Aristotle once said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”
It was in that spirit that Hopkins physician William Osler established the nation’s first medical residency program in the early 20th Century. The idea was to give doctors hands-on training as they began their career treating patients. The program was so successful that it spread across the country and it is now also impossible to become a practicing physician without this experience. After all, who wants someone doing something as important as medicine to not have supervision as they learn their craft?
The same could be said of education. Teachers, just like doctors, do incredibly important and incredibly complex work.
Yet, the National Council on Teacher Quality’s study on teacher preparation found:
“Almost all [teacher prep] programs (93 percent) fail to ensure a high quality student teaching experience, where candidates are assigned only to highly skilled teachers and must receive frequent concrete feedback.”
We know from educational research that one of the powerful ways to learn is to practice and receive high quality feedback. We also know that it takes time to learn this way.
If only there was a way to provide teacher with the experience they need to become effective without it meaning that their first group of students gets a raw deal.
Enter teacher residency programs.
The key element of this model is a year-long apprenticeship with an effective mentor teacher. Over the course of the year, residents move from a collaborative, co-teaching role in the classroom to an increasingly demanding, lead-teaching role.
This apprenticeship is combined with a cohort-based model for peer support and simultaneous coursework that helps students link theory to practice.
This format for teacher training is gaining steam, but the lingering question is: does it work? If so, what does it means for traditional teacher education? Is a radical reform necessary?
It’s still early, but here is some of the preliminary research:
According to Urban Teacher Residency United, 85% of principals at the campuses that host residents agree that the residents improved student learning, strengthened their mentor’s teaching and positively impacted their schools cultures. 89% of principals who hired residency graduates responded that the graduates were more effective than a typical first year teacher.
Pretty good data.
A study on Boston Teacher Residency reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research, however, found the following slightly more mixed results:
Initially, BTR graduates for whom value-added performance data are available are no more effective at raising student test scores than other novice teachers in English language arts and less effective in math. The effectiveness of BTR graduates in math improves rapidly over time, however, such that by their fourth and fifth years they out-perform veteran teachers. Simulations of the program’s overall impact through retention and effectiveness suggest that it is likely to improve student achievement in the district only modestly over the long run.
Also we have assume with so many different programs across the country there will also be drastically different results.
Still the work that teacher residency programs are doing is exciting and has the potential to greatly improve how we teach teachers.
Want to learn more about residency program? Check out the examples below.
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