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Rifek refers to "the US's strong anti-intellectualism". But then Zwackus says:

As far as I'm concerned, teaching is something you have to learn by doing, and no amount of course work and book study is going to help you do it.

This does sound a bit anti-intellectual. But then Z quite reasonably qualifies this, with some things which might well involve some "course work" and "book study":

You need to study the content you're going to teach, sure.  The occasional seminar on "Try Doing This!" or "This worked here!" might be useful when things aren't working with a particular group of kids, or you feel stuck in a rut.  Learning the legal environment of your school district is good, and having some basic training in counseling and dealing with psychological issues may be useful too ...

But then further qualifies the latter with

though these would also probably be as much done through hand-on training as anything.

Or maybe not, but wouldn't an intellectually valid approach involve the reference to some studies rather than personal experience and opinion? Also, of course, it doesn't have to be either/or; it would seem reasonable to complement practical experience with some study.

Let's take a look at what some studies have shown about the difficult business of comparing differing educational systems around the world. Finland has been coming top in the PISA rankings and many people have looked at their educational system to see what lessons might be learned, e.g.:

Since it emerged in 2000 as the top-scoring OECD nation on the international PISA assessments, researchers have been pouring into the country to study the "Finnish miracle." How did a country with an undistinguished education system in the 1980s surge to the head of the global class in just few decades? Research and experience suggest one element trumps all others: excellent teachers. This policy brief examines the crucial role that teachers and teacher education have played in the dramatic transformation of Finland's education system.

instead of test-based accountability, the Finnish system relies on the expertise and accountability of teachers who are knowledgeable and committed to their students
Teacher education is now research-based, meaning that it must be supported by scientific knowledge and focus on thinking processes and cognitive skills used in conducting research (Jakku-Sihvonen & Niemi, 2006). The entry requirement for permanent employment as a teacher in all Finnish basic and high schools today is a master's degree. Preschool and kindergarten teachers must have a bachelors degree.
A prospective subject teacher majors in the field he or she will be teaching (e.g., mathematics or music).
Another important element of Finnish research-based teacher education is practical training in schools, which is a key component of the curriculum, integrated with research and theory.
Among the successful practices that we can take from Finland are:
    *    The development of rigorous, research- based teacher education programs that prepare teachers in content, pedagogy, and educational theory, as well as the capacity to do their own research, and that include field work mentored by expert veterans;
    *    Significant financial support for teacher education, professional development, reasonable and equitable salaries, and supportive working conditions;
    *    The creation of a respected profession in which teachers have considerable authority and autonomy, including responsibility for curriculum design and student assessment, which engages them in the ongoing analysis and refinement of practice. Teachers' capacity to teach in classrooms and work collaboratively in professional communities has been systematically built through academic teacher education. In addition, a critical condition for attracting the most able young people to teaching is that teacher's work is an independent and respected profession, rather than just a technical implementation of externally mandated standards and tests. Teachers' strong competence and preparedness creates the prerequisite for the professional autonomy that makes teaching a valued career.

http://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/secret-finland's-success-educating-tea chers.pdf

Of course some people with experience of a particular field MIGHT make very good teachers without further study, but then again they might know their subject well and be poor communicators and lack knowledge of the kinds of thing included in the Finnish teacher-training system. In a recent discussion with Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Kraus said that while some of scientists were good communicators, some others he would try to keep away from the general public.

Maybe Finland's success in education is due to a variety of country-specific factors; but the above arguments for the importance of Finland's kind of teacher education are worth considering.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Feb 9th, 2014 at 04:47:22 PM EST

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