Watch our SXSWedu debate with Kate Walsh of NCTQ

SXSWedu may be over for this year, but for those of you want to relive it (or for those who were unable to attend), we present: Ben Riley, executive director of Deans for Impact, and Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), debate educational innovation on the SXSWedu stage.

In their debate, Ben and Kate took on a series of questions about educational innovation in teacher preparation – selected by the audience through an interactive poll – in a mostly friendly exchange that only occasionally devolved into cries of “Hogwash!” Click below to watch the full debate or scroll down for the CliffsNotes version.

Question #1: Is there solid research on what education schools should do?

Kate: Yes, there is absolutely evidence-based research that should be found in every teacher-preparation program in this country, and unfortunately is not. We know, for example, the strategies that are effective in managing classroom behavior. While we don’t know whether learning those strategies before you enter a classroom will make you more effective, to me, it’s a no brainer that teachers should be provided with that content during their preparation experiences.

Ben: We have some insights into what works, and to the extent we have those insights, we should expose future teachers to them. However, we do not have a true science of educating. There does need to be a change in what educator-preparation programs do. The question is in terms of tone – how do we frame what those changes should be? – and then in what actually matters when making those changes.

Question #2: Should schools of education radically innovate?

Ben: The answer is a cautious yes – if what we mean by innovation is tackling an existing problem in a way that addresses it in a more solutions-oriented and effective way. I think everyone can agree that this country can do a better job at preparing future educators for the classroom. We recently released a report – Practice with Purpose – that draws on insights from the science of expertise and maps them onto teacher education; so in that sense, that’s a “radical innovation.”

Kate: The language of innovation is seductive, but I’m pushing back here, because there’s a bigger problem at hand: we’re not developing the core instruction that every teacher needs. Is scientifically based reading instruction innovative? I guess so, because so many programs aren’t doing it. I’m not opposed to innovation, but it’s not the first problem at hand.

Question #3: How important is it that future teachers be trained in technology?

Kate: We do look for evidence that student-teachers are applying relevant technology. The problem is that we don’t what know what the body of knowledge is when it comes to technology. We do think that everyone ought to take a methods course that teachers them how to use technology in the subject they’re going to teach.

Ben: I’m not sure if we disagree or not. I do think that instead of focusing on technology and its related tools, we should prepare teachers to be scientific practitioners: What’s going on in the minds of my students? How will I assess what sort of learning is taking place? How do I design instructional activities that maximize cognitive engagement? If we do that, the question around technology takes care of itself.

Charis Anderson

Senior Director of Communications

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