Program Focus MIT 2006-2008

Teaching the Child in Front of You in a Changing World

Each of us has a picture of what it means to be a teacher based on our own experience in schools. We've perhaps changed those pictures to accommodate our growing understanding of the complexities that have always been part of the "teacher" role. We may also have considered that as powerful political, economic, social and demographic forces bring change to schools it is certain that for us, as teachers, the experiences of our future students will be much different than our own.

We must deepen our current beliefs about teaching and learning if we are to be effective advocates for our students in this time of change. We invite people into this program who are eager to accept the challenge of discovering what it means to be a critically reflective practitioner. We want prospective teachers who will strive to deepen their own understanding of schooling and education in a democratic society. We seek students who are willing to question and challenge existing educational structures that systematically leave some groups of children behind. We look forward to building a community of learners intent on preparing themselves to teach all the children who will be in front of them.

The year 2006 marks the twenty year anniversary of "Evergreen style" teacher education - in 1986, the prototype for Evergreen's Master in Teaching Program, the Teacher Education Program, admitted its first students. Then, as now, Evergreen's approach to teacher preparation emphasized building a community of learners, developing a strong theoretical foundation, and learning to apply theory through extensive opportunities for practice. The inaugural 1986 cycle was also informed and inspired by the idea of "development in education", and in particular by the question "what does it mean to take development as the aim of education?"

For the 2006-08 cycle we will thoroughly revisit the theme of development, recognizing its continuing value in helping us challenge and deepen our understanding of what it means to teach effectively and meaningfully - especially in a time of change.

Among the questions that will energize our study and practice are:

* What are the stated and implicit goals of education today and historically in US public schools, and across the world? Can the variety of perspectives about educational goals be placed on a developmental continuum? What are the benefits of considering development as the overarching aim of education?

* What does it mean to know our learners? Along which dimensions (e.g., developmental levels, learning style, personality, interest) is it most important to know our learners? How can we as teachers further develop within ourselves the emotional and intellectual attributes needed to effectively understand our future students?

* How do children learn? Is learning developmental? Are there universal learning principles that work for all children? How does the learning process differ at different ages and for children with varying levels of language development?

* What do teachers need to know about the subjects they teach? How can teachers present content appropriately, given the variety of learning styles and developmental levels of their learners?

* How can we learn to plan instruction and set up learning environments that support the ideal of democracy? How can we plan our instruction so as to simultaneously take into account state and federal requirements, societal needs and parental expectations while not forgetting that we are preparing our students to be citizens in a democracy?

* Which teaching strategies are most needed in today's diverse schools? How might our own cultural encapsulation and other life experiences affect our ability to use a particular teaching strategy effectively? How can educational technologies be appropriately used to further the all-around development of our students?

* How can assessment be used to continually improve the education environment at the individual, classroom, and school levels? How can teachers prepare students for high-stakes testing without compromising the depth and breadth of the students' educational experience? Can we model effective assessment in our own teacher education program?

The faculty for this cycle of the Master in Teacher Program include Scott Coleman, Jacque Ensign, Gery Gerst, Masao Sugiyama, and additional Evergreen faculty and current classroom practitioners.