Student teaching needs reform

Student teachers need clearer expectations

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(Collegian file photo)

By Jacob Russian, Collegian Columnist

At most higher education institutions across the country and here at the University of Massachusetts, student teachers are utilized to educate large swaths of students in introductory classes. Many times, these experiences prove to be positive for both parties involved. However, when a student is subjected to learn from a student teacher with little experience, the outcome can be extremely negative. Throughout my time here at UMass, I have taken classes under both formidable student teachers and individuals who do not have the ability or the experience to teach a class effectively. I have since wondered if it is unfair that our University would allow students to potentially lose opportunities at fully understanding the material being presented, simply because the utilization of student teachers is convenient and cost-effective.

Student teachers are often graduate students pursing their Master’s degrees in education, typically with the goal of eventually teaching the subject they studied during their undergraduate education. This situation works to the benefit of the University, which does not have to enlist the services of professors to teach some lower-level classes. The student teaching training at UMass is done through a practicum course for the education student. In theory, this situation should be mutually beneficial to the University and student teachers hoping to gain experience in their field, but it can leave students unequipped with proper education. I have been in a similar situation throughout my semesters on campus, as I have been eager to take a class and left only disappointed with the way it has been taught. This is not meant to disqualify all student teachers as incapable; there are certainly individuals who are capable of teaching effectively.

Despite this, I have often felt as though some of my student teachers are experimenting with teaching a class, which is something that has left me confused and lacking the knowledge I had hoped to learn. I do believe it is important for individuals hoping to become licensed in teaching to gain skills in this realm, but I find it unfair that the tuition money from students is being used toward classes that fall far below acceptable. Unfortunately, the inexperience of some student teachers directly degrades the ability for students to learn as they should.

The interactions I have had in these classes are not unique to just me; many other students have been placed in similarly unfair situations. This dissatisfaction has led me to question if UMass should do more to ensure that student teachers have a clearer method of educating paying students. Student teachers work closely with their respective departments, but I feel that the problem lies within the day-to-day operations inside the classroom. Perhaps a more concise set of daily expectations could be implemented so that student teachers are not left unsure of the proper protocol. On top of this, student teachers are taking classes of their own to further their education, which leaves even less room for focus on teaching other students. The student teachers themselves are not responsible for this stressful work-load, but it can become a losing combination for those that they are teaching. Furthermore, if the student teacher has multiple classes to teach coupled with their own personal workload, it can create an environment where only a limited amount of attention can be spent on any individual issue. Despite this, I still find it important that teachers have the ability to make their classes creative and personalized, but I believe there should be a stronger emphasis on ensuring that the students paying for the class are receiving the knowledge they have elected to learn.

With the sheer cost of college education continuing to rise in this country, obtaining the education we pay for is of the upmost importance. The disparity between what could be considered a positive and negative learning experience is too great; the University must do more to create a more streamline approach to student teaching. Otherwise, students will continue to be left without the tools they hope to gain.

Jacob Russian is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]