“Evidence shows that effective teachers are the most important in-school contributors to student learning.” —from “Best Practices for Evaluating Teacher Ed. Programs

How do we prepare effective teachers? What are the components of an effective teacher preparation program? To begin researching the answer, I wrote the blog “Teacher Education, Part 1: What Makes an Effective Teacher.” For this, I asked the experts—students ages 5−18—the following questions, “Who is your favorite teacher?” and “Why are they your favorite teacher?” What I learned is that students prefer teachers who are smart, kind, respectful, fair, and engaging. So how can teacher education programs prepare teachers who are smart, kind, respectful, fair, and engaging?

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is “the profession’s mechanism to help establish high quality teacher preparation. Through the process of professional accreditation of schools, colleges and departments of education, NCATE works to make a difference in the quality of teaching and teacher preparation today, tomorrow, and for the next century.” NCATE has developed a set of performance-based standards for pre-service teachers. The standards require teacher education programs to be well-structured and staffed by an experienced and well-educated faculty. Pre-service programs should prepare students with content and pedagogical knowledge and skills (unit, lesson, strategies, and assessment writing skills), and practical application of their knowledge and skills to be a culturally responsive teacher adept at differentiating in a variety of diverse experiences. I have been fortunate to teach (and learn) in teacher education programs for the last decade. When applied effectively, these standards can be a strong foundation for teacher education programs that prepare teachers to meet the preferences of students: smart, kind, respectful, fair, and engaging. But what are the methods of such a program?

All of my research led me to the same fact again and again. The most effective teachers are those who spent time preparing to teach by learning in classrooms. C. In an edutopia article titled The Key Components of Effective Teacher Preparation: The Experts Speak, Emily Feistritzer wrote, “I think the most important, top-of-the-line issue in teacher preparation and most important variable is getting prospective teachers into real-life classroom settings early with mentor teachers. I think those two components are absolutely critical in ensuring that a prospective teacher really learns how to teach and develops the competencies to teach. And there’s research that supports that.” In the same article, consultant Linda G. Roberts agrees, “When I looked at how universities and other programs are preparing teachers, what comes across as really important is an opportunity for teachers—prospective teachers— early on to have experiences that put them in the classroom, that give them, in a sense, the practical experience.”

The Harvard Teacher Education Program prepares its students to become transformative teacher leaders. They describe a teacher leader as a colleague who collaborates, has vision, leadership, and “to be agents of organizational and social change, transforming urban public schools and improving lives.”

Ultimately, to prepare teachers to be effective—to prepare them to be smart, kind, respectful, fair, and engaging—these future teachers need to have deep knowledge of pedagogy and methods, an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills in real classroom settings with experienced mentor teachers, and have a vision of transformation. While reading about teacher education programs, it dawned on me that the qualities of an effective teacher education program mirror those of a quality education. As teachers, we want to create transformative learning environments where students can practically apply the skills and knowledge they are learning.

Are you a teacher? What do you remember about your teacher education program? What made you the teacher you are today? I remember my methods professor demanding that we be engaging and teaching by example. He would bring in artifacts to engage our curiosity, tell stories to connect concepts, and was so happy to be in the classroom that he made us happy to be there too. Leave your memory in the comments.