We’ve written often on teacher preparation programs’ lack of emphasis on the content knowledge of future teachers. The debate over the relative importance of subject matter and pedagogical methods in teacher preparation programs has hung over the education field for well over a century. And, unfortunately, the balance has all-too-regularly shifted in favor of methods.
The gap between professors of education and their liberal arts colleagues has been called the “widest street in the world.” (Read the latest issue of AFT’s American Educator for a history of this divide.) Teacher preparation programs assume their students know and love the content they will teach. But, even in alternative certification programs, which attract exemplary candidates, content is simply not addressed.
The business world is increasingly looking for employees who are inspired by creativity and a drive to find patterns in their work and world. This kind of person is inquisitive, with deep knowledge of his/her field.
Sounds like a great teacher.
Content knowledge and pedagogical practices go hand in hand. Particularly in elementary school, as teachers help students construct foundations for learning. To teach in innovative and exciting ways, teachers must understand their subject matter deeply. To encourage their students to ask big questions ably and productively, teachers need knowledge of the answers.
There are a number of initiatives in the works to redeem teacher preparation. But, as these initiatives seek to make teacher preparation programs more selective and practical, too few of them attempt to bridge the wide, wide street between pedagogy and the liberal arts.
This is a mistake. Good teachers know and care deeply about what their students should learn. Their preparation should not only focus on how to teach, but also on what to teach and why it matters.