Mittwoch, 10. April 2013

Teacher training - writing training or speaker training?

Going through teacher training can be plain and simple. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience teacher training in not only two different countries, but at two enormously different institutions. Readers of this blog will know what my home institution is and that I’m spending an exchange year in Gothenburg, Sweden. The main difference between these institutions is that in Gothenburg, the teacher training takes place at the University, whereas in Austria I attend a “Pädagogische Hochschule”. Although the official english name is ‘University of Teacher Education Vienna’ it is technically not a university. They act under different sets of laws and regulations, and the teaching itself also differs. 

Although I studied at the university before, comparing two teacher training programs is easier than just judging them based on university principles. The basic goal of university education, in most cases, is that graduates can go into research or have an academic career, maybe ending up as a professor. Student teachers have, regardless of where they attend, a pretty straightforward goal with their education, they want to become good teachers. When you look at the difference in the teacher education programs, I experienced two distinctions. In one program the focus is reading and then writing. In another program it is more about experiencing and reflecting. When thinking about what teachers are actually doing as their job, you will realize most teachers speak. Obviously teachers have to adept in writing to parents and other school officials, but speaking is the main skill that they have to master. Now I can't say that there are no speaking activities in these programs, but there is a significant amount difference between practicing these skills. When looking at the whole picture, one would assume these circumstances should have some effect on the actual education student teachers receive.

Every university tries to keep high educational standards, but sometimes this can backfire. The courses for student teachers all follow specific curricula which were developed by lecturers and adjusted throughout years of experience. It is very tough to find the right balance for the difficulty of tasks. Tasks can easily overwhelm student teachers. Every student has a different background and different experiences with certain things, therefore some might struggle more with creating presentations, while others might find it tough to write an academic paper using references. Somehow I feel like this kind of challenge prepares student teachers for their classroom work, because these things do not change. Kids will always have different talents and they will always be good at different things, so experiencing something similar could be helpful for the future teaching.

A similar issue arises with having too many tasks to complete. Especially in teacher training, where reflecting on what we are actually is the key, simple producing of tasks is not worthwhile. The feeling of ‘learning nothing’ can quickly take over the work process, thus making the work that is put in superficial itself. On the other hand, the same thing can occur if there is not enough to do. Student teachers are in way perfect, they want to learn and become better at what they do, so doing task after task, without seeing much benefit in them, can also hinder the reception.

I can’t really offer any closure, because I myself am currently going through these things and experiencing them as they come. And otherwise, nobody would really expect of me to have groundbreaking ideas. My question is summarized in the title, but with any school system and education, I am not sure if there is something teachers and lecturers can do. Curriculum developers always have politics and society in the back of their head, screaming from different sides about what they should do and implement. The best thing to do is to reflect on it and discuss it with colleagues who might go through similar experiences.