Turning teacher preparation into a team sport

Sisters Venus and Serena Williams are two of the world’s most accomplished athletes. And though each has developed a reputation for excellence on her own, they earned perhaps their most impressive accomplishment working as a team: four gold medals, including three in doubles, more than any other player in tennis history.

Excellent individually, even better as a team: that’s the kind of collaboration we’re trying to foster in teacher preparation. Through the Learning by Scientific Design Network, we’re encouraging faculty to team up, share reflections on their instructional practice, and redesign coursework together to create a better experience for teacher-candidates.

“This is a huge paradigm shift for faculty — they’re putting evidence of their candidates’ understanding and misconceptions in front of each other, being really vulnerable about it, and brainstorming next steps and how they’ll respond in upcoming class sessions,” said Program Manager Callie Lowenstein.

Faculty are excited about the shift, sharing that they’ve already seen the value of using common terms and language throughout the programs.

“It’s just so powerful, having that common language, the lexicon to communicate with students about the lessons they’re teaching,” said Andrea Foster, Professor of Science Education at Sam Houston State University. “When communication improves, so does teacher-candidate teaching, and ultimately, student learning.”

This strategic alignment will equip teachers with a framework they can use to make better instructional decisions.

“Teaching is so complex, especially for novices,” Vice President of Data and Research Tracey Weinstein explained. “We need to give novice teachers ways to make better instructional choices—to understand, between all the different choices they can make, which one will lead to the best learning. Our work with the Learning by Scientific Design Network is giving candidates that framework, so that they don’t feel frozen in the moment. If a teacher has a clear understanding of how learning happens, it makes differentiation easier, it makes novel situations easier—it gives them the tools to make better instructional decisions.”

This work not only empowers novice teachers, but also leads to more equitable learning outcomes for K-12 students.

“Often, conversations about educational equity focus really high, at the structures and systems level–which is super important. But there’s often a missing piece about how teachers’ instructional choices can either foster or hinder equity, which is what we’re focused on in this work,” explained Lowenstein.

To learn more about the Learning by Scientific Design Network, read our latest report, Deepening Meaning and Learning, or subscribe to our newsletter for updates.

Staci Bradbury

Creative Content Manager

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