Let’s Walk the Walk

The Toronto Star published this article about how Teacher Education programs are dealing with incoming teacher-candidates in order to make sure that they’ll be well prepared to teach math.  Most of the solutions are centred around a test that candidates will have to take at the start of the program.

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  • Trent – 75 minute test, if the results are not acceptable, they do some courses, and redo the test…
  • OISE – 90 minute test, with software generated remediation suggestions
  • Brock – Refresher online course with instant graded response, with software generated remediation suggestions
  • Ottawa – a 12 week math course which digs deeper into math content…

(all of this is a summary straight from the article)

I’d like to say that its great that there is more focus on helping teacher-candidates with mathematics, but I think that the test kind of negates all that good stuff.  It’s pedagogically backwards isn’t it?

Aside from Ottawa, everything seems to hinge on fairly straight forward question/answer style test, and I think that Prof. Chris Suurtamm (Ottawa) needs to be commended for her and her colleagues’ approach to this.

For the others, my main questions are:

  1. Are we not just telling teachers that what we value most in math is doing well on a test? Are we really saying…triangulate evidence when you get there…but for now here’s a test…that’s the important part?
  2. If the only teachers that get to teach math did well on a test, are we not just filling the system with more and more people who do not believe in test anxiety because they probably don’t suffer from it? How is that productive to our focus on mental health and well being?

I don’t know what the solutions are, but Ottawa is at least trying something different.  I’d love to know more about the program, and I’ll set out to do that.  Overall, I feel like we need to expose people to good teaching, not testing, to exciting math, not paper and pencil, and to some good, sound, simple approaches to math education which makes students curious enough to want to learn. We have to focus on what is going to be good for the millions of students that these teachers will affect in their future careers, not just what’s easy for us to evaluate.

We, as a system, have to decide…are we going to just talk the talk, or are we going to walk the walk along with the teachers who we are trying to educate to do things differently.  Are we really a system which is going to hide behind “Do as I say, not as I do…” because that really didn’t work for my parents when I was a teen, and I sure don’t think its become any more effective now…

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