Preparing educators for the time of COVID … and beyond

From Section:
Trends in Teacher Education
Jan. 01, 2020

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, 43:4, 457-465

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Even before the onset of COVID-19, an emerging consensus in the science of learning and development highlighted the fact that developing students’ abilities to ‘learn to learn’ requires more attention to cognitive and metacognitive strategies focused on deeper learning.
Furthermore, it is increasingly clear that students’ social and emotional experiences influence their learning – and that teachers must learn how to integrate these areas of development to be effective.
The expectations for deeper learning with greater equity have raised the bar for educators, and for educator preparation (Darling-Hammond et al. 2019).
With the advent of the pandemic, even greater efforts are called for in meeting the social-emotional needs of children and implementing trauma- and healing-informed practice, all while making up for learning loss and preparing for the coming unpredictable combinations of distance learning, blended learning, and in-classroom learning.
Thus, it is critically important that current educators be well supported in meeting the challenges that they face and that well-trained educators be recruited into the profession.

What policymakers and educators can do
While the immediate needs of communities will create major pressures on budgets, it is important for policymakers to recognise how critically important it is to recruit, develop, and retain a strong educator workforce, so that other aspirations for education for our children can be realised.
The incentives needed to accomplish this reside at all levels of government.

Invest in high-quality educator preparation, including teacher and leader residencies in high-need communities
High-quality programs begin with strong, research-aligned standards for teaching and school leadership, long-recognised as a foundation of high-achieving education systems (Darling-Hammond et al. 2017) and as a key feature for influencing preparation program quality and supporting student learning.
Policymakers can update and strengthen these standards to reflect the needs of today’s students – including new knowledge about social, emotional, and cognitive development; culturally responsive pedagogies; and trauma-informed practices – and then ensure that these standards are reflected in licensure requirements, performance assessments for teacher and administrator candidates, and performance-based accreditation for programs (Darling-Hammond et al. 2019).

An enacted vision for equity-based educator preparation allows programs to move swiftly from crisis-management to innovation and transformation during the pandemic.

Transform educator learning opportunities to match current needs
The new skills needed by teachers and school leaders are many.
It will be critically important for both incoming and current educators to learn how to engage productively in distance learning as well as blended and hybrid learning models.
Educators also need to be increasingly knowledgeable about how to engender authentic and meaningful learning so that students are engaged in inquiry and learning in ways demanded by the complexities of modern life (Darling-Hammond et al. 2019).
These are also pedagogies to be developed.
Teachers also need to learn how to support their work with formative assessments, how to enable social-emotional learning, and how to engage in trauma-informed and healing-informed practice, as the Learning Policy Institute has described in its recent framework for Restarting and Reinventing Schools (Darling-Hammond et al. 2020).
The current context has also blurred the lines between educator preparation and professional development of existing educators and has created an opportunity to build stronger bridges between educator preparation programs and their partner districts.
One unexpected outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increased thoughtfulness on strengthening teacher learning across the professional continuum.

Support mentoring and new teacher roles
With the probability that teachers in the 2020–21 school year will face a mix of online, hybrid, and in-person instruction, and with some teachers unable to staff in-person classrooms for health reasons while schools adjust to social distancing arrangements, policymakers and school leaders will need to consider new teaching roles and arrangements.
These new roles could apply to novice and experienced teachers as well as student-teachers and could be built around both the challenges and the emerging opportunities presented by COVID-19.

Create collaboration time
Factory model school designs have meant that U.S. educators have had much more time during which they are responsible for students and much less time for collaboration than their counterparts in most other countries.
The international TALIS surveys found that U.S. middle school teachers teach more students on average and are responsible for student instruction about 8 hours more per week (40% more on average) than their peers internationally – ranking first in the world for instructional hours and near the bottom of all countries for planning and collaboration time (OECD 2014).
Across the world, in many schools, this has changed overnight when school closed physically, with more teaming and collaboration time organised among teachers than ever before.
And in the U.S., many states and districts are thinking very differently about the use of time at the start of school, whether in-person or on-line.
The notion of a 4-day teaching week, with a fifth day for collaborative planning among teachers, is widespread among the proposals for the coming year.
As we consider innovative teaching and learning schedules, securing that time for U.S. teachers – the eight hours on average that their international colleagues experience – should become part of the new normal – as it should in other parts of the world that have also suffered from factory model designs that designed around silos and prohibited time and opportunities for collaboration.

While learning in the time of COVID has been challenging for students and prospective teachers alike, this moment of disruption has created the opportunity for rethinking and reinventing preparation, as well as schooling itself.
‘We make the road by walking’, noted Paulo Freire of a similar moment of transformative change, paraphrasing the words of Spanish poet Antonio Machado.
And as we walk the road, we will learn still more by committing to sharing what we invent with one another.

Darling-Hammond, L., D. Burns, C. Campbell, A. L. Goodwin, K. Hammerness, E. L. Low, A. McIntyre, and K. Zeichner. 2017. Empowered Educators: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teaching Quality around the World. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Darling-Hammond, L., J. Oakes, S. K. Wojcikiewicz, M. E. Hyler, R. Guha, A. Podolsky, T. Kini, C. M. Cook-Harvey, C. N. J. Mercer, and A. Harrell. 2019. Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Darling-Hammond, L., A. Schachner, A. K. Edgerton, A. Badrinarayan, J. Cardichon, P. W. Cookson, M. Griffith, et al. 2020. Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.
OECD. 2014. TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning. Paris: TALIS, OECD Publishing. doi:10.1787/9789264196261-en. 

Updated: May. 16, 2021
COVID - 19 (Coronavirus) | Policy analysis | Professional learning | Teacher preparation