November 29, 2009
learning 2.0

Is The Root of All Evil the B.Ed Program?

It could be argued that however it’s referred to, wherever it’s offered, teacher preparation programs (sometimes referred to as ITE – Initial Teacher Education) are the cause of a continued reliance on the all-instructor-led model and less on a formal, informal, social mix of pedagogy or andragogy.

These programs are otherwise known as the gateway to the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree; the entitlement to professionally teach, at least in the K-12 arena.

My hypothesis is centered on a single argument:

  • Where I reside (in Canada) provincial governments dictate ‘what’ is taught at K-12 levels; universities stipulate and dictate methodologies on ‘how’ to teach.

That’s it? Well, there’s more.

I graduated from a B.Ed program 15 years ago, and back then, educational technology or technology in education itself was thought of as something separate from the teaching methodology landscape. It wasn’t immersive because it didn’t have to be; computers, education media, and that of the same ilk were treated as subjects or at best, adjunct pieces to the teaching kit.

Like the teachers who graduated for decades before us, we were armed with a ‘sage on the stage’ mentality. Teach your individual subject, don’t deviate from the norm, don’t utilize technology as an enabler, don’t cross-pollinate subjects, follow the provincially assigned curriculum and certainly ensure you cram as much content as possible into your individual lessons over the course of the year/term. (and, if there is one, teach to the provincial exam)

Fifteen years later, there has been some improvement, but I don’t think it has changed in a way that benefits society.

I recently took a look at the programs, curriculum and overall structure of three B.Ed programs in Canada at University of Toronto, University of British Columbia and McGill University, located in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal respectively.

Each continues to offer teaching methodology courses for the aspiring new teacher, (as they should) however, none actually take the opportunity to introduce new bedrock to the teaching process, which should include the basic fact that we need to move the teaching model to a ‘guide on the side’ structure.

The K-12 classroom needs to become a thing of the past. We need a new model that catches up to the societal changes of an interconnected planet; a cross-functional, flat, wisdom of crowd type of configuration that revolves around a formal, informal and social learning theory. (taking into consideration diversity, special needs, and other pertinent requirements of course)

If we can reshape the B.Ed programs, it only takes a matter of time until the new graduates are in the classrooms engaging with not only their students, but students from other classes, grades, schools, cities, countries, etc. They could reform the way ‘teaching’ is supposed to happen. I would rename it ‘reaching’, as in reaching out and reaching to new worlds of thinking, and thus teaching.

And if this happens in the K-12 arena, expectations will become the same for the university setting and (egads) the corporate setting. Is it a stretch in thinking? Perhaps, however, one can cleverly make a connection between the antiquated model of K-12, to what happens in the universities of today (ie. individualistic rock-star professors teaching their theories in a ‘sage on the stage’ model) to the corporate setting where corporate citizens think an all-ILT model is normal, so why on earth change it now? (heck, we’re not paying for it – the corporation is, so we might as well find an overly expensive corporate training vendor to deliver what I need in a classroom, because that’s how it’s done in every other education setting)

 In a report (Characterizing Initial Teacher Education in Canada: Themes and Issues) prepared for the International Alliance of Leading Education Institutes,Mira Gambhir et al made three key observations related to the aforementioned:

  • An ongoing challenge for ITE (Initial Teacher Education) programs is finding ways to build in opportunities for professional inquiry and collaboration in teacher candidates’ everyday experiences that inform personal practice and program improvement. 
  • Most importantly, ways of understanding the core purposes and practices (e.g., transmission, instrumentalist and transformative) of ITE programs need to be critically understood as do ways of adapting to emergent needs, of both the individual and the communities served, from the local to the global. 
  • Discussion persists about what ought to be considered core program subject matter (e.g. use of communications technology, inclusive curriculum, special education), ways of improving connections between theory and practice, and the appropriate duration of ITE programs.

New teachers, therefore, need the formal, informal, social learning mix to not only learn from one another (and get better at their profession), they need to apply their trade in a way that fits the world that has been reshaped over the past several years.

It benefits our kids, and … eventually, it benefits the universities and corporate settings.

This is why I believe the root of all evil is the B.Ed Program.

PS. See Dr. Alec Couros’ post entitled “Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching: Revisited“. We need this type of thinking to actually happen at all B.Ed programs.

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