Note: This post is an assignment for Nicco Mele’s Course – Media, Politics and Power in the Digital Age – it summarizes a proposal for my final project.
We know that the most important school-based factor for student success is the effectiveness of their teacher. And yet, the quality of the training we give to teachers before they enter the classroom is often mediocre, with many teachers saying that the preparation programs they attended did not sufficiently equip them to manage a classroom and generate learning in their students. Recently, the question of how we prepare teachers has gotten more of a spotlight. States have been moving to raise the bar on teacher preparation with new licensure and program accountability rules, spurred to action by a report issued by The Council of Chief State School Officers in 2012. The federal government has also jumped on the bandwagon, saying it will issue new teacher preparation regulations soon. Not to be left out, programs are banding together to try to rethink how we train teachers and some are establishing service lines to try spread their innovations to other programs. And Elizabeth Green’s recent book, Building a Better Teacher, aims to raise the issue into the public consciousness, to help us think about what teachers should know and be able to do and how we can get them there.
Yet in spite of this buzz, the actual work of improving how we train teachers, particularly within institutions of higher education, is difficult. We’ve tried it before – Francesca Forzani’s dissertation describes The Holmes Group, which tried and failed to reform teacher preparation in the 1980s and 1990s. What we’ve learned from the past failures is that:
- there needs to be a shared infrastructure and language around what we expect teachers should be able to do, ways to measure progress towards those goals, and proven strategies to teach these skills;
- we must build capacity within institutions to bring about these changes;
- and this work must be incentivized by appropriate government funding and regulation.
This summer, I was helping to get a new organization off the ground that aims to address these issues. The organization – called D4I – will bring together deans from a variety of schools of education to create shared competency maps and assessments, build capacity for change within and across the institutions, and speak with a united voice on policy issues related to teacher preparation.
D4I is just getting off the ground and is still figuring out how to best carry out its work. Given what we know about the power of technology to lower the costs of organizing, collaborating, and spreading information, it seems obvious that D4I should be thinking strategically about how to leverage technology to do its work. D4I’s digital strategy will need to take into account its multi-faceted audience (deans and faculty members at schools of education, policymakers, funders, etc.) and its different objectives (advocacy, infrastructure-building, capacity-building). These various factors will influence the goals of a digital strategy and thus the technologies and tactics that should be used. My aim will be to craft a digital strategy for D4I that is responsive to these factors and that the organization can use as its roadmap as it gets up and running.