Informing teacher education with the developmental sciences

One of the biggest buzzwords (buzz phrase, actually) currently in vogue in education policy and educational research is “evidence-based practice,” which is the notion that WHAT schools do, and HOW they do it, should be informed by evidence – that is, the findings of research (as opposed to using ‘intuition’ or ‘common sense’ or ‘tradition’ to guide schooling). Personally, I would argue that no schooling system is entirely value-free (and would we really want a system based entirely on so-called ‘hard’ science, even if that were possible?) but, setting aside that (admittedly contentious) issue, I certainly support using valid research findings to help us make schools better learning environments.

A major accreditation body feels that the developmental science in particular can help us better prepare teachers. A press release from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) reads, in part:

A new report from [NCATE], the professional accrediting organization for schools, colleges, and departments of education, says that despite growing evidence of the impact that developmental sciences knowledge and ability to apply it have on student learning, little effort has been made to ground school reform and educator preparation in the developmental sciences, which includes cognitive science, neuroscience, and the science of child and adolescent development.

The report, The Road Less Traveled: How the Developmental Sciences Can Prepare Educators to Improve Student Achievement, was prepared by a multi-disciplinary panel of  experts, including some of the nation’s most prominent educators, psychologists, and authorities on young people from related disciplines.

The report is available here (PDF). Among the report’s findings:

  • Teacher preparation programs provide insufficient grounding in the developmental sciences (e.g., cognitive science and developmental psychology)
  • Teacher preparation programs need to integrate academic study in the behavioral sciences with field experiences such as student teaching or community work focused on children and youth
  • Policymakers must take child and adolescent development into account when designing standards, assessments, and teacher evaluations
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