The Disconnected Nature of the Teacher Education Curriculum

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103(6), 1013-1055.

Read 9/20/10. Get rest of reference from Bern.

Summary: The purpose of this author's paper is to show the disconnect between teacher preparation and professional development. Instead of being one continuous curriculum of lifelong learning throughout a teacher's career, it exists separately with teacher preparation happening at the university and professional development occurring in the school system. Neither talks with one another, which has resulted in ineffective and poor professional learning practices. Feiman-Nemser calls for the collaborative effort of the two in order to foster professional learning for teachers.

  • If schools and universities could be more connected in their work regarding teacher learning, then the transition from student to practicing teacher would be smoother and both entities could focus on more meaningful experiences rather than trying to cram as much information into the individuals as possible.

Central Tasks of Preservice Preparation

  • "The central tasks of preservice preparation build on current thinking about what teachers need to know, care about, and be able to do in order to promote substantial learning for all students (p. 5 of document)."
  • "The images and beliefs that prospective teachers bring to their preservice preparation serve as filters for making sense of the knowledge and experiences they encounter. They may also function as barriers to change by limiting the ideas that teacher education students are able and willing to entertain (p. 5 of doc)."
  • Espoused platforms may inhibit change.
  • Teacher preparation needs to find mechanisms for helping students to make their assumptions and tacit knowledge explicit in order to challenge their belief systems, for such discrepancies are powerful learning experiences.

    • "Unless teacher educators engage prospective teachers in a critical examination of their entering beliefs in light of compelling alternatives and help them develop powerful images of good teaching and strong professional commitments, these entering beliefs will continue to shape their ideas and practices (p. 6 of doc)."
  • Developing the Tools to Study Teaching

    • "Preservice preparation is a time to begin forming habits and skills necessary for the ongoing study of teaching in the company of colleagues. Preservice teachers must come to see that learning is an integral part of teaching and that serious conversations about teaching are a valuable resource in developing and improving their practice (p. 8 of doc)."
    • Consensus on the curriculum of teacher education:

      • Most teachers enter teaching through a 4-year undergraduate program that combines academic courses and professional studies or a 5th-year program that focuses exclusively on professional studies. Academic requirements consist of arts and science courses including an academic major. Professional preparation includes courses in educational foundations and general and/or specific methods of teaching. Educational psychology is a staple in educational foundations, but courses in philosophy or history have been replaced with an "introduction to teaching" course. All programs require some supervised practice called student teaching (p. 9 of doc)."
      • The curriculum is disconnected b/c different faculty teach different courses. The curriculum appears as discrete and separate since there are no interwoven strands or goals across the preparation.
      • Teacher education lacks coherence.
    • Call for collaboration: "When the people responsible for field experiences do not work closely with the people who teach academic and professional courses, there is no productive joining of forces around a common agenda and no sharing of expertise (p. 10 of doc)."
  • Obstacles to Effective Preparation

    • Political

      • Low status of teaching and teacher education
      • Overregulation of programs by the state
      • The anti-intellectualism perception of teaching
      • Weak leadership
      • Lack of resources including funding
      • Teacher educators lack imagination
    • University

      • Working w/schools counts as service
      • Value of research over teaching
      • Academic freedom inhibits thinking programmatically
      • Limited opportunities for faculty renewal
      • Quest for high enrollments to stimulate revenue create a culture of passivity for learning
    • Schools

      • Current construction of schools does not promote a culture of inquiry, so they serve as obstacles for reform oriented teacher education.
      • The perception that teachers' main responsibility is to work with students so anything other than that is seen as a distraction and not an opportunity for professional learning
  • Purposeful, Integrated Field Experiences

    • Why clinical experiences matter: "Observation, apprenticeship, guided practice, knowledge application, and inquiry all have a place in field-based learning. Teacher candidates need opportunities to test the theories, use the knowledge, see and try out the practices advocated by the academy. They also need opportunities to investigate problems and analyze situations that arise in the field (pp. 14-15)."

Questions for me:

  • What is the subject-specific knowledge base needed for supervisors?

    • Shulman's work regarding this domain for teachers: "Scholars have identified three aspects of subject matter knowledge for teaching: (a) knowledge of central facts, concepts, theories, and procedures within a given field; (b) knowledge of explanatory frameworks that organize and connect ideas; and (c) knowledge of the rules of evidence and proof (Shulman, 1986) (p. 6 in doc." Teachers must also know the pedagogy of how to teach the content.
    • One would be having an understanding of the development and learning of the interns/teachers. Cultures of interns/teachers
  • If teacher education lays the foundation for learning to teach, real teaching begins with experience in the classroom. The same could be said for supervisors - learning to supervise comes from the first experience.
  • Relate this quote to supervision: "Charged with the same responsibilities as their more experienced colleagues, beginning teachers are expected to perform and to be effective. Yet most aspects of the teaching environment are unfamiliar---students, curriculum, administrative policies and procedures, testing requirements, professional norms, the larger community. While novices deserve relevant information in a timely fashion and easy access to answers as questions arise, much of what they need to understand cannot be explained once and for all (p. 19 of doc)."
  • Teacher candidates struggle with the construction of their professional identity - the need to be authoritative while still being friendly. I think this could relate to supervisors' construction of identity.
  • Professional discourse definition. Think about how it relates to supervisor learning: "Professional discourse involves rich descriptions of practice, attention to evidence, examination of alternative interpretations, and possibilities (p. 36 of doc)."

Relate to supervisors: "Opportunities for teacher learning are situated in the tasks of teaching--planning, enacting instruction, assessing student understanding, reflecting on teaching--and in samples of student work. When teachers undertake these tasks together and study these materials, they clarify their goals and beliefs, gain new knowledge, and learn from the ideas and experience of others (p. 38 of doc)."

Resources for teacher development: Berliner, 1986; Huberman, 1989; Watts, 1980). 5-7 years to reach mastery. The hybrid role as a catalyst for renewal???



Shulman, L. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher 15 (2), 4-14.

Watts, H. (1980). Starting out, moving on, running ahead, or how the teachers' center can attend to stages in teachers' development. (Teachers' Centers Exchange Occasional Paper no. 8). San Francisco: Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development.

Huberman, M. (1989). The professional life cycle of teachers. Teachers College Record, 91 (1), 31-57.

Berliner, D. (1986). In pursuit of the expert pedagogue. Educational Researcher, 15 (7), 5-13.