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Ed Week hosted a “Teaching Ahead”1 teacher blog post where a panel of teachers discussed the question “How would you change teacher prep?” in a roundtable format. The question was introduced using the following paragraph:

In an Education Week Commentary last year, Linda Darling-Hammond wrote that teachers “reach the profession through a smorgasbord of training options, from excellent to awful.” Regardless of your stance on the efficacy of alternative routes vs. traditional college-based programs vs. residencies, there’s no denying that all teacher preparation programs have room for improvement.

Several questions followed:

Looking back, what do you wish you’d learned or experienced during your preservice preparation? In what areas do you think teachers tend to have deficits when they first take on classrooms of their own? What aspects of your teacher preparation have you found particularly helpful in your own teaching practice? In your opinion, how will teacher prep programs need to change over the next few decades to meet evolving student and school needs?

In the “Roundup Post” (01.31.2012) a guest blogger summarized “top suggestions” from the Roundtable participants. The suggestions were: Increase Field Experience, Emphasize Mentoring, Don’t Sugarcoat It, Add More Hybrid Roles, Be Yourself, Understand the Community, and Attract Top Candidates.

Creating effective classrooms where students are not losing years of learning is hard work, especially when teachers must learn to shift from compliance-driven to performance-driven classrooms. There is no question that this requires school leaders and teachers to work very hard. Teachers want to make a difference in the lives of their students. And, we believe that young people and adults want to live lives of purpose, do worthwhile work, and in some way make a difference in the world.  These three values—purpose, worthwhile work, and making a difference—drive most people to desire to become better at what they do.

To become better, people need to know where they are going and what is expected of them. Likewise, for students to learn, they need to know what they should be focusing on and what they should do in order to reach a desired goal. Therefore, teachers need to be very strategic about what they measure and how they coach students to achieve the desired goals defined by the measures.

Performance-driven classrooms hold these same three values—purpose, worthwhile work, and making a difference—teachers enter classrooms with the goal of helping their students find their sense of purpose and do worthwhile work. Consequently, students take more ownership of their learning. In performance-driven classrooms, teachers no longer need to read about and attempt various creative ways for motivating students (or themselves). The renewed passion the students have for learning and the sense of purpose they gain from their classroom experience breed self-motivation. This is evidenced in the research:

In his work with teachers, Rick Stiggins found that when teachers apply assessments as students are learning, their students become more engaged and take control of their own learning.2

Harry Wong provides numerous examples of students, whose ability to learn improves when their teachers connect the dots for them and create a classroom where they clearly understand classroom procedures and learning expectations.3

 Applying evidence from Studer’s4 work healthcare organizations we can safely surmise that teachers can reconnect to students’ eagerness to learn when they create a classroom culture built around the core principles of “purpose, worthwhile work, and making a difference.”

Teachers in performance-driven classrooms expect excellence and build a culture of excellence. In our work with leaders and teachers, we find that when teachers expect excellence from students and coach them to learn, the students own their learning. The students are eager to learn and so are the teachers and leaders. The results are increased student learning and students achieving success in the classroom. This is the focus of our work in preparing new teachers in TeacherReady, an online alternative professional teaching certification that is state approved and NCATE accredited. It is also one of the principles we share with partner schools and leaders from How to Lead Teachers to Become Great: It’s All About Student Learning.


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1 “Teaching Ahead” is a joint project developed by Education Week Teacher and the Center for Teaching Quality.

2 Stiggins, R. (2007). Assessment Through the Student’s Eyes. Educational Leadership, 67(8), 22-26.

3 Wong, H., and Wong, R. (2004). The First Days of School: How to Become an Effective Teacher. Harry Wong Publications, Inc.

4 Studer, Q. (2004). Hardwiring Excellence: Purpose, Worthwhile Work, Making a Difference. Pensacola, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.

Pilcher, J. and Largue, R. (2009). How to Lead Teachers to Become Great: It’s All About Student Learning. Gulf Breeze, FL: Fire Starter Publishing.

TeacherReady is an online alternative certification program targeted to individuals interested in a career transition to the teaching profession. TeacherReady is a state approved, NCATE accredited alternative certification program that is affiliated with the University of West Florida. Visit our website or connect with us on Facebook for more information.

Our mission at Studer Education is about providing students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. To do this we teach teachers and leaders how to get the best student learning results and create results-oriented school cultures. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com to learn more about Studer Education Teacher Development Institutes (TDIs), Leader Development Institutes (LDIs), and Evidence-Based Leadership.