Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Will Changing the Way you Grade Teacher Colleges Change their Effectiveness?

In reviewing Education Week last week I ran across an article: Grading of Teacher Colleges to be Revamped which is about how US News and World Report is changing the way it ranks colleges of education in the annual list it publishes.  There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding this move and both the article, and the comments which follow it amply describe this debate.  What I found interesting was the actual criteria they are using in grading colleges which can be found by clicking on a pdf. in the article.

What is interesting to me is not what is in these criteria, but what is missing.

The criteria primarily deal with curriculum, subject mastery, and evaluating effectiveness in these admittedly important areas, but there is really not much attention given to how you might organize your efforts as a teacher.  There is nothing about collaboration, nothing about how students should be organized, nothing about how the teacher should be interacting with students, nothing about techniques for individualizing teaching... you get the idea.  In short these very controversial new criteria seem just a different way to measure practices that themselves have not changed at all.

Teachers are under a lot of pressure to perform these days and to improve student outcomes.   A considerable amount of thought has been given to preparing students to compete in the 21st Century and there are many similar approaches that require not so much a change in the subject knowledge teachers' possess, but a change in how students acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills they will need after they graduate.  From what I can tell there is little in these criteria that address these important aspects of education, so teachers are starting their careers at a disadvantage in doing the precise job for which they were hired.

This matters to me because as an architect, one of the things I can enable through my designs is the transaction between student and teacher.  I know how to design a classroom that enables the teaching of 21st Century skills, but with few exceptions this is not the type of school that teachers and administrators (who also were trained in colleges of education) will let me design.  Instead the demand is for new buildings that enable an old model.

There is still hope for change, but it will take the efforts of all of us in continuing to challenge the status quo and advocate for both the teaching and environments that will let students succeed in the 21st Century.