Teaching quality is a current hot, yet controversial, topic in education policy. Much of my personal and professional research has focused on understanding what quality teaching is and how to measure it. Teacher preparation is a critical element in what teachers do in the classroom and in enhancing teaching to ultimately allow all students access to high quality teachers. Although my prior research focus had not been on higher education, an internship at GTE has allowed me to build upon the broader knowledge I have on teachers and teaching and helped to contribute to the goals of my doctoral program at George Mason University and my professional goals at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
I have had some time to reflect on my internship experience, and consider how my internship fit into a larger education context. At the AFT, I was a part of a team that researched and wrote a recent publication that presented strategies aimed at improving teacher preparation. Through that experience I learned about existing teacher preparation structures in the United States and abroad, and worked with experts and teachers in K-12 and higher education to develop recommendations about how to improve those structures. I learned how teacher preparation is crucial to teacher quality and gained an appreciation for developing a cohesive system. While working on the AFT report, I learned that teachers desire stronger relationships between their K-12 schools and the colleges of education from which their future teachers emerge.
In my Spring 2014 internship at GTE, rather than focus on the structure of teacher preparation programs, I looked more at the content of those programs. Research indicates there is a disconnect between what candidates learn in their preparation programs and what opportunities they have in their clinical experience to practice what they learn, especially in terms of global learning. Additionally, new teacher evaluation systems are emerging with new teaching standards, and teacher preparation programs have not yet caught up to the new standards. Because of this, I suggested re-vamping the Partnerships section of the site, and adding an article that focuses on partnerships between universities and K-12 schools that promote internationalization. I learned that there are a few programs that are doing this type of connective work, but not many have very comprehensive programs or well-advertised events. Because internationalization is a somewhat recent idea, and organizations like GTE are fairly new, this indicates that there might be more of this in the future. Hopefully through the article that was published on the site, teacher educators will be able to make connections with campuses that currently have these types of partnerships.
I have also been a part of the Global Initiatives team at AFT, working to support our international affairs work. I have studied much of the work from the OECD, PISA exams, and other international comparative research. Because of my background and interests, I suggested writing a section for the GTE site around international comparisons that focuses on teacher preparation and teacher quality. I was able to use my broad research background to develop an article and also expand my knowledge by focusing on teacher preparation specifically and learning more about what other countries are doing around internationalization.
Internationalization is a major component of universities across the world, although not particularly in colleges of education. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at GTE. I was able not only to learn as much as possible about internationalization, but I was also able to contribute my ideas and help expand the website. This internship has illustrated to me, in new ways, just how the experiences teachers encounter in their preparation impacts their work in the classroom. I have a better understanding of what teaching candidates need in their preparation programs in order to be successful. I look forward to using the knowledge I gained from this experience in the remainder of my doctoral program and in future research I review and conduct on teachers and teaching.
Robin Vitucci worked as a graduate research intern in the Spring of 2014. Graduate or undergraduate students interested in pursuing internships with GTE should email admin [at] globalteachereducation [dot] org.