International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation

General Conclusions and Implications for Research

Prepared by Shaliesh Shirali and Johnny W. Lott

The discussions leading to this document were typically rich and productive and led to many insights for the participants. It was very instructive for members to hear about how matters are organized elsewhere in the world; for example, to learn that:

(1) In Brazil, several (semi-formal) working groups of teachers appear to have formed to support one another and to discuss matters of pedagogy; the state supports them in this enterprise. Areas of concern include pressing social problems such as street violence and drugs. There is a recognition of the fact that attempts to reform teaching practice must necessarily address these concerns, as these problems may impact the lives of both students and teachers, both in school and out.

(2) In Egypt, videotaping of teacher trainees' practice lessons has been successfully carried out and led to the changes in teaching philosophy and behavior that were set as goals of the training.

(3) In France teacher training is a highly centralized program, with prospective schoolteachers having to pass a competitive examination in pedagogy and subject matter and write a paper in some area of pedagogy. The program is characterized by a high level of rigor, but nothing comparable seemed to exist for in-service training.

(4) In India, teacher training is typically pre-service. In-service training tends to be ad hoc and conducted by local or private bodies rather than by any central authority. Typically the focus is on the high school level; primary levels tend to get left out. Many teachers take part in these courses, which contain a mix of mini-courses and expository lectures. Though many voluntary and governmental bodies are involved, their efforts get diluted because of the very high population of the country.

(5) In Japan, in-service training is a yearlong affair, with programs of short duration going on all the time. There are programs for teachers after 5 years of teaching, after 15 years of teaching, at regular intervals throughout the teacher's career, devoted to academic topics as well as themes such as classroom management, student guidance, problems of growing-up, bullying, and so on.

(6) Kenya has a strong system of pre-service teacher training, with rigorous procedures for assessment. Training includes discussion on issues of current importance, e.g., learning about the many tribes of the country and their culture and traditions. However, there is nothing comparable for in-service training.

(7) In Sweden, prospective teachers must write a paper (as in France), and career teachers are obliged to (and indeed have the right to) go through in-service training.

(8) The United States has is a wide variety of programs, with each state offering its own certification. Districts require in-service training of teachers, and some states require them to take continuing education courses for renewal of teaching certificates. Professional organizations, for example, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) that regularly host workshops for practicing teachers. Additionally, many universities offer in-service programs on their own initiative.

(9) In the United States, many commercial ventures provide professional development to teachers for a fee. The commercialism of this implies would be rejected in some of the participating countries, while others saw it as having possibilities for their own system.

With the diversity of the countries at the seminar, it is not surprising that there were many different models of in-service. In the discussion of in-service, representatives found cultural issues in some countries that affect teacher preparation and in-service across countries. Among those issues is the fact that many children do not have access to a full education-so many children that it is unknown how many, and in some cases, schools could not handle them if all were to suddenly appear at some point. Other issues include the fact that in some countries, schools are used as one of the safe places for children-social issues outweigh curriculum and teaching methods found in other countries. In some countries education is socialized with all aspects of education paid for by the government-either state or national. In other countries, the level and amount of money available for schools and teachers is minimal. In some countries, mathematics is more important than social or pedagogical issues. With these backdrops, many variables must be considered in any type of common research agenda-so many variables that generalized study may be impossible.

Given these constraints, some suggestions did emerge as productive areas of research. These included:

  1. use of lesson study on varying scales in countries not currently using it;
  2. use of working groups of teachers to identify local problems and issues and providing a venue for discussion and possible solution;
  3. use of commercial professional development on smaller scales in countries where this is not done;
  4. study of examinations and their effect in countries with strong examination systems to provide guidance for other countries entering that arena;
  5. study of types of pedagogy used in in-service around the world and the effectiveness of different types.

The diversity of the countries present led to a broad and often unsettling sense of the issues related to in-service teacher education from a world-wide perspective. The opportunity to begin a discussion across countries and representatives from the secondary school community and from the university teacher preparation community was both profitable and promising. In the short term, the insights and perspectives gained by the participants will enrich their own work and dialogue. In the long term, continued conversations and mutual efforts may help the notion of collaborative communities become a viable way of bringing together educators within countries as well as those across countries to address problems that in this increasingly shrinking world are part of the work of all mathematics educators.

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