SOMERS — The University of Wisconsin-Parkside will begin accepting students into its new teacher training program within the next month, with classes starting this fall, the university announced Friday.
The announcement was the latest step in a years-long teacher training revamp that replaces Parkside’s old Teacher Preparation Program with a new Institute of Professional Educator Development that organizers say incorporates the latest trends in how to best prepare America’s next generation of educators.
The name is only the beginning of what’s changed. The new institute will have education students doing more reflection, getting into real classrooms sooner and working in tandem with actual teachers using a “co-teaching” model backed by national studies, explained Pat Hoffman, the institute’s director of educator development.
“We’re on the cutting edge,” Hoffman said. “We’ll be one of the first universities in the state to engage in the co-teaching model.”
Co-teaching has two teachers work a classroom at the same time. Strategies include having both teachers deliver a lesson together and having one teacher give a lesson while the other walks the room answering kids’ questions.
Co-teaching has been gaining popularity in districts like Racine Unified, where special education and regular education teachers co-teach to help include special education children in regular education classes.
There will be even more co-teaching in Unified next year. Parkside will partner with the district and Kenosha Unified to have student-teachers co-teach with actual teachers who volunteer for the job and get principal approval, a process that should ensure the actual teachers are both willing and able to mentor a young educator, Hoffman said.
Co-teaching provides more guided experience for student-teachers and offers more immediate feedback than Parkside’s previous student-teaching model, which had student-teachers go from watching to full classroom control in three weeks, Hoffman said.
With the previous model, student-teaching often happened at the end of educators’ collegiate careers and they typically had one or two placements. Moving forward, Parkside will start student-teaching sophomore or junior year and aspiring educators will have seven placements, Hoffman said.
The earlier, more frequent field placements are key, she said, because the days of teachers learning during their first year on the job are gone. The student achievement stakes are too high for principals to hire new teachers and train them “on my own dime with my kids,” she said.
Other changes to Parkside’s teacher training program include:
- better advising so students finish in the planned five years;
- lessons on how to reflect on one’s classroom performance, often by recording video of it;
- and courses focused specifically on literacy and on “culturally-relevant” teaching that takes children’s backgrounds into account.
The literacy and cultural components are especially important to Racine Unified Superintendent Ann Laing, who said some of her teachers don’t know how to best incorporate writing or relate to diverse cultures.
Parkside’s program has “done a great job of capturing all the skills teachers need,” Laing said.
John Thibodeau, assistant provost and vice president of institutional effectiveness and student success for Gateway Technical College, similarly called the program “impressive” and said it would result in better developed teachers.
Driving the change
Parkside, at 900 Wood Road, began revamping its teacher training program after a 2009 state investigation found “serious deficiencies.” Advisers were providing inconsistent information about program requirements and some students had been allowed to student-teach without having the required courses or tests completed.
The state gave Parkside 60 days to make changes, which they did. But university staff wanted more improvement and in May 2010 the Faculty Senate voted to phase out the Teacher Preparation Program. Its remaining students will graduate in May and the Institute of Professional Educator Development will take its place this fall with state approval, 20 to 40 students and two founding faculty members, Hoffman said.
Enrolled students will declare an eligible Parkside major like English or math and complete that degree while also earning an education license. Parkside’s institute is so far approved to offer licenses to teach core subjects in grades six to 12 and elementary licenses should be approved by the fall, Hoffman said.
The cost of the revamp was not available Friday.
For information on enrolling in the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s Institute of Professional Educator Development, contact Dawn Baldwin, educator development program advisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Changing teacher training terminology
Students in Parkside’s new Institute of Professional Educator Development won’t “student-teach.” Instead they’ll have “clinicals” or “residencies.”
The different terms are taking root across the country as part of a movement to increase the professionalism associated with teaching, said Pat Hoffman, director of educator development for the institute.
The terms put teaching on par with occupations that typically garner more esteem, like those in the medical field. They also provide consistency, so educators across the country all speak the same language, Hoffman said.
And, she added, some of the new terms, like calling a “student-teacher” a “teacher candidate,” result in more respect from K-12 children.