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Education Summit Gives Congress Recommendations for Education Reform

A major report that was delivered to Congress earlier this year and that contains recommendations from U.S. education stakeholders for the transformation of teacher education programs will be available to the public at noon, Tuesday, Oct. 12, at www.redefineteachered.org.

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A major report that was delivered to Congress earlier this year and that contains recommendations from U.S. education stakeholders for the transformation of teacher education programs will be available to the public at noon, Tuesday, Oct. 12, at www.redefineteachered.org.

The report, “Redefining Teacher Education for Digital Age Learners,” was presented to national policymakers by University of Texas at Austin Education Professor Dr. Paul Resta and Dr. Tom Carroll, National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future president.

The report, the result of a landmark invitational Summit hosted by The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education last December, calls for national leadership to:

  • Create a National Coalition to Reinvent Teacher Education for Digital Age Learners that would support national organizations representing special interest constituency groups, which are working on separate efforts to re-imagine teacher education and reinvent the teaching role.
  • Establish common national certification criteria to eliminate problems arising from the varying degrees of support states and local entities can contribute for the envisioned new education system.

“There’s wide recognition that teacher education needs to change to meet the needs of digital age learners,” said Resta, who is director of the College of Education’s Learning Technology Center. “The urgency of this need is what brought 100 leaders from state legislatures, state certification boards, education professional associations, teacher unions, teacher education institutions, schools, the business community and federal government to the Austin Summit. They worked intensively over three days to identify the needed changes and articulate specific recommendations for their implementation.”

The Summit, organized by Resta and the Learning Technology Center, focused on how best to create educators for digital age learners and a technology-based global society. Carroll and Resta co-chaired the Summit, and it was organized through gifts from Promethean World PLC, Microsoft and Knowledge Delivery Systems.

“Our focus is to support the transformation of teaching and learning,” said Jim Wynn, chief education officer for Promethean. “Working with other leaders, we hope to create solutions that will help bring to life the promise of 21st century learning in a fashion that will boost student engagement and deliver improved academic results. But achieving our mission starts with creating teacher education programs that take isolated islands of innovation and excellence in education professional development and make them the standard.”

The Summit report represents a consensus among a cross-section of major leaders in education and pinpoints three areas that have to be examined thoroughly before teacher education reform can begin:

  • the necessary qualities for 21st century teachers;
  • the changes teacher education programs must undergo to create educators with the necessary pedagogical and content area expertise;
  • policies that will have to be implemented at the institutional, state and national levels.

According to Carroll, a compelling theme that emerged during the Summit is that the nation should be preparing educators for the schools it needs rather than the schools it has.

“A number of reforms currently underway are intended to create a new generation of super teachers in which every teacher will be better at everything, for everyone, all of the time,” said Carroll. “If only this were possible. Teaching is perhaps the last solo practice profession in the world. This is in stark contrast to healthcare, emergency rescue and automobile maintenance teams, and every other collaborative organization in our society that no longer expects a single individual to know and do the job alone. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and an urgent national need, to reinvent teacher education. If all we do is come up with new ways to fill obsolete jobs in factory-era schools, the future is already over.”

Helping the students of today acquire the skills for tomorrow and realize their potential is paramount to the entire nation, not just the schools, according to Kristen Hamilton, Microsoft director of education and section leader for the 21st century qualifications portion of the Summit paper.

“Technology is a key element to more effectively teaching those critical skills,” said Hamilton, “which include collaboration, creative thinking and problem solving. This report identifies that one of the ways to best equip our students with those proficiencies is to go to the source — to the institutions that train the teachers — so that when someone graduates from a college of education, there’s no question that individual is adept at using technology to impart those 21st century skills.”

Among the numerous specific recommendations in the report, stakeholders concluded:

  • teachers must be taught more complex pedagogical strategies, ones that encourage process-based learning and problem-solving skills rather than simply teaching content that will appear on standards-based tests;
  • teacher education programs must model the use of the most current technology and innovative, research-based pedagogical practices so teachers will know how to use them in their classrooms;
  • teacher education must become a university-wide endeavor and include faculty collaboration across disciplines because much of future teachers’ learning is influenced by courses and requirements outside of colleges of education;
  • teacher education faculty members must be given as much time and incentive to train apprentice teachers in classrooms as they are given for research and university teaching.

Resta, who is president of the international jury for the UNESCO Prize for Information and Communication Technology in Education, said there have been extensive, prolonged national discussions about moving teacher education and schools out of the industrial age and into the knowledge age and that now is the time to move from talk to action.

“Other developed countries are initiating major efforts to bring their educational systems into the 21st century,” said Resta. “The time has come for us to lead the change to a new model of education and educator preparation or risk being left behind in a rapidly changing, technology- and knowledge-based global society.”

Financial support from Promethean, Microsoft Corporation and Knowledge Delivery Systems made the Congressional briefing and presentation of the Summit report possible.

The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education is ranked by U.S. News and World Report in the top five graduate education programs in the nation among public institutions of higher learning and in the top 10 overall, along with Columbia, Stanford, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt. The college is a leader in innovation and was the first in the nation to require that students in the teacher education program have laptop computers. In partnership with the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Education created the nationally replicated UTeach program and is home to the number one community college leadership preparation program in the U.S.