In this article, the authors argue for making practice the core of teachers’

In this article, the authors argue for making practice the core of teachers’ professional preparation.They set the argument for teaching practice against the contemporary backdrop of a teacher education curriculum that is often centered not on the tasks and activities of teaching but on beliefs and knowledge, on orientations and commitments, and a policy environment … Continue reading “In this article, the authors argue for making practice the core of teachers’”

In this article, the authors argue for making practice the core of teachers’ professional preparation.They set the argument for teaching practice against the contemporary backdrop of a teacher education curriculum that is often centered not on the tasks and activities of teaching but on beliefs and knowledge, on orientations and commitments, and a policy environment preoccupied with recruitment and retention. The authors caution that the bias against detailed professional training that often pervades common views of teaching as idiosyncratic and independently creative impedes the improvement of teachers’ preparation for the work of teaching.They offer examples of what might be involved in teaching practice and conclude with a discussion of challenges of and resources for the enterprise.

Bringing together the many dimensions that contribute to educational quality

Bringing together the many dimensions that contribute to educational quality — learners, environment, content, process, and outcomes — is a difficult task. It requires knowledge, resources, commitment and willingness to change. Chile’s programme for quality improvement in primary schools and the Nueva Escuela Unitaria of Guatemala represent just two of the many efforts seeking to improve the quality of education in the developing world. These efforts must continue and expand if children’s right to quality education is to be ensured and fulfilled.

Together, these factors result in quality outcomes. Evaluations have

Together, these factors result in quality outcomes. Evaluations have shown that NEU schools have increased student retention, improved attendance by girls and significantly

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increased reading achievement when compared to traditional schools. They have also contributed significantly to the social and emotional growth of students in terms of participatory behaviour, working in groups, helping other pupils and expressing opinions in the classroom.

Student leadership is also a key part of the learning process in NEU schools

Student leadership is also a key part of the learning process in NEU schools. Students elect a committee whose officers become responsible for attendance, meetings, the library, learning corners, recess, the garden and many other elements of school life. Children also help set school rules and policies relating to discipline. By delegating responsibility to students for the daily management of schools, children build understanding of democracy, self-discipline, self-direction and self-confidence.

The development and use of learning materials further demonstrates NEU’s commitment to active participation. Practicing teachers write most textbooks, workbooks and teachers’ guides, resulting in materials that are grounded in the classroom realities faced by rural teachers. Rather than memorization and repetitive practice, the philosophy behind these curricular materials is ‘learn, practice, apply’. At NEU schools, individualized learning through student workbooks allow learners to take time out if they are sick or need to work at home or in the fields, then return without having to repeat an entire grade. The workbooks provide for continuous evaluation and teachers often assign additional or remedial work if necessary for subject mastery. Students move at their own pace, advancing to the next levels of instruction when they are ready.

Teachers are deeply involved in all aspects of NEU schools

Teachers are deeply involved in all aspects of NEU schools. NEU uses a system of ‘Teachers’ Circles’ for local leadership, teacher training and curriculum development. Developed along the lines of quality circles in industry, teachers meet regularly each month to share experiences and classroom techniques, solve problems and provide mutual support and in-service training. Through the circles, teachers create teaching and learning materials or adapt materials to local circumstances. Teachers from several neighbouring schools create one circle, which encourages teachers to visit to each other’s sites. Improvement has been demonstrated in teachers’ attitudes and behaviours towards such things as small-group instruction, cooperative learning, flexible promotion, local content and self-managed learning.

The physical environment in NEU schools supports participatory learning

The physical environment in NEU schools supports participatory learning in many ways. Most importantly, classrooms are structured so that students can easily work cooperatively in small groups dispersed around the room, or even the hallway, porch or schoolyard. The teacher can use available spaces to structure diverse learning experiences rather than standing in front of a blackboard facing rows of desks.

NEU processes are based first on active community involvement. Teachers receive training in community development and learn to guide children through learning projects that involve their parents, relatives and other people in their lives. Parents contribute in many ways to the effective functioning of schools, from serving on nutrition committees that prepare and distribute snacks to maintaining facilities and building playgrounds. Parents and other community members are included as schools are established, and this active, voluntary participation translates into support for learning.