Committee on Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation, Center for Education, National Research Council. (2001). Educating teachers of science, mathematics, and technology: New practices for the new millennium. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 205 pp. (ISBN: 0-309-07033-3).
Ball State University
Mary Annette Rose
Ball State University
Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology: New Practices for the New Millennium is a scholarly response to the contemporary concern for improving public school education in the United States. The report, prepared by the National Research Council's Committee on Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation (CSMTP), calls for systemic reform across the entire continuum of the recruitment, initial preparation, and continued professional development of science and mathematics teachers.
The CSMTP justifies its call for widespread changes throughout the entire system of teacher education by highlighting the following evidence:
- The poor performance of U.S. students in science and mathematics on international comparisons;
- That empirical research consistently demonstrates strong positive relationships among quality instruction, depth of teachers' conceptual understanding, and their students' high achievement scores;
- The current trend of teacher shortages and the practice of staffing science and mathematics positions with unqualified or out-of-field teachers;
- An ineffectual professional development system that fails to enhance teachers' content and pedagogical knowledge and skills especially as they relate to the integration of standards; and
- A widespread opinion that the teaching profession is unattractive due to the lack of opportunities for professional advancement and unsavory working conditions.
In addition, the report unquestionably aligns itself with the national fervor to increasingly make teachers accountable for the integration and implementation of content, assessment, and teaching standards.
The report articulates the CSMTP's vision of a continuum of teacher development and provides specific recommendations to the range of stakeholders on how this vision might be realized. Six guiding principles are offered to improve teacher education in science, mathematics, and technology, paraphrased below:
- The improvement of teaching and teacher education should be seen as a top national priority.
- Teacher preparation should become a career-long process.
- The rewards and expectations associated with the teaching profession must be upgraded so they are at comparable levels with other professions.
- Higher education institutions must assume greater responsibility, and be held more accountable for improving teacher education.
- Collective and integrated partnerships among all stakeholder groups are essential to addressing these challenges.
- Content experts (i.e., mathematicians, scientists, and engineers) must be involved with efforts to provide teachers with the content knowledge and pedagogy of their disciplines.
The Committee offers specific recommendations for articulating each principle to critical stakeholders in government, higher education, K-12 communities, and disciplinary organizations. Although the recommendations for professional and disciplinary organizations include few specifics, calling for greater coordination with other stakeholders, recommendations to the other stakeholder groups are more detailed.
The primary recommendations for governmental bodies are to provide "large infusions of financial support" (p. 110) and leadership in developing initiatives for improving teacher education. Notable examples of funding needs include support for regional partnerships, low-interest student loans, loan forgiveness for those who agree to teach in poverty-stricken schools, grants, and stipends for teaching interns. Also highlighted is the need for governmental leadership in establishing national databases that catalog available resources and jobs, and in "developing national consensus on criteria for teacher credentialing" (p. 115).
The Committee recommends that institutions of higher education focus their efforts on the redesign of teacher education programs, providing courses with "strong exposure to appropriate content and that model the kinds of pedagogical approaches appropriate for teaching that content" (p. 118). The Committee advocates a departure from typical practice by transferring the "primary responsibility for providing professional development opportunities" (p. 123) to universities, after a period of collaboration with K-12 school communities.
Another reversal to the status quo is seen in the Committee's recommendation that K-12 school districts (rather than universities) assume the chief responsibility for providing and overseeing student teaching and other teacher practicum experiences. However, the overarching call is for increased collaboration among all stakeholders to provide both pre-service and practicing teachers an integrated continuum of professional development that extends from elementary education, through teacher recruitment, preparation, certification, and career-long improvement. Professional Development Schools (PDS) are seen as a critical part of collaborative teacher preparation and development.
JITE readers may find this publication beneficial for a number of reasons. For those new to these national efforts, the report provides useful summaries and examples of the National Science Education Standards (National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment, National Research Council, 1996), the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000), the key principles of accomplished teaching offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (1994), and the standards for novice teaching offered by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (1999).
Those in industrial and technical teacher education may benefit by comparing the science and mathematics models of content and program standards, and by examining the models for the development of teaching standards in these disciplines. An initial step in developing meaningful instruction that integrates appropriate content in technology, science, and mathematics is to identify the content overlaps among the standards in these disciplines. In particular, those involved in technology education may appreciate the comparisons with teaching standards in mathematics and science.
In any national change effort, such as the adoption and implementation of national education standards, the rate and quality of implementation are hampered if the foundational resources that detail the desired courses of action are not freely and widely disseminated to all stakeholders. This report serves as a model for dissemination because it is available at no charge online, as are notable standards documents (Association for the Education of Teachers in Science, 1997; National Council on Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2002).
Finally, this bold new vision of a continuum of teacher development will likely prove most useful to those charged with designing teacher education and development at universities and in school districts. The recommendations are specific enough to be used as critical points of discussion during the collaborative re-design of teacher education. For example, because the study of technology is the study of ever-changing phenomena, a university program in industrial or technology teacher education may partner with a school district to focus on the second principle, creatively providing career-long technological updates for teachers delivered by scientists and engineers.
Although this document makes a bold call for action, it often misses the mark. For example, a reader might expect the report to describe the current controversies related to the education of teachers. Although some controversial issues are mentioned, the coverage is often inadequate or misses one side of the issue. For example, the authors provide two and a half pages on the benefits of Professional Development Schools (pp. 77 - 79); absent from the discussion is any mention of the drawbacks of PDSs in spite of the existence of literature that notes these drawbacks (Tom, 1999; Campoy, 2000; Pritchard & Ancess, 1999).
The report passes on, with little scrutiny, recommendations from other bodies. Consider the following: "The committee also strongly supports the specific recommendation from the American Council on Education (1999), 'Where teacher education programs operate at the periphery of the institution's strategic interests and directions, they should be moved to the center-or moved out' " (p. 85). There are many universities that are clearly charged to provide education and services in areas other than teacher education, such as research, graduate education, engineering education, and medical education. To suggest that these other areas, which may be more central to that university's charge, be pushed aside is neither realistic nor in the best interest of the institution. Furthermore, dropping teacher education from such universities would certainly not have a positive impact on the teacher shortage.
Similarly, while many of the recommendations seem well reasoned, this is not always the case. Consider the sixth principle previously paraphrased. The actual text reads, "Many more scientists, mathematicians, and engineers must become well informed enough to be involved with local and national efforts to provide the appropriate content knowledge and pedagogy of their disciplines to current and future teachers" (p. 88). While the potential benefits of working closely with scientists, mathematicians, and engineers cannot be denied, this makes an assumption that any person who is technically competent can also model appropriate teaching techniques and adequately address pedagogical issues. This undermines the very notion of teacher education, and professional educators may take issue with this principle.
Although one can infer that the establishment of collaborative partnerships will result in a variety of approaches to restructuring teacher education, the report neither offers nor acknowledges alternative pathways. For instance, the single set of recommendations and the pervasive use of imperatives do not invite diverse opinions or accommodate local priorities. If a local school district receives national recognition for its exemplary professional development program, should the regional university assume the primary responsibility for continuing education of that district's teachers? A richer report may have been produced had the authors seen their goal as developing alternative recommendations for teacher education that were more sensitive to local needs and priorities.
A comparison is appropriate between this report and Before It's Too Late: A Report to the Nation from the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (2000). Because Senator John Glenn chaired that commission, its work has been termed "the Glenn report." The Glenn report, also available online, offers specific suggestions for achieving three goals, which include: "establish an ongoing system to improve the quality of mathematics and science teaching in grades K-12" (p. 8); "increase significantly the number of mathematics and science teachers and improve the quality of their preparation," (p. 9); and "improve the working environment and make the teaching profession more attractive for K-12 mathematics and science teachers" (p. 9). Compared to the report under review, the Glenn report provides readers with statistics that may help them present a justification for their initiatives. It also encourages more locally appropriate solutions than the reviewed report, suggesting that each state begin with its own needs assessment. The Glenn report centers more on student outcomes, whereas the CSMTP report looks at establishing systems for teacher development. However, the Glenn report covers a broader topic, and while it provides a variety of examples for teacher development, it lacks the depth of coverage on teacher education found in the CSMTP report.
Relevance to Technology Education and Industrial Teacher Education
Allegedly, the CSMTP report "places technology education on the same footing with science and mathematics education" (p.1). Unfortunately, this opening sentiment is maintained neither in the Committee's methodology nor in the report. The report suffers from what may be characterized as the "And Technology Syndrome." That is, it appears to have been originally envisioned, researched, and written with only science and mathematics in mind, but it is as if before final publication many occurrences of "science and mathematics" were changed to "science, mathematics, and technology."
The Committee appears to have used only the literature from science, mathematics, and general teacher education as the basis for a call to reform science, mathematics, and technology teacher education. Therefore, the host of critical issues surrounding industrial and technology teacher education is not represented. Although a footnote and rare citations do list the International Technology Education Association's (2000) Standards for Technological Literacy, there is no discussion of the content of those standards as there is of the standards in mathematics and science. A discussion of the use of dual-purpose technical classes for both industrial technology and teacher education majors (Brown, 1993) is absent from the report. Addressing this issue could have provided greater substance to the report's call for having prospective teachers study mathematics, science, and engineering with content specialists who will help them think mathematically, scientifically, and technologically.
Such minimization of technology education is exacerbated by the report's inconsistent inclusion of "technology" in a list with science and mathematics. This is seen, ironically, in the following call for respect: "The committee also has concluded that such change is in the best interest of teachers of science and mathematics themselves, who, quite incontrovertibly, are not accorded the respect and recognition due professionals who hold such responsible positions in our society" (p. 2).
Furthermore, the word, "technology," is used to discuss the K-12 subject in this report, whereas "engineering" is often used to refer to the associated college curriculum; substantive reference to disciplines of industrial and technology teacher education is absent: "In turn, faculty in both the school of education and in science, mathematics, and engineering departments at partner colleges and universities would assume much greater responsibility …" (p. 9).
Apart from the lack of substantive examination of technology education, technology teacher education, and industrial teacher education, this report still contains thought-provoking recommendations that may fuel, rather than direct, substantive discussions about improving teacher education in these disciplines.
Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology is a useful, but misnamed, volume. It deals with a rather narrowly-defined plan for teacher education and development, and it clearly centers on science and mathematics, not offering meaningful information or discussion about the special issues concerning the education of teachers of technology. A more fitting title might have been, "An approach to preparing teachers of science and mathematics." Still, those involved in teacher education in mathematics, science, technology, and industrial and technical fields, including teachers themselves, may find this report helpful, particularly when there is a commitment to improving the career-long education of teachers through an integrated approach. Those who may benefit the most are school district administrators and teacher education program committee members who are charged with providing high-quality teacher preparation and development.
Association for the Education of Teachers in Science. (1997). Professional knowledge standards for science teacher educators. Retrieved February 15, 2002 from http://www.aets.unr.edu/AETS/standards.htm.
Brown, D. (1993). A study of three for teaching technical content to pre-service technology education teachers. Journal of Technology, 5(1). Retrieved January 15, 2002 from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/v5n1/brown.jte-v5n1.html.
Campoy, R. W. (2000). A professional development school partnership: Conflict and collaboration. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
International Technology Education Association. (2000). Standards for technological literacy: Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.
Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (1999). Core standards. Retrieved January 17, 2002 from http://facstaff.uww.edu/speced/course/INTASC_Standards.htm.
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. (1994). What teachers should know and be able to do. Detroit, MI: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. (2000). Before It's Too Late. Retrieved February 25, 2002 from http://www.ed.gov/americacounts/glenn/
National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment, National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (2002). Program standards. Retrieved February 15, 2002 from http://www.ncate.org/standard/programstds.htm
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Pritchard, F., and Ancess, J. (1999). The effects of professional development schools: A literature review. Washington, DC: National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching. Retrieved February 15, 2002 from http://www.ericsp.org/pages/digests/EffectsofProfDev.htm (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED448155)
Tom, A. R. (1999). How professional development schools can destabilize the work of university faculty. Peabody Journal of Education, 74(3&4), 277-284.
Flowers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Professor and Director of Online Education and Rose (email@example.com) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Industry & Technology at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The 2000 edition of the book under review is available on the National Academy web site at no charge at: http://www.nap.edu/books/0309070333/html/.