Various strategies are needed to prepare teacher trainees.
I REFER to the report “Connecting is an art” (StarEducate, June 10).
I must agree with Michael S. Anthony in his article on taking another look at our teacher training modules as well as the curriculum itself.
“If education is going to improve, we must work on improving initial teacher training.”
One former educator mentioned increasing teacher contact time and observations as a few strategies we should try to adopt for preparing new teachers.
Education is actually a complicated and sensitive matter to talk about. It is close to the hearts of everyone, I guess. Even the news media are selective on education matters.
For most educators, they will be concerned on how to improve the education students should receive.
Most writings do not mention what’s going on at the teacher education institute or improving the initial training of teachers.
From my reading so far, I had not encountered writings on preparation of new teachers, whether it is simple, effective or whatever.
For a small country like Malaysia, we have less than 100 institutions (for primary and secondary training), government or private that train teachers.
As such the way it is regulated, the approaches and the vision does not vary much as compared to bigger nations.
What constitutes the curriculum and the coursework? Are the content, methods, and technology integration, and culture and diversity issues related to the current needs?
There is no doubt, teacher trainees are placed in schools with a ‘guidance teacher’ for a period that averages about 10 weeks or more plus two to three months of teaching practicum, but are they observed properly?
Teacher trainees start by observing and assisting the ‘guidance teacher’ then at some point they take over planning and delivering lessons.
But this depends on what the guidance teacher decides and the institute’s requirements.
But is it enough by just observing?
It is also said that trainees are required to do ‘action research during their practicum but is it sufficient’. What kind of ‘action research’ do the trainees perform and focus on?
As always, we look to others in getting our system done, but can we really apply what others have in our system?
It is said that in Finland, students spend an entire year of apprenticeship in a school working with multiple teachers, and are required to complete a research-based degree prior to beginning their teaching career.
Finland is also more selective when it comes to admitting students into teacher training programmes. Yes, we are selecting the ‘cream’ into the training.
In the United States, these programmes are often not very selective. As a result, they have many more graduate teachers than we need in disciplines like elementary education.
The task of preparing teachers is complicated further by the Common Core Standards and the associated standardised testing.
The same happens here, many innovative teaching strategies being rolled out in schools and classrooms are not included in many training programmes.
Another key issue is the selection of ‘guidance teachers’ or ‘mentors’. Institutes often require that they are experienced, effective, and possess strong mentoring skills. This severely limits the pool of possible participants.
Who actually wants to add to their hours looking after a rookie?
While trainees need to familiarise themselves with the Common Core standards or with the national curriculum and the associated tests, it is also vital that they observe and participate with their ‘mentor’ using as many innovative methods as possible for as long as possible.
For each session in school they should be assigned more students to get to know. The students selected for such mentoring should include the neediest students who have disruptive tendencies.
Some observations should take place on the first day of school as many trainees never see day one.
Sessions should include where group projects are in action so teacher trainees can facilitate small group activity. It also makes sense to work with small groups prior to dealing with an entire class.
The most important part of new teacher training should focus on how teachers can build strong working relationships with their students.
The primary importance of relationships should be stressed. More could be learned through negative examples.
Observations and exposure with multiple teachers in more than one school should expose teacher trainees to a variety of approaches for managing classrooms and redirecting undesirable behaviour. This is where relationships make all the difference.
The same is true for trainers preparing new trainees. Some have yet to see things like flipped classrooms or classes where every student has a laptop.
Trainees need to be ready for innovations such as badges in place of grades, schools without grade levels, self-paced personalised learning, real-world long-term projects, and efforts to create self-directed learners.
There is also an increased emphasis on allowing students to pursue their own interests and passions and to evaluate their own work.
Trainers themselves need to learn new methods.
We are actually dealing with people who left the classroom long ago and some have little or no direct teaching experience.
Many trainers just lecture in class, thus they need to model the kind of teaching they expect to see instead.