About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Too many teachers? Two more pieces (and some more questions) to consider

There has been some good Q and A on Twitter regarding my blog post from this morning. It made me think of some other pieces to this "too many teachers" issue that we should be talking about.

1. Quality of B.Ed. Program - I can't speak to specific programs but it would make sense that some B.Ed. programs are going to be better than others (we recognize this fact with other programs as diverse as engineering and music). Instead of cutting funding at all Faculties of Education, wouldn't it make sense to reward those which are really good (innovative? community-based? evidence-based?) by not cutting funding in those programs? Now, I work in one of the newer (and I would argue, more innovative and evidence-based) programs in Ontario so I obviously am invested in my program and will think it's on the top-end of B.Ed. programs in the province. However, I am sure that a metric could be used to measure the quality of programs in the province (not just a compliance-type accreditation like what is done by the Ontario College of Teachers). If XYZ Faculty of Education demonstrates that it is providing exemplary programming and supporting high-quality graduates, then let's make sure it can continue to do so (and maybe even consider expanding it) instead of simply cutting everyone's funding by equal amounts.

2. Diversity of B.Ed. Program - for the most part, Faculties of Education provide very similar foundational courses (the OCT requires certain courses and program elements). However, the rationale for, and structure of, B.Ed. programs can vary significantly (we often call this the "conceptual framework") and how courses are approached and taught can vary tremendously. For example, our Laurier B.Ed. follows a Professional Development School model. This means that we work in partnership with four local school boards in providing the education program for our teacher candidates. There is consistent communication between school and university. The teacher candidates can engage in school-based research and staff meetings. Teachers and administrators from the local school boards are involved with helping shape the program. Research from faculty at the university helps inform school board policy and practice. This model provides an excellent opportunity to experience teacher preparation in an engaging, synthesized manner.


I am not opposed to two year B.Ed. programs; in fact, I am quite excited about the potential of what can be done in those two years. However, yesterday's announcement of moving to two year B.Ed. programs makes me wonder: If a B.Ed. is of mediocre quality, why would we want to extend it for another year? Conversely, if a B.Ed. is of exemplary quality, and is meeting diverse, localized needs, should we not encourage its growth and health? I'm concerned that the announcement ensures the former and likely does not support the latter.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

I think the issue that we are facing in regards to quality B.Ed programs is how to quantify whether they are successful in creating great teacher candidates. How exactly can we quantify which programs are better than others? I think that one thing I personally experienced this past year, as well as almost all of my other colleagues, was "Concurrent Ed. burnout". We have taken the same courses for four years and when it finally comes to the moment when we should be most excited, we are fighting through another year of the same thing. I would like to see changes to many concurrent programs and get them into the system. If those in concurrent ed have to do two years, frustration could mount even more.

The problem I found with my education was that each subject specific teacher was fighting as if their subject was "most important" and overloaded us with unrealistic assignments. I would like to see a shift in programming and maybe remove field experts in favour of current classroom teachers. I must say my favourite courses that I learned most from were from those who had been a teacher within the last few years.

In summary, instruction in teacher's college should be centred around what actually happens in a classroom (dealing with timetables, how to teach each subject with allotted time) instead of having those who are experts in certain areas. By having quality instruction and increased practicum placements, I do not think that the quantity (2 years) is absolutely necessary.

Steve Sider said...

Thanks for posting. I think your comment raises some important issues. I am curious how universities with concurrent education programs will deal with the lengthier programs.

One of the reasons I have enjoyed the Laurier B.Ed. is because of the partnership with our local school boards. We work hard (although not always successfully) to make sure that what we are doing in the university classroom is working in synergy with what is happening in the elementary classroom. The new 2 year B.Ed. will certainly provide more opportunity to do that. For institutions who are not interested in partnership, it will mean another year for teacher candidates in those institutions of not having this synthesis.

One more comment - you ask how we can quantify quality B.Ed. ... I actually don't think it's as hard as what we would be led to believe it is. I would look at things such as:
-how many people want to get into the program (this will say something about the perceived value of it)?
-what do candidates say about the program after they have completed it?
-how many grads of programs get jobs (if we can measure how many Ontario grads are working compared to out-of-province trained grads then certainly we can measure differences between institutions in Ontario)

Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts!