The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching unveiled a 5-year, $3- million initiative this month that will bring together some of the nation’s top scholars to examine how teacher education classes are taught, how prospective teachers learn, and how their learning is evaluated.
The initiative is one element of a 10-year, $10 million effort to study the ways in which professionals are trained, said Lee S. Shulman, the president of the nonprofit research organization, based in Menlo Park, Calif. The foundation began the project two years ago and is examining the professions of law, engineering, medicine, social work, and the clergy, in addition to teaching.
“This is the first time that the education of teachers has been examined systematically as part of a larger effort to understand the preparation for professions,” Mr. Shulman said. “In the preparation of lawyers and engineers, for example, there are some of the very same problems we thought were unique nightmares to education—they are universal.”
Because each profession uses different strategies to address similar problems, the foundation hopes to identify the best practices used in one vocation and apply them to others, he said.
The first task of the scholars investigating teacher preparation will be to look at the ways in which future K-12 educators are assessed, Mr. Shulman said. At least a dozen teacher-preparation programs will be examined, he added.
“Our challenge is to pull together the very best approaches developed and tried out in an attempt to assess how well teachers are learning their craft,” he said. “Then you can begin asking the other questions like ‘What are the most promising practices for teaching methods of teaching?’”
‘A Big Missing Piece’
Some education experts say that the project could generate information essential to improving teacher education and, as yet, unreported in a comprehensive manner anywhere else.
“The whole issue of documenting what it is that teachers should know and be able to do and how they’re taught these things is a big, big, big missing piece in policymaking,” said C. Emily Feistritzer, the president of the National Center for Education Information, a private research group based in Washington. “Without that data, it is very hard to make sound decisions about what should be done.”
Under its late president, Ernest L. Boyer, the Carnegie Foundation produced landmark studies on elementary education, high schools, school choice, colleges, and early childhood education.
The new initiative comes as several groups of researchers are posing similar questions about teacher preparation. “We’re going to take some responsibility for bringing them together and helping them sort out the information,” Mr. Shulman said. “We want this to be a collaborative effort.”
Among the researchers working on the project is Frank B. Murray, a professor of education and psychology at the University of Delaware in Newark and the president of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, which accredits teacher-preparation programs in about 65 colleges and universities.
Other participants are: Pamela L.Grossman, a professor of education at Stanford University; Carol D. Lee, an associate professor of education at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.; Gary Sykes, a professor of education at Michigan State University in East Lansing; and Kenneth M.Zeichner, the assistant dean for the school of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carnegie Senior Scholar Rose Asera will co-direct the initiative along with Mr. Shulman.
The Carnegie Corporation of New York is financing the project.
A version of this article appeared in the March 21, 2001 edition of Education Week as Foundation To Study Preparation Of Teachers