After more than one hundred years of organized professional education for teachers in the United States, we still lack a clear specification of the most essential tasks and activities of classroom teaching.

2011-2012 Seminar Series
Learning to Teach: The Practice Curriculum

The curriculum for learning teaching comprises theoretical knowledge and instructional “methods,” but there is no agreement about either the knowledge that matters for teaching or what constitute effective “methods.” Professional bodies such as the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) stipulate that teachers need to know and use a “variety of instructional strategies,” but what are these strategies? Licensure assessments for those entering teaching reflect this uncertainty; virtually all measure some aspects of candidates’ personal content knowledge but few test their knowledge at a standard adequate for teaching it, and even fewer require evidence of performance ability—in part because there is no professional consensus around what a new teacher should be able to do. With no common language for describing and analyzing teaching, we have a weak basis for a system of training and assessing teaching practice. This is the case across the entire enterprise of teacher training and development, from traditional higher education-based programs to those run by school districts and non-profit organizations.

The inaugural year of the TeachingWorks streaming seminar series featured a close examination of the problem of identifying instructional practices that are particularly high-leverage for beginning teachers and making them central to the initial teacher-training curriculum. The series featured presentations from leaders in the fields of teacher training and development, each of whom is working to define a curriculum of practice for learning teaching. They shared examples of their work and discussed the challenges of identifying instructional practices that seem essential for initial and early-career training. They addressed questions including what criteria they used to identify key practices from across the vast scope of teaching practice; how they manage the interface of general and subject- and grade level-specific aspects of instruction; and how they account for the intersection of equity and diversity issues with the teaching of subject-matter.

Each of the streaming seminars will feature presentations from leaders in the fields of teacher training and development, each of whom is working to define a curriculum of practice for learning teaching.