Blended Learning

An experiment in teacher training: More in-person fieldwork, but more online professional development

Teacher training programs have new competition from an array of outside-of-academia organizations – think tanks, nonprofits and money-making businesses – that all claim to have the latest, greatest way of preparing educators for the classroom.

But all that is new is not gold. Some of these programs are of questionable value.

Meanwhile, some of the oldest institutions are rethinking their degree programs for teachers. And many are experimenting with technology to push the reach of these programs beyond the campus green. The goal: Find innovative ways to deliver high-quality training and link college faculty members to the realities of everyday school-day rhythms.

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Among the latest examples is New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, where they are planning “embedded teacher preparation” as part of a new online master’s degree program. Students in the one-year program will be based at urban schools in a variety of states (they have not selected the locations yet), rather than at NYU.

“We want to make schools across the country our campus,” Ted Magder, vice dean for academic affairs at NYU’s Steinhardt School, told me shortly after the program was announced last month during National Education Week in New York City.

The aspiring teachers in this program will work in a school as part of the staff, alongside teachers. They will co-teach or teach one period a day, and for the remainder of each school day they will be involved in some kind of student-centered job, such as tutoring. (In other words, they won’t be mopping floors or washing cafeteria dishes.) The student teachers will be paid for their work.

Outside of the school, they will take courses online with NYU faculty. Videos of the student teachers will allow faculty to provide ongoing, and relevant, feedback as the teachers begin to teach lessons. NYU has partnered with HotChalk, an education technology company, to provide the high-tech power for the project, and Torsh Talent, which provides an online video platform.

The program is currently seeking school district partners. They expect to select three to four for the first year, and they are focused in high-need school districts.

And take note: This won’t be a Massive Open Online Course. It’s not free. And there won’t be hundreds of people in one class. The Steinhardt School leaders haven’t set the tuition rate yet, but they hope the cost will be “affordable to a new generation of teachers.” The student-faculty ratio will be about 15 to one, they say.

“We are not doing this to save money,” Magder said. “We are going this to improve teacher education.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.  Read more about Blended Learning.

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Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo is a reporter and the blended learning fellow. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic's online edition, Mind/Shift,… See Archive