Riel, M. (2000). Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to work in Learning Communities. In American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (Ed.) Log on or Lose Out: Technology in the 21 Century Teacher Education, 140-150.
The way we prepare teachers should model how we expect them to prepare students. Even though universities are strong advocates of the need for reform of the K-12 schools, most preservice teacher education programs are taught in very traditional, didactic ways. A recent study of a teacher education program in a medium size university indicates that few university professors or supervisors of student teaching modeled the use of any technology other than word processing in educational settings with new teachers. The matching of student teachers with a master teacher in a classroom prepares them to teach the whole class independently, but it may not prepare them to participate in gradelevel planning of lessons or work in cross-discipline groups. When new teachers have minimal experience with technology and collaborative models of decision making, it makes the task of school renewal through professional development extremely difficult. The university needs to model the teaching and learning context that they want teachers to create.
The students in our nation’s schools come from diverse linguistic, cultural, and social backgrounds. Increasingly, the economy requires a high level of competence from more of these students. We do not have the social resources in classrooms to pair one teacher with one student. Therefore, we need to think of creative ways to use the social resources to design learning communities that will be effective for all students (Hill &Celio, 1998; Stringfield, Ross, & Smith, 1996; Mehan, Villanueva, &Hubbard, 1996). The current projected need for 2 million new teachers over the next decade challenges universities to think creatively about how to use social resources. It is the same problem teachers face in their classrooms, and solutions to the problem might be very similar in structure.
This paper proposes a collaborative approach to building knowledge that integrates theory and practice in diverse contexts. “Lesson study circles” (similar to learning circles and to ThinkQuest teams) are proposed as a strategy for professional knowledge building in education (see also Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). To provide the necessary time for teamwork in schools, the preparation of paraprofessional “learning guides” is recommended. The goal is to design a way of preparing professional teachers who have experiential knowledge to design learning communities that include people of diverse talents in the continual process of constructing new understandings and shaping new knowledge.