How Can We Improve Teacher Training ?

TOP 2 Suggestions:

  1. Develop a national website with resources in English and French. The contributors are teachers, University professors, counselors from the (pedagogical) community, and industry partners. The website could include review of basic science principals with resources, grade-by-grade activities, and links to opportunities in the community (to search by grade and subject, and region). Active and ongoing attention to the site would be required.

  2. Lobby Universities to have a mandatory class for elementary teachers with no science background. Goal of the course would be for them to get comfortable with basic science concepts themselves, so they are more comfortable teaching them. Or, if feasible, the current Elementary Education Science Methods class could be extended so it could include pedagogy and review basic science concepts.

Sample course to go by in the University of Saskatchewan
MATH 100.6 — 1&2(3L) – Mathematics for Education Students
An introductory course designed for students planning to teach at the elementary school level. Topics include basic algebra review, mathematics of finance, number theory, linear algebra, linear programming, counting techniques, probability and statistics.

Prerequisite(s): Mathematics A30 or B30 or C30 or Algebra 30.
Note: Intended for students entering the Elementary Program in the College of Education

University Level Training:

  • Elementary teachers rarely have a background in science, and students get turned off science at an early age

  • Teachers not getting practical, hands-on training and the tools they need to present science in a fun, meaningful way

  • Lack of practical instruction re: inquiry (focus on theory, and not how you carry it forward)

  • Community placements not providing “new” teaching paradigms, and more traditional instruction gets engrained

  • Self-perpetuating issues – I teach like I was taught

Proposed Solutions:

  • University faculty offering mandatory course for elementary teachers
    Basic science principals course so elementary teachers are more comfortable with material (not HOW to teach the science – this is another course, but sole focus on concepts such as light, electricity, magnetism, ecosystems, planetary science)

  • How to put inquiry theory into action in your class (as opposed to what it is)

  • Make science more of a focus for elementary school teachers, as most of them will have to teach it, and they do not have the background

  • University connections to science faculty – Have professors come in to speak with teacher candidates re: science in the world today

  • More practical instruction to go along with the theory – not just in the school but preparing lessons and trying them out – get feedback from classmates

Support (Counseling) in the Field:

  • Support for teachers comes in the form of curriculuar support, but the pedagogy is missing

  • The amount of people dedicated to counseling teachers is not enough, and teachers are not getting the support they need – i.e. a team of couselors is beneficial, since having one background emphasized or helped streamlines which teachers are helped that year (ex. having physics person in the curricular role doesn’t benefit the biology teachers who need to explain a concept in a new way).

Proposed Solutions:

  • Pedagogical support in addition to curricular support

  • Lower ratios for counseling to teachers (not just one person for 12 schools)

  • Non-punitive setting – i.e. having someone to go to for resources/ideas who is not evaluating you

  • PD sessions for new curriculum available for teachers in science

  • Funding for teachers to attend workshops such as Science on Stage

  • Giving teachers time to problem solve together and network (especially new teachers in a mentorship role)

  • Provide incentives and reward teachers who have provided mentorship in the field to encourage this behaviour

  • Hold teachers accountable for accessing counseling services and integrating them into their classrooms

  • Have models available for teachers to use for assessment

  • Provide real examples from outstanding teachers to consider modeling

Communication of Resources and Community Opportunities Available:

  • Difficult for teachers to know what resources are available

  • No source of “one stop shopping” available for teachers to reference

  • Time is lost due to searching for information they need

  • Communication break-downs between community organizations, school boards, and teachers

Proposed Solutions:

  • Similar to the Calgary Science Network, have provincial networks that provide teachers with information they need, vet resources, and let them know about community opportunities in a timely manner

  • Provincial organizations establish links, and ensure resource sharing happens, and these get to the right teachers

  • Community needs to be made aware of how to reach teachers – develop a consistent way to reach teachers (newsletter? website? through school board?)

  • Resource that is easy to access, and has PEOPLE attached to it to develop relationships with schools, community partners, Universities, etc.

  • Fee covered by school boards to join the provincial professoinal organizations (who provide resources)

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