Monday, August 18, 2008

Education Schools - Helping or Hindering?

Above link you will find a .pdf from The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy

UNC Education Schools:
Helping or Hindering Potential Teachers

by George K. Cunningham

January 08, 2008

The University of North Carolina is placing great emphasis on increasing the number of teachers in the state. But how good is the education that these future teachers are receiving? We know that the high schools of North Carolina have high dropout rates and that the academic success of our K-12 students varies tremendously. Some of these problems may, perhaps, be traced to the education of their teachers.

This paper looks at a major problem found in schools of education throughout the country, including the UNC system. That is the overemphasis on what is sometimes called “student-centered learning,” but is also known as “progressivism” and “constructivism.” As this report reveals, that approach to learning has major weaknesses when it comes to teaching potential teachers.

The author has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Arizona. From 1975 until 2005 he was a professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at the University of Louisville.

For a pdf of the report, click here.

From the .pdf comes the following...

From the Executive Summary

Most people believe that the purpose of schools is to ensure that young people learn the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in life. Accordingly, they expect teachers to impart skills and knowledge to their students. The objective of our teachers, first and foremost, should be their students’ academic achievement. That view, however, is not generally accepted in schools of education, where the great majority of teachers receive their training. The philosophy that dominates schools of education—in North Carolina and across the nation—stresses the importance of objectives other than academic achievement, such as building self-esteem and multicultural awareness.

The dominant “progressive/constructivist” philosophy in education schools leads to teacher training that prescribes a student-centered classroom where the teacher’s role is to serve mainly as a facilitator for student-directed learning. Under that philosophy it is regarded as bad practice for teachers to actually do much teaching. They are supposed to act as “the guide on the side” rather than “the sage on the stage.” Unfortunately, the progressive/constructivist approach is markedly inferior to traditional, “teacher-centered” pedagogy, particularly when it comes to teaching students important skills like reading and math. Most students do better if they are taught with traditional methods, such as “direct instruction.” This investigation of education schools in North Carolina reveals that they are dominated by people who are deeply committed to progressive/constructivist theories. Consequently, students taught by teachers who have absorbed that approach are unlikely to progress as fast or as far as they would if their teachers were more appropriately trained.

The state government should adopt a policy statement that places academic achievement as the goal of its public schools and then revamp the missions, curricula, and personnel in the schools of education it oversees to bring them into alignment with that goal.

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