Reforming Preservice Preparation Programs for Secondary and Postsecondary Instructors

Publication November 1999

The 1990 Perkins Amendments and the 1994 School-to-Work Opportunities Act encouraged high schools and community colleges to combine academic with vocational curriculum in a program of study that included work-related applications and created clearer pathways from secondary to postsecondary education. Thousands of high schools and community colleges have now implemented some form of career academies, clusters, majors, Tech Prep, or a combination of these approaches. The result is a greater demand for teachers with new capabilities. Foremost among these is facility at integrating academic and vocational studies, coordinating school- and work-based learning, and articulating secondary and postsecondary studies. Teachers employed in these comprehensive reform settings are often expected to integrate, coordinate, and articulate on a regular basis.

Meeting the demand for instructional staff who can perform these new functions will require changes in preservice education. Unfortunately, teacher preparation programs have scarcely recognized the changes that are occurring in high schools and community colleges (Finch, 1998). New teachers are not being well-prepared to combine academic and vocational curriculum, supervise students in community-based learning, or offer courses of study that prepare students both for work and for further education. Institutions that educate teachers and other instructional staff are faced with new demands for people who are equipped to work in high school and community colleges where integrating academic and vocational curricula, using work-based learning in the instructional program, and articulating secondary and postsecondary studies are commonplace. To ensure the readiness of educators, institutions that prepare educators must reshape their programs.

The Initiatives

In response to this need, three universities in the NCRVE consortium decided to redesign their teacher education programs. Descriptions are provided about the redesign of preservice teacher education programs for high school teachers at two of the NCRVE consortium universities— University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). In addition, the redesign of a teacher education program for community college instructors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is documented. In its own way, each of the universities has begun creating a reform process that focuses on preparing teachers to integrate academic and vocational studies, coordinate school- and work-based learning, and articulate secondary and postsecondary studies.


What has been learned from these three initiatives? Do they have implications for others who are planning to reform their teacher education programs? To answer these questions, a close look must be taken at collaborative inquiry, a process that promotes a climate in which people become engaged in understanding the need for change, actively study the change and decide how it will occur, and then participate in implementing the change. Osguthorpe (1999, pp. 16-18) offers a comprehensive model for individual and organizational renewal that builds on contemporary collaboration and inquiry literature. In this model, collaborative reflection serves as the starting point for establishing a culture of inquiry, and a culture of inquiry provides a foundation for both individual and organizational renewal.

Connections with Organizational Renewal

In fact, the three initiatives seem to align quite well with contemporary views of organizational renewal. This alignment can be described in the context of three aspects of organizational renewal: (1) collaborative reflection, (2) culture of inquiry, and (3) individual and organizational renewal.

Collaborative Reflection

In their own way, each of the initiatives involved a wide range of stakeholders in collaborative reflection. At a 1998 conference sponsored by Virginia Tech project staff, university teacher educators, preservice teachers, and practicing teachers and administrators in the schools were afforded an opportunity to meet together, share concerns about the schools and teacher education, and establish a more meaningful direction for change in university teacher education. The outcomes of this conference served as a foundation for work conducted during 1999. At UC Berkeley, part of the 1998 initiative agenda focused on bringing university teacher educators and teachers from local career academies together to discuss academy teaching issues and explore collaboratively the activities that might be included in preservice teacher education to better meet the needs of the schools. This list of potential activities formed the basis for UC Berkeley’s 1999 agenda. At UIUC, concerns about the preparation of community college instructors led to a collaboration with three community colleges that were actively engaged in curriculum and instructional reform. Through focus groups conducted with faculty members and administrators at these institutions, valuable information about current and future community college instructor needs was obtained. Much of the information gathered was incorporated into a program for community college educators and is already having a direct impact on how instructors are prepared.

The initiatives have also maintained their collaborative relationships with stakeholders. Educators from outside the universities continue to be involved in collaborative reflection with university faculty. For example, at UC Berkeley, a series of workshops for student teachers were presented during the Fall of 1999 by a team of teachers from career academies. The workshops were designed collaboratively by academy teachers and teacher education staff at UC Berkeley. At UIUC, a meeting during the Fall of 1999 provided an opportunity to gain more insight into trends in community college teaching and learning as well as the professional development needs of persons seeking careers in community college teaching. Participating in this collaborative meeting were community college instructors, supervisors, and administrators, as well as a representative from the Illinois Community College Board. Virginia Tech initiative staff scheduled a meeting that brought together university teacher educators, school administrators, and teachers to reflect on past collaboration and make plans for collaboration in the future. Many of the ways that collaborative reflection can be stimulated have been incorporated in the initiatives’ activities. Examples include building trust, making time to collaborate, nurturing questions, forming groups, and taking risks. Additionally, the patience displayed by collaborators reflects a perception that reforming teacher education cannot be accomplished overnight. It is viewed as a long-term initiative; one that cannot be rushed.

Culture of Inquiry

The initiatives appeared to incorporate cultures of inquiry into their efforts. Building cultures of inquiry into the three reform agendas may have been stimulated by the strong commitment of all three research universities to conducting disciplined inquiry. A culture of inquiry could be seen at UIUC when community college focus group results were incorporated into a course for community college educators. In this instance, there was not only concern about the revised course’s process (e.g., how it was organized and flowed) but also about its outcomes (e.g., how students reacted to the course and how what they learned was applied to community college settings). Inquiry was also noted at Virginia Tech where teams of educators—teacher educators, teachers, and student teachers—collaborated to determine the best ways of integrating academic and vocational studies into different school subjects and settings. At UC Berkeley, a culture of inquiry was established through testing several approaches to providing student teachers with experiences in workplaces and schools. Feedback from students who participated in these experiences helped to guide future decisions about the approaches.

Individual and Organizational Renewal

It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether the initiatives have resulted in individual and organizational renewal. There is, however, some indication that the three initiatives are moving in the right direction. Evidence that university teacher educators and educators in schools and community colleges are working together in collaborative and reflective ways supports the notion that teacher education renewal is moving forward. Likewise, inquiry processes incorporated into the initiatives include active participation and involvement from school and community college educators. This is a major shift from the way change has occurred traditionally in teacher education programs. A revolutionary shift such as this is just what may be needed to stimulate real renewal in teacher education at the university level.

Finch, C., Kelly, P., Heath-Camp, B., Harris, J., Zimmerlin, D., & Aragon, S. (1999, November). Reforming preservice preparation programs for secondary and postsecondary instructors. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

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