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Inside Teaching : April 2011
reviews inside teaching | October 2010 REVIEWS 50 How Teachers Learn: an educational psychology of teacher preparation Edited by Michael D. Andrew and James R. Jelmberg Published by Peter Lang ISBN 9 781 433 108 433 RRP US$32.95 Reviewed by Catherine Scott The understanding that teaching is a complex craft dependent on careful preparation for effective practice has provoked the development of a number of evidence-based programs of professional education. Among these is the Five-Year Program at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). How Teachers Learn: An educational psychology of teacher preparation is a history of the program since its inception in 1974, a report of the experience of participating in the program from the perspective of a variety of stakeholders and a research-based exploration of its nature, development and success. The book makes a powerful case for the success of the program at producing effective, committed teachers who are also in high demand among employers and who remain in teaching in greater than average numbers. The program is built on the selection of the right candidates; the development of a solid professional knowledge base; and a well-planned and well- supervised full-year internship. Just wanting to be a teacher isn’t enough to make you into a successful practitioner; consequently both the undergraduate and graduate versions of the UNH course begin with a first- or second- year placement as a teaching assistant to assess candidates’ suitability, as well as attitude and motivation. Candidates must also demonstrate academic ability. Andrew and Jelmberg and their contributors are critical of the redundancy that afflicts the content of many programs of teacher preparation. In contrast, the professional knowledge base of the UNH program is tightly fashioned around ‘a clear concept of the nature of the teacher we hope to produce.’ Teaching is a practical craft as well as an intellectual exercise, and an extended professional placement provides the opportunity to practise the necessary skills and hone the perceptual, reasoning and decision-making skills that underlie it. Skilful support is a key part of a successful clinical experience; however, simply practising teaching will not necessarily produce a competent professional. A key aim of the UNH program is to help interns develop and articulate their vision of teaching. The care and attention paid to selecting, training and supporting cooperating teachers, the grouping of interns in schools, weekly seminars and the frequent presence of university staff in schools all contribute to the development of competent, reflective teachers with a commitment to constant personal improvement and productive educational change. The book is a very worthwhile addition to the literature on teacher preparation, learning and development. It will make a valuable part of the professional library of anyone interested in recruiting, training and retaining quality teachers. Dr Catherine Scott is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Council for Education Research. LINKS: www.peterlang.com