Teaching Preparation: Mirroring Approaches for Teacher and Student Success

By Julie Slayton, Professor of Clinical Education and Ronni Ephraim, Chief Academic Officer, 2U Retired

As two educators who have spent a significant portion of our professional and personal lives working to ensure that all of our K-12 students have access to high quality instruction in safe and supporting learning environments, we would like to offer our thoughts about why we think the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the USC Rossier School of Education stands above and apart from other teacher preparation programs across the United States.

We believe that the MAT program is designed to enable teacher candidates to develop knowledge and skills in the same way we expect them to develop the knowledge and skills of their K-12 students once they enter their own classrooms. While there are many features of the program in place to accomplish this goal, we want to highlight a few that we believe are especially important:

  1. The faculty are student centered. Therefore, professors do not lecture but ask students to engage in critical thinking in pursuit of new knowledge and skills. They expect students to use prior knowledge and new evidence to inform their decision making so that they will emulate these practices in their own classrooms.
  2. Faculty create rigorous learning opportunities where candidates are expected to be mentally active in the classroom as well as when they are engaged in learning tasks outside of the classroom so that they do the same for their K-12 students.
  3. The faculty continuously interrogate their own biases to ensure that personal beliefs do not interfere with their candidates’ learning. Faculty teach candidates to be reflective practitioners who examine their own biases so that they, as teachers, do not inadvertently interfere with their students’ opportunities to learn.
  4. Faculty create safe, motivating, engaging classroom environments that support their candidates’ learning. Faculty set high expectations and expect that their candidates will question, take risks, and challenge their own viewpoints, those of their peers and those of their professors so that they, as teachers, will create comparable learning environments for their K-12 students.
  5. Faculty get to know their candidates well in both academic and non-academic contexts. When faculty know who their candidates are both inside and outside of the classroom, they are better prepared to differentiate instruction to meet the varied needs. Faculty expect that candidates, entering their own classrooms, will seek to know and understand their K-12 students well enough to design and implement lessons that are responsive to the variety of their students’ needs. In planning, faculty ask students to respond to the needs of English learners, students with disabilities, gifted students and children from historically marginalized populations.  
  6. Faculty provide tiered instructional support based on the individual needs of their candidates. They offer these supports for both inside (e.g., modeling, asking questions, oral feedback and live class sessions) and outside (e.g., written feedback, exemplars, asynchronous writing course and dedicated office hours) so that as teachers, they will engage in similar practices once they are in their own classrooms.
  7. Faculty expect their candidates to develop proficiency with technology-based tools so they are prepared to meet their future K-12 students where they are, in a technologically-rich world.

By choosing USC Rossier, we believe our candidates will have an educational experience that prepares them to be powerful teachers for their K-12 students.