We need higher standards for entry into higher education (opinion)

Each US state has established laws that require a license or certificate to practice most professions. These areas include building and construction, law enforcement, medical practices, cosmetology, counseling, and teaching – well, not all teaching. Teaching licenses are only required for K-12 teaching professionals, not for those in higher education. Why is that?

The fact is, elementary and secondary school teachers in our country are held to higher standards for demonstrating competence in teaching practice than teachers in colleges and universities in our country. In K-12 education, teacher candidates must complete an appropriate post-secondary education program and also pass the state-required certification and licensure assessment for knowledge and subject matter pedagogy.

Once candidates meet the program completion requirements, which are often graduation from an appropriate undergraduate preparatory program, they must then demonstrate competence in their subject knowledge and in the practice of teaching by taking standardized teacher preparation tests. before you can become a teacher in the state. These requirements for establishing the quality of education in the nation’s K-12 schools were first imposed by No Child Left Behind 2002 and have been carried over by reauthorizations of the law in the most recent Every Student Success Act.

In contrast, to teach in higher education, faculty members simply need to meet the program completion requirement, which often consists of simply graduating from an appropriate graduate program. They are not required to know how to teach the subject in which they graduated or take a test to measure their willingness to teach said subject. The problem here is that pedagogical knowledge is not a function of subject matter expertise. Having acquired content knowledge in a given discipline is not an indicator that a person is ready to teach that content. The problem of not knowing whether a future faculty member is ready to teach is compounded by the fact that there is an almost certain probability that the candidate has never learned to teach in their graduate courses, a challenge well established in the academy. .

Again, why is this? Well, generally speaking, accrediting agencies direct the design of higher education programs, and these agencies are held accountable by the U.S. Department of Education in their interpretation and administration of higher education law. Higher Education. This law does not require any measurement of teaching quality (only an expectation), therefore the Ministry of Education does not require it, therefore the accreditors do not require it, therefore the programs do not include it .

Is this an oversimplification? Maybe, but the reality is that future faculty members don’t learn to teach in their graduate courses. They are in no way required to demonstrate skills in pedagogy, instructional design or student learning assessment before being eligible to teach in higher education, while our K-12 teacher candidates year must demonstrate these skills in order to be eligible for employment.

I wonder about the disparity. Why would we require a professional license or certificate to practice most other professional occupations, including K-12 teaching, but not as a faculty? In fact, the professors who train future teachers are, by today’s standards, qualified to teach future teachers but not qualified to teach their future students.

The United States Department of Education only requires that accrediting agencies have established standards that “set clear expectations for the institutions or programs they accredit” faculty related. And the Ministry of Labor Professional Information Network description for post-secondary teachers states“Employees may need on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person already has the required skills, knowledge, work experience and/or training(emphasis added).

This question of why we do not require teachers to have a license to teach in higher education comes at a time when enrollment in traditional colleges and universities are in declinewhile enrollment in online programs and alternative educational options increased. Of course, the pandemic-induced shift to online and remote learning and living experiences has played its part. But higher education institutions’ greatest competitive advantage over edtech companies and online education providers is the expertise of its faculty and staff, both individually and collectively. . To combat the downward trend in student enrollment, college and university leaders must maximize their advantage by ensuring that the learning experiences and outcomes of all their students are led by people who deliver the highest quality. of teaching.

The research is clear: the greatest factor academically linked to a student’s success is teaching quality. To make the most of their greatest resource and strongest competitive advantage, college and university leaders must develop better ways to ensure the quality of education in all contexts within their institutions. A solid first step is to ensure that faculty members are not only subject matter experts, but also subject-prepared teachers who are ready to provide engaging learning experiences for their students from the start of their studies. their career, just as we expect from the K of our nation. -12 educators.

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