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Pre-service Training for Elementary School Teachers

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As a set of concepts new to the experience of most classroom teachers and almost totally foreign to the training provided prospective teachers in most colleges of education, career education can expect to make little progress without a major reform of pre-service teacher education practices and a massive in-service training effort. Most practitioners of career education, few as they are, have progressed only to showing the career relevance of academic subject matter and to using a few classroom visitors and field trips. Real integration of the academic and the occupational is rare, and the use of the community as a learning environment is even more so. Teachers must both want to and know how to provide career education.

Pre-Service Teacher Training

Teacher-educators enjoy the comfortable monopoly position of being able to define the qualifications of a teacher and decreeing that none can teach without meeting those qualifications. They are in a position not only to control the supply of future instructors (which they have not done) and the content of their training (which they have done), but can also insist upon standards of competence which they themselves once had to meet. They validate the survival of their own teacher training institution so long as their sole function is to perpetuate these standards in new teachers, or to create still more teacher-educators. Given that un-encroachable position, change in education can be incredibly slow without their endorsement and the involvement of the institutions in which they reside. Yet because they rarely confront the consumer demand which is the purview of the local district boards of education, they have little reason to change.



In the more stereotyped teacher training institutions, a devotion to the dissemination of content and theory has become dependent upon a summing of quarters, semesters, or trimesters which equate recitation and residence with teaching readiness. The "shiny new tools" which characterize a majority of teacher education programs command the neophyte's attention until he is released to his first raw, practice teaching experience in his third or final year of baccalaureate study. Thrust then from the controlled temperature of the clinical classroom on campus, this individual is forced to ground his entire commitment to a field on the basis of a single episode lasting from six to nine weeks. The dangers here are obvious. The combined perceptions of supervisor and internist are focused upon a critical incident sample alone, through which the potentially "good" teacher could be lost to the profession and the potentially fair (or "non" teacher), duped by one success, could become a liability to it.

These generalizations are harsh, but most schools which educate teachers have followed one of two basic models supporting them. State-supported institutions proclaim their need to adhere to that state's teacher certification requirements and rarely investigate alternatives in meeting or changing those requirements. Small, private, or research-based institutions present a management prototype equipping executive-level professionals or developing new materials and media for classroom use. Neither of these models questions the operating premise that teacher preparation is a historical constant based on fixed ratios of content to time.

Because of this placidity, these institutions can and have effectively resisted the sound of turbulence and change arising from their major consumers, the schools. When these voices are occasionally recognized, acknowledgment of this consumer trauma typically resolves in the institution's adding new course requirements or electives. Although these attempt to reflect topical concerns through the provision of urban and ethnic studies, group dynamics, or sensitivity training, the basic curriculum for preparation remains essentially the same. In sum, this smorgasbord of trend and issue offerings appears and disappears too rapidly for the eager novitiate and his adviser to be able to construct a program around them, while traditional demands continue to maintain their priority.

Those who elect to teach find themselves faced, as does the embryo physician, with the responsibility for acquiring expertise in a new methodology. More often than the physician, teachers must absorb the obsolete as well as the practicable in a program which rarely differentiates one from the other. Doctors can record from experience that "x" does not cure "y," and thus erase that nostrum from the required repertoires of future generations of doctors. Engineers and scientists neither fear nor suffer condemnation when theories fail the test of practice and no longer consume space in classroom and in text. The future teacher rarely has such surgery performed upon his course of study.

It is peculiar to the faith of the majority of teacher education programs that future practitioners not be burdened by evidence provided by their colleagues in the field. Presenting all educational forms ever conceived as having utility, it is also an article of faith that this burdensome portfolio will somehow achieve the transformation of the student into the master teacher. The new teacher enters the classroom convinced that knowledge and methodology alone will more than compensate for the discrepancies he sees between the clinical norm and the learning styles of his students. It is a conviction that is quickly invalidated. Now on the firing line, the new teacher finds that no college classroom prepared him to be innovative, flexible, or more than verbally receptive to differing cultures and values. Those gifts, if he has them, had been acquired and were maintained in spite of, not because of, his training program.

Reforming Teacher Education

This indictment is by no means universal. Some who prepare teachers are recognizing that in order to motivate students to become autonomous learners and to support them as they develop alternative responses and decision-making skills, future practitioners need first to demonstrate a mastery of these behaviors themselves. The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education has advocated the development of performance-based criteria throughout universities which would permit the student to "stop out" at certain well-defined junctures; to obtain his credentials in three years or less, or to demonstrate college-level competence without ever having been formally enrolled in a college or university. But though these ideas are being studied and tried in institutions of higher education across the nation, no more than a handful of teacher training institutions are similarly engaged. Meantime, more radical approaches advocate bypassing the teacher education function for direct access to the educational and social milieu of the public schools. These changes are illustrated by an increased number of field research projects, active contract/voucher systems established between university and community, and merger of discrete departments and discipline areas into amalgams of "learning environments," "public psychology," and "human development."

The few efforts to restructure teacher education such as those connected with the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of South Dakota and Michigan State's Elementary Education majors exemplify what teacher education might be, given time and resources. The ill-concealed impatience of the school as a knowledgeable consumer, combined with the reluctance of the U.S. Office of Education to invest more than token funds in teacher training programs, conspires to delay a thoughtful investigation of potential reforms.

Few would argue with Etzioni's premise that it is more difficult to change people than it is to change their surroundings. To spend time and funds in changing the value systems of college professors is a futile exercise. Direct involvement of professor and prospective teacher in the realities of community and classroom is more effective. However fixed a professorial value, no attitude or perception could go unchanged for long-given repeated blows by hard experience. His student, the future teacher, would have an admitted advantage here. While equally buffeted, he would become acclimated to truth by virtue of his early and continuing exposure throughout his training experience. If it repelled him, he would learn something about himself soon enough to seek out alternate ways to accomplish his people-oriented mission. If it challenged him, the profession's body of knowledge could assume a particular and purposeful dimension as he becomes increasingly adept in relating its content to the needs of those who will populate his future work setting.

Suggestions for In-Service Training

This chapter offers examples of innovative practices emanating from the task of preparing teachers to practice career education which might serve as impetus for those who prepare teachers to teach. Unfortunately, most of these examples issue from other departments than colleges of education, or from the forward-looking programs being developed by certain community colleges. It may be useful to parallel these practices with specific recommendations which could have implications for those who set teacher certification standards-with the hope that their re-examination of those standards would motivate a simultaneous effort at the university level.

Innovative Programs

The University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, has focused its entire four-year program on environ mental problems. All discipline areas are teamed with community work settings where students apply scientific and social principles to the prevention as well as the remediation of an imbalance of natural resources. Communication between faculty, students, and townspeople has led to a sociological involvement extending far beyond the initial topic of ecology.

Ferris State College in Big Rapids, Michigan, has responded to a marked change in the stated objectives of its predominantly white, middle-class student body-by offering associate degrees in automobile repair and auto-body mechanics, among others. The step-in/step-out flexibility of the program has permitted students to test alternatives while becoming economically independent.

Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, encourages beginning students to contract with faculty on courses to study. One group agreed to design a municipal park for a nearby city. Judgment of competency is based on agreement between recipient's evaluation of the service rendered and the student's self-assessment.

Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Illinois, offers an associate degree program to students who wish employment in preschool situations, day-care centers, hospital playrooms, and nurseries. Early work experience assists students to set alternate goals based on tested ability in the field of child care.

St. Mary's Junior College in Minneapolis offers a two-year program in child development technology, with emphasis upon the special skills needed by assistants to special education programs. Early clinical and field experiences determine student receptivity to the exceptional child.

Florida Junior College in Jacksonville and State University of New York in Cobleskill are two of an increasing number of institutions offering A.A. degrees in hotel /motel management. These offer options in areas of institutional food and restaurant management, as well as coursework in the psychological dynamics of the "organization" dealing with leisure and personal services.

Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland and North Hennepin State Junior College in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota offer programs in urban planning and development. Graduating technicians become neighborhood ombudsmen, as well as expert assistants to the city "fathers," who must achieve balance between the social, physical, and economic realities of their communities.
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