4 Features of High-Performing Teacher Education Programs

I spent almost a decade as a professor of education, department chair, and the dean of a school of education, so I know what it takes to run a quality program. And let me tell you, the key components are not as complicated as you would think. In this article, I will discuss the 4 features of high-performing teacher education programs.

Good faculty. The foundation of your program must be a group of professors and instructors who are experts in their chosen specialty area, team players, and hard workers. Without good professors, your students won’t learn the skills and dispositions that they need to become effective educators. On top of that, except for the auto-didactic, most students will fail their teacher licensure exams time after time. Those students will either never see the inside of a classroom or hop from school district to school district working off of one-year emergency licenses.

It always bothered me that professors were quick to attack a student’s character and work ethic when they failed to pass teacher licensure exams. After a prompt investigation, I usually found that although we had aligned all of the course syllabi to the licensure exams, the teacher only taught half of those objectives. Since I inherited those professors, any new ones that I hired used student failure as an opportunity to reflect upon and examine their own teaching and find new ways to help similar students in the future.

Good students. To build a quality teacher education program, you need to have rigorous standards for admission. Teacher education, when done right, is a challenging program to complete, similar to law or medical school. Because of this, your program should only accept students who have maintained a 3.0 average in their freshman and sophomore years. I have seen programs which take students with 2.5 or 2.75 GPA’s, and then have the audacity to complain when these students underperform. If you choose to accept students who are not prepared for your program, that’s your business, but to do so without having supports and resources to help them matriculate is unethical.

If you enroll low-quality students, you are risking your accreditation, because, consequently, your student outcomes will be atrocious. If your administration strong arms you into taking less prepared students to get your enrollment numbers up, just know that you will need to put structures in place to help them matriculate. You have been warned.

Good administrators. The administration will be the glue that keeps your teacher education program together. Whether at the forefront or in the background, they manage the day to day operations of a teacher education program. They are responsible for preparing and administering the budget, faculty relations, student relations, alumni relations, fund-raising and everything in between. A good teacher education administrator is worth their weight in gold.

Usually thought of as middle-management, they serve as the liaison between upper-level university management and the professors and support staff that serve as the engine of the university. A good administrator will work in your best interest, communicating your needs and championing your successes and efforts with the company brass. They can be the difference between dreading coming into work and whistling while you work. If you have worked for an effective teacher education administrator, count your blessings, as there are not many of us in higher education.

Continuous improvement. This is the most elusive feature of effective teacher education programs because so few of them practice it. To have a quality teacher education program, you have to cultivate a culture of continuous improvement. The principle of continuous improvement operates on the philosophy that you don’t have to wait until something is broke to fix it. No, you continually find ways to improve your practices and processes based on new trends, technologies, innovations, threats, and opportunities. As a result, your methods and procedures always work at an optimal level, and you reap the benefits of constant success.

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