would be a good one.

Narrator: Now operating in more than forty states, this elegantly simple concept was the brainchild of Olympia school district's technology coordinator, Dennis Harper.

Dennis: I was a former university college of education trainer of pre-service teachers, and typically, a lot of the instruction they get are from professors who haven't been in a classroom in twenty years. There's not a teacher in the United States that actually went to K-twelve schools when the world wide web was in existence. So teachers don't realize, you know, the resources. They don't realize how sharp these kids are. They don't realize the fact that for the first time in history now, we have students knowing more than their teachers about something that's really central and important to society.

Student: And web pages, there's just like endless possibilities.

Narrator: While more experienced Gen Y kids help student teachers with tech infused lessons, fourth graders help their classroom teachers learn new skills, like video editing.

Teacher: What's a transition?

Student: Transitions are like, you can fade in and fade out, and you can like a dial--

Dennis: More than ninety-eight percent of the thousands of teachers that have been involved with this program have said they preferred learning from students than learning from adults. Teachers go into teaching 'cause they like to work with kids, and that's what makes this model successful.

Teacher: Then what happens?

Teacher: This looks pretty easy. Is it rally this easy?

Narrator Whether it's teaching tech skills or a classroom discipline, the new model for teacher education is all about collaboration between students and their mentors of any age, with whom they share the joy of teaching.

Teacher: The last couple of weeks, what started to happen is that I feel like I stopped hanging in there and started really teaching well, and it's a really cool feeling.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis
  • Jon Shenk, Actual Films

Content Staff:

  • Sara Armstrong
  • Diane Curtis
  • Roberta Furger
  • Paula Monsef
  • Mark Sargent

Associate Producer:

  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Megan Mylan


  • Karen Sutherland

Post Production:

  • Nathaniel Higgs
  • Morgan Ho
  • Deirdre May

Camera Crew:

  • Sam Allen
  • Jon Shenk
  • Robert O.Weller
  • Michael Curtiss
  • Kathryn Peterson
  • Paul Rusnak
  • Eric Williams
  • Wes Sullivan
  • Nathan Clap


  • Kris Welch

Original Music:

  • Ed Bogas

Comments (13) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Maureen O'D's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really enjoyed this video. Not only did it show the importance of supportive mentors, it addresses the issue of students knowing more than teachers in the area of technology. What a simple idea - have the kids be the teachers! This not only helps the teacher but reinforces the subject for the student.

David M. Miller's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow--that makes so much sense. Just about all of my peers admit that their own teacher preparation programs didn't prepare them for actual classroom teaching.

Actual classroom teaching, it seems, is really the only way to prepare perspective teachers for actual classroom teaching.

Laura Reese's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think this video sheds light on how it is important for there to be a support system in place not only for the student, but for the teacher as well. To have a mentor teacher and a peer evaluator is very helpful to becoming effective in the classroom. I hear it all the time that the real test comes when you step into that classroom, it's like what you learned about the theories associated with education goes out the window.

Students teaching teachers, I think is a humbling experirnce for the teacher because the role has switched and the attention that is wanted from the student they have to give to the student who is teaching them.

Tina Clark's picture

I really enjoyed the video, especially the part where the students are teaching the teacher and that is where I see myself. I don't see myself as tech-savvy yet, but I am always willing to keep learning!

Anonymous's picture

As I watched this video, I was excited to see that teachers are excited about being trained in their profession. It doesnt stop when we graduate from college. Our students change, core changes, and also technology changes over the years. We as educators need to continue to develop our skills of teaching by attending inservices monthly and yearly. We need to stay a head of our game so we can be better teachers and teach what is best for kids.

Anonymous's picture

As I watched this video, I was excited to see that teachers are excited about being trained in their profession. It doesnt stop when we graduate from college. Our students change, core changes, and also technology changes over the years. We as educators need to continue to develop our skills of teaching by attending inservices monthly and yearly. We need to stay a head of our game so we can be better teachers and teach what is best for kids.

plastorgas's picture

This one is an important one. Many teachers with the wrong attitude have ruined beautiful students. It really helps when the teacher shows he is willing to be a student too.
Also, that's how things naturally are. You never stop learning.

Pedro from magos para fiestas

Karen Kungie-Torres's picture
Karen Kungie-Torres
teacher credentialled K-12, subject area English, San Fernando Valley, CA

Good stuff for my master's research paper on innovative teacher-preparation programs. But this video is already 10 years old...?

John W. Jacobs's picture
John W. Jacobs
Educational/Organizational Consultant and Educator

As an educational/training consultant for both education and the private sector, I have found that doing a training needs assessment is vital to good professional development. What do teachers, schools or districts use to determine what teaching skill are in need of development?

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