Saturday, January 30, 2016

How we can get "fully trained" teachers?

Graduating class of the Lady Stanley Institute for Trained Nurses in Ottawa, Ontario
I hopped on to #satchat this morning. The chat was lively and focused on assessment practices. One of the participants made this comment:
A5: Technologies in the classroom are only as effective as the teacher using it. Realistically, most are not fully trained
indicating that most teachers are not fully trained to use technology in assessment. That comment stuck out to me. What does it mean to be fully trained?

The term fully implies a finality, that there is such a time when we are done learning and can then go out and perform. As a teacher educator, I fight this notion all the time. Most hiring officials want fully trained teachers. We work hard to prepare capable teachers, but most evidence shows that they have much to learn and the good ones will keep on learning for many more years. Professionals are always working on improving their craft learning of innovations and reflecting on their practice. 

The other fallacy is the idea that there is a set of practices and tools that sum up the profession. If you master this set you will be fully trained. The problem with this notion, of course, is that we do not have a set. Instead, we have an ever evolving set of practices (hopefully supported with evidence) and technology tools. There is no way to be fully trained because the what we train for keeps changing. In fact, the changes in technology do not just change the tool but the affordance in a way that can change the nature of the task and as a result the nature of what and how we teach.

So what can we do? 

1. We can provide teachers with ways of thinking and problems solving. Having productive strategies to think through Problems of Practice is a key element in our work. This is what we do in our student's Capstone Projects.

2. We can provide an environment that supports professional learning for all. Teachers have different problems of practice and thus different professional learning needs. To be ready to tackle the ever-changing challenges of teaching we must help teachers define their learning needs and seek out the right supports. These can be as far ranging as informal edchats on twitter or formal as graduate degrees in education.

3. Change our expectations. We should not expect fully trained. We should expect innovative teachers who keep trying new ideas. Sometimes we will fall on our faces, but with the help of a supportive group of educators we can get up dust ourselves off and learn.

We should keep trying because there is an important lesson for our students in seeing us try, fail and try again until we all succeed together, students and educators. This is especially true of our attitudes toward new technologies.
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