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Teacher Training Suffers From 'Washout' Effect

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San Antonio--While members of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education were defending education-methodology courses and debating their proper place in teacher training, researchers from Brigham Young University released a report that suggests that teachers use their professional training less than half of the time they are in the classroom.

The researchers' first-hand observation and extensive interviewing of student teachers and first-year teachers in three school districts near Salt Lake City during the 1982-83 school year revealed that the instructors used their own ideas about teaching about as often as they used methods taught them in education schools.

D. Cecil Clark, professor of elementary education at Brigham Young and one of four authors of the report, said 27 percent of the methods used by the 71 teachers in the study were judged to be the teachers' "own ideas."

Another 17 percent came from cooperating teachers or student-teaching experiences, and 17 percent were from instructors or classes in the teacher-education program. Some 13 percent of the methods used by teachers came from books or programs adopted by the school, 11 percent were from other teachers in the district, and 4 percent were from independent readings of professional material.

The survey showed that teachers' professional training suffers from a "washout effect" once the teachers are exposed to daily classroom pressures, Mr. Clark said. He said teacher-training programs should require prospective teachers to spend more time as student teachers and that their early work in the classroom should be closely monitored.

"We were exposing [the teachers] to methods [in teacher-education courses], but we didn't make them learn methods," he said. "We spend all this time wringing our hands about [the efficacy of] methods when we haven't really taught them those skills."

The student teachers and first-year teachers spent about 30 percent of their class time giving instruction to pupils, 26 percent working on reinforcement activities and games pertaining to current lessons, 21 percent on management tasks, and 13 percent on drills and review of the course content.

The only major differences between the way student teachers and first-year teachers behaved concerned the reinforcement of course material. The student teachers spent 34 percent of the class period on reinforcement activities and games, while first-year teachers spent 22 percent of their class time that way.

The 19 percent of the time that first-year teachers spent on drills was almost 40 times the amount of time student teachers spent on drills.

The study, which involved 22 elementary schools and six secondary schools, was conducted by six graduate students in elementary education and instructional science at Brigham Young University.

The authors of the report were Mr. Clark; Ralph B. Smith, associate dean of the college of education; Timothy J. Newby, a doctoral candidate in instructional science; and Verna A. Cook, a master's-degree candidate in elementary education.--ce

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