Choosing to become a teacher is the first step toward a career that impacts the lives of many people. The next step — what route you’ll take to a degree and certification — is often met with a lot of questions, such as:
- What program will best prepare me for the classroom?
- How can I serve all children’s learning needs?
- What does it feel like to instruct a class?
- The world is changing; how do I figure out what students need to succeed in the 21st century?
These are big and important questions. You want to choose a path that gives you both the skills and confidence to grow to be an effective teacher.
For a long time, teacher education focused on learning and pedagogical theory, with minimal time spent in actual classrooms. Time for practice — that is, actually instructing in front of a class — was secondary to course work. Over the years, this began to shift as new programs addressed the need for more prepared, diverse candidates in the profession.
This is a time of fast-paced change and global innovation. In classrooms and schools across the country, there is a critical lack of teachers who are prepared to meet this changing world and serve students’ 21st-century learning needs.
Additionally, many communities across the country face teacher shortages, exacerbated by the lack of well-prepared teachers (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018 Report on Teacher Prep). This tends to disproportionately impact marginalized and historically underrepresented students and communities.
Teacher residencies, akin to medical residencies, address these long-standing challenges. Researchers, institutes of higher education, and school leaders alike see promise in this model that provides prospective teachers with both rigorous course work and practical hands-on experience in a classroom.
What is a residency and how is it different from other models of teacher preparation?
The National Center for Teacher Residencies defines a residency as:
District-serving teacher education programs that pair a rigorous full-year classroom apprenticeship with masters-level education content. Building on the medical residency model, teacher preparation programs provide residents with both the underlying theory of effective teaching and a year-long, in-school “residency” in which they practice and hone their skills and knowledge alongside an effective teacher-mentor in a high-need classroom. New teacher residents receive stipends as they learn to teach, and commit to teaching in their districts for three or more years beyond the residency.
There is nothing that compares to learning a profession in the setting where you’ll carry out that profession. Though, this is still not common for the teaching profession: 70 percent of teacher preparation programs are traditional programs (US Department of Education, 2015).
Traditional programs: Traditional programs exist at the undergraduate or graduate level, and take place at a college or university. The majority of the preparation focuses on course work in content, pedagogy, and educational theories. Traditional programs infuse some type of student teaching or observations, though the scope of this often varies (US Department of Education, 2015).
Residencies tend to shift the focus to the practical experience and align course work to what is happening in the classroom. Residencies also allow a pathway for someone who has decided to change professions or become a teacher after many years out of college or the workforce. For this reason, residencies may feel more accessible to some people than traditional programs.
Alternative routes: Alternative teacher preparation programs are often at the post-baccalaureate level and are run by nonprofits, private companies, institutes of higher education, school districts, or some combination of partners. Participants typically have a degree in a specific content area, so course work focuses more on pedagogical theory, classroom management, and practice rather than content knowledge (US Department of Education, 2015). Alternative programs vary in length of time — some put teachers in charge of their own class after a couple of months, while others are one-year or two-year experiences.
The strongest residencies take the best comprehensive instruction from traditional models and combine it with the best in alternative models: deep partnerships and practical experience in historically underserved schools.
Now that we have an understanding of the teacher preparation landscape, our next post in this series will take a deep dive into the unique qualities of teacher residencies.
Want to learn more about the NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency? Register for one of our Information Sessions to learn what you need to apply or to hear more about the resident experience.