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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.
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instead of test-based accountability, the Finnish system relies on the expertise and accountability of teachers who are knowledgeable and committed to their students
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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.
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A prospective subject teacher majors in the field he or she will be teaching (e.g., mathematics or music).
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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.
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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
There is nothing inherently anti-intellectual about arguing that some things can only be mastered by doing them. It is readily accepted by most that ten hours on the tennis court beats twenty in an auditorium if you want to be a professional tennis player. Why is it so difficult to accept an equivalent dictum for teaching?

I think it has to do with a certain snobbishness. Craftsmanship and apprenticeship is associated with manual labor, and teaching is a leisure class profession.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 10th, 2014 at 03:13:02 PM EST
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Why is it so difficult to accept an equivalent dictum for teaching?

Because teaching is rather more complicated than playing tennis; as I noted, Zwackus had acknowledged that some of the varied skills involved in teaching might well require some "book-learning". The varied syllabus of the Finnish teaching education system reflects this. It's quite reasonable to suppose that it might be worth studying what has been learned about the various kinds of skills and knowledge involved in teaching - alongside practical experience of attempting to apply it. The results achieved by the Finnish teacher education system would seem to provide support for that kind of system. I did include some information about it so that we might go beyond personal opinion.

But the "dictum" itself is simplistic; most professional tennis players have coaches who do not just ensure that the player spends a certain amount of time on court practising. In fact they engage in a form of teaching, often with an emphasis on psychology, it also involves studying the games of rival players, analysing strengths and weaknesses, etc.

Coaches, athletes and sports psychologists are convinced that the difference between winning and losing for top-level athletes is largely a mental difference.

While the full benefits of sports psychologists may one day be available to recreational athletes, at present they are limited almost entirely to professional and world-class competitors.

http://www.nytimes.com/1989/09/11/sports/on-your-own-sports-psychology-becoming-the-locker-room-s-la test-rage.html


I think it has to do with a certain snobbishness. Craftsmanship and apprenticeship is associated with manual labor, and teaching is a leisure class profession.

There certainly is such snobbishness, but then, as rifek said, there is anti-intellectualism too, and not only in the US; it's quite strong in the UK. So, rather than depend on such prejudices, it would seem sensible to look at some evidence, as I did in citing the success in education of a country like Finland. This seems to me a good example in that not only does it achieve top results in the PISA international survey, it does it without endless training to take tests; it is about what education should be about "we prepare children to learn how to learn":


There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students' senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland's schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators.
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"We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test," said Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture. "We are not much interested in PISA. It's not what we are about."

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the Finns seem to be onto something. Neighboring Norway, a country of similar size, embraces education policies similar to those in the United States. It employs standardized exams and teachers without master's degrees. And like America, Norway's PISA scores have been stalled in the middle ranges for the better part of a decade.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Feb 11th, 2014 at 04:30:20 PM EST
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