Noodling my noggin
Posted August 19, 2010on:
The photo is from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It’s a warning sign not to mess about with what looked like a giant macaroni piece. Believe it or not, it has got something to do with what I have learnt so far on our study trip.
I wrote much of this entry as we were driving from Santa Barbara to Gilroy enroute to San Jose. It’s the only time I was able to actually sit down to process the wonderful things I have learnt so far from the equally wonderful people of the Graduate College of Education at UC Santa Barbara.
I have to take back what I said about what we might learn after spending all this money to travel here. Like the sign in the photo, there some things you just have to see for yourself in their proper context to get a more accurate understanding.
If our teacher preparation programme is like a factory that churns out over 2000 teachers a year, the teacher education program is a boutique that carefully nurtures about 100 teachers a year.
UCSB only offers a Masters in Education and student teachers have a year to complete this course. They typically teach in schools in the day and have classes in the afternoon and evening. I think there is no better way to embed theory in practice. Sounds intense? There’s more.
As student teachers do this, they maintain two types of portfolios. The first is a credential portfolio which documents their practicum. The second is an M Ed portfolio that is a form of action research and links their coursework to their practicum. It’s difficult to describe briefly, but the quantity and quality of the work these teachers-to-be generate is immense!
Student teachers are required to defend their portfolios and we were privileged to observe and participate in examples of both portfolios. What impressed all of us was the ability of the student teachers to not only clearly articulate their ideas and the issues they were facing, but also critically evaluate them in ways that clearly linked theory with practice.
They can do this because they are constantly exposed to a working philosophy of inquiry and argumentation in their programme. For example, if a student wants to know how to engage learners, they are not necessarily told directly how to do this. Instead, they explore their own understanding of what it means and build on it (or break it down) by tapping relevant sources of information. They hone their understanding by debating their findings with other. These are key to creating a thinking teacher.
But the folks at UCSB readily admit that what they do is manually intensive in terms of instruction, mentoring and evaluation. They use very little current technology to add value to what they do or to enable them to do what they otherwise couldn’t do. They could, for example, use e-portfolios to more easily enable the tracking of the history of learning artefacts. This in turn could allow student teachers to identify their “aha” moments. They could use the same to document the comments and critiques of student teachers, their peers and their mentors. This would serve as a recording, referencing and reflecting platform.
I think that we in NIE are well-placed to implement e-portfolios in powerful and meaningful ways. I can only hope that we explore progressive routes to doing this rather than try to replicate what no tech or old tech already do.