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Weekend reading

By John Published: March 5, 2010

The New York Times Sunday Magazine's cover story  this weekend  is called "Building a Better Teacher" by Elizabeth Green. It's about the actual mechanics of teaching practice and what it takes to do it well. 

I was particularly interested in this nugget of history about the training of teachers:

The mechanics of teaching were not always overlooked in education schools. Modern-day teacher-educators look back admiringly to Cyrus Peirce, creator of one of the first ''normal'' schools (as teacher training schools were called in the 1800s), who aimed to deduce ''the true methods of teaching.'' Another favorite model is the Cook County Normal School, run for years by John Dewey's precursor Francis Parker. The school graduated future teachers only if they demonstrated an ability to control a classroom at an adjacent ''practice school'' attended by real children; faculty members, meanwhile, used the practice school as a laboratory to hone what Parker proudly called a new ''science'' of education. But Peirce and Parker's ambitions were foiled by a race to prepare teachers en masse. Between 1870 and 1900, as the country's population surged and school became compulsory, the number of public schoolteachers in America shot from 200,000 to 400,000.

I'll be spending much of this year investigating the emergence of a new science of learning that seeks to fortify teaching practice with neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Much of that work is being done at Harvard at the Mind, Brain, and Education master's degree program in Harvard's School of Education. Medicine already provides a  model for linking theory and practice called the teaching hospital. Much more to come on this subject in the next weeks and months.



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