The educational needs of students and teachers have changed dramatically over time. That’s why the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) is re-envisioning our teacher education program to better prepare teachers for the challenges they face in a 21st century classroom. We call this re-envisioning the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI). As the leading public research institution in the state, we’re uniquely positioned to improve teacher development by connecting ongoing research to TERI.
TERI began in 2010, when CEHD became one of 14 higher education partners across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota working within the Bush Foundation’s Network for Excellence in Teaching (NExT) on a 10-year project. TERI thinks differently about teacher education by focusing on classroom diversity, building alliances with studentsí parents and partnering with schools.
Focus on Diversity
Research shows the school-based factor that has the most effect on student success is the quality of the teacher. TERI’s mission is to produce high-quality teachers who are motivated, aware, knowledgeable and skilled to relate to and effectively teach students from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Understanding diversity in the classroom is necessary to help increase high school graduation rates, reduce disparities and close the achievement gap. One required class for TERI students, for instance, is called Cultures, Schools and Communities which addresses the social and cultural dimensions of working in today’s schools, led by professors Peter Demerath and Michael Goh. Teacher candidates explore a wide range of challenges and dilemmas facing educators including the multiple identities students bring to their classrooms such as race, culture, class and gender, to name a few.
Build Alliances with Parents
TERI also trains teachers to work with others who are invested in a child’s education, especially parents. From our research and practice, I recommend three tips for both parents and teachers to promote school success.
Tips for Parents:
- Communicate: Don’t be afraid to talk with your child’s teacher—teachers are trained and expected to communicate with their students’ parents. While parents may feel uncomfortable taking this step, discussions with teachers can help break down barriers.
- Support: Learn what in-school goals the teacher has established and ask how you can support the learning goals at home.
- Contribute: Offer your expertise—from your profession, from your culture—by visiting the class or inviting the teacher to your home.
Tips for Teachers:
- Listen: Teaching is not always about planning and instructing. Listening and paying attention to students and parents is just as important.
- Partner: Treat parents as partners who are willing to engage and support learning both in the classroom and at home. A common misbelief is that all learning has to occur at school. From our research, we know that often more learning is happening at home than we think.
- Let go of assumptions: Do not put students or families into boxes based on the color of their skin or the clothing worn to school. Get to know them on an individual level. In TERI, we teach adaptive expertise, which is the ability to adapt to a situation and to different types of people. Our teachers are trained to exhibit adaptive expertise in a variety of classroom situations, including working effectively with students learning English, students with special learning needs, and using the latest instructional technology to enhance learning.
Partner with Schools
In addition to working together successfully with parents, TERI prepares teachers to be leaders within their school. We have very high performing students in TERI—we teach them to be advocates and leaders. Conversely, school administration can become more mutually supportive by acknowledging teachers’ day-to-day leadership. By fostering an environment of collaboration, schools can support teachers by helping to turn their ideas into action. Administrations that value collaborative initiative help ensure quality teachers are attracted to this critical profession.
By thinking differently about teacher education, TERI prepares future teachers to have a long-lasting, positive impact on the children of Minnesota.
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