I would like to pose a different type of back to school topic to which some of our voicEd.ca authors and readers might like to turn their attention. This is the time of the year when much of the mainstream media will be ramping up their education-related coverage by tackling some of the familiar “September” songs: back-to-school anxiety, purchasing school supplies, the kindergarten experience, high school transition, back-to-school lunches and the like.
These are all worthy of conversation but I would like to suggest that we turn our attention to the thousands of students across the country that will be heading off to a faculty of education to begin teacher preparation programs. Some will be staying fairly close to home to attend one of the many provincial university-based programs. A significant number, however, will be traveling to the international destinations in order to become qualified to teach. Some will return home to try to find work, others will join the many who, because of the shortage of opportunities here in Canada, will find positions abroad.
Our conversations about education reform tend to be focused on issues of school-based teacher quality and classroom practice, and I don’t think that we spend enough time talking about the initial education and training that teachers receive. Oh, we have the occasional conversation about the ideal length of a faculty program, and some rather shallow conversations about whether or not candidates emerge adequately prepared to enter the profession, but I don’t think that our discussions are as wide or as deep as they could be.
I would like to suggest that we take some time to break open this mysterious place called initial teacher education (ITE) and ask some serious questions about what it means to prepare candidates to become teachers in the 21st century.
At voicEd.ca we have teacher educators among us, and I would like to extend the invitation to have others join us. We have authors and readers that have recently attended a teacher education program, and these insights will be valuable. We have parents who will see members of their own family head off to enrol in a program. And we have teachers who are getting ready to welcome faculty of education students into their classrooms for their required practicum sessions. All of these voices are important to the conversation.
Here are some of the questions about teacher education that are on my own mind—such as it is—and I know that you have some of your own:
- Ok, so what is the ideal length of an initial teacher education (ITE) program (we have to tackle that one!)
- Where should ITE programs be centered: university, school district, individual school?
- What are the essentials with which all ITE candidates should emerge?
- What is the ideal ratio between university-based knowledge and practicum experience?
- Who should be admitted to Canadian ITE programs? What should the qualifications be?
- How should we determine who gets admitted to an ITE? (I’ll leave that one as open as possible in my own mind)
- Who should determine the content of ITE programs?
- Should ITE be grounded in local education policy, or should they be more universal in approach?
- What qualifications/background should those teaching in ITE programs have?
- What role do ITE programs have in the current conversations about educational transformation?
There are others, and I would like to give you the opportunity to contribute some of your own. What questions about teacher education are most prominent in your mind? Which are most pressing when we consider the current discourse about school quality and reform?
So, I would like to invite you to share your ideas by responding to the blog entries that might emerge in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in becoming a voicEd.ca author (even if only for this specific topic), let me know through the contact form in the top menu. If you know of anyone else that might be interested in some conversation around teacher education in Canada, send them over for a visit!
I expect that there will be many diverse perspectives on the present and future of teacher education, and all of these are more than welcome here.
Teacher Education in Canada! Let’s talk.