Monthly Archives: November 2020

Equal Education For All American Students

This paper argues that for most of the 20th century, schools have constructed multiple categories of “unlikeness” or unlike ability, and that these categories were created or soon appropriated to mean “children who cannot learn together.” Important evidence collected throughout the century, but most especially in the past twenty years, reveals that school categories favoring children’s likeness, rather than their “unlikeness” promise to improve educational fairness and the country’s educational quality. Ability grouping has been bolstered by the argument that equal opportunity in a democracy requires schools to provide each student access to the kind of knowledge and skills that best suit his or her abilities and likely adult lives. To make the argument more palatable in a culture that, rhetorically at least, values classless and colorblind policies, educators and policymakers have reified categorical differences among people. So, in contemporary schools, there are “gifted” students, “average” students, “Title I” students, “learning disabled” students, and so on, in order to justify the different access and opportunities students receive. Assessment and evaluation technology permits schools to categorize, compare, rank, and assign value to students’ abilities and achievements in relationship to one another (as well as to students in other schools, states, and countries-past and present). Homogeneous grouping began in earnest early in the 20th century. It matched the prevailing IQ conception of intelligence, behavioral theories of learning, a transmission and training model of teaching, and the factory model of school organization. It fit with schools’ role in maintaining a social and economic order in which those with power and privilege routinely pass on their advantages to their children. Homogeneous grouping embodied a belief that permeated schooling during the 20th century-that we understand most about students when we look at their differences, and the more differences that can be identified, the better our understanding and teaching. Homogeneous grouping provided policymakers and educators a way to “solve” an array of problems attributed to the growing diversity of students. New immigrants needed to learn English and American ways. Factories needed trained workers. Urban youth needed supervision. And schools needed to continue their traditional role of providing high-status knowledge to prepare some students for the professions. Policymakers defined equal educational opportunity as giving all students the chance to prepare for largely predetermined and certainly different adult lives. Concurrently, two phenomena shaped a uniquely American definition of democratic schooling: (1) universal schooling would give all students some access to knowledge; (2) IQ could justify differentiated access to knowledge as a hallmark of democratic fairness. While most current grouping practices don’t rely on IQ-at least exclusively-the early dependence upon it set a pattern that continues today. Standardized achievement tests, strikingly similar to IQ tests, play an important role in dividing students into ability groups and qualifying students for compensatory education programs; standardized language proficiency tests determine which class “level” is appropriate for limited English students. In conjunction with other measures, IQ remains central in the identification of gifted and cognitively disabled students.

Over the course of the 20th century, compulsory education laws and the necessity of a highschool diploma drew more and more students to school-even those previously considered uneducable. States and local school systems developed an array of special programs for students who, in earlier times, simply would not have been in school. By the 1960s, the federal government had turned to special categorical programs as its principal way to guarantee education for all American students. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provided categorical funding for “educationally deprived” students. Lau et. al. v. Nichols et. al. was brought on behalf of Chinese students in San Francisco and led to legislation requiring that all schools provide special assistance to their students whose native language is not English. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provided funds to classify students with physical and neurological problems and provide these students with special education programs when it was believed that they could not be accommodated in regular programs. Advocates for “gifted” students increasingly used the “bell curve” logic to argue that the gifted and the cognitively disabled are like a pair of bookends, and that those at the high end of the curve also required special support because they are as different from “normal” students as the disabled. Educators responded in culturally predictable ways. They identified students who were “different,” diagnosed their differences as scientifically as possible, and assigned them to a category. They then grouped students for instruction with others in the same category and tailored curriculum and teaching to what each group “needs” and what the culture expects. So, today, educators routinely assign “normal” students to “regular” classes at different levels (e.g., high, average, slow). They place the others in “special” programs for learning disabled, behavioral problems, gifted, limited English, poverty-related academic deficiencies, and more. Within homogenous groups, teachers assume students can move lock step through lessons and that all class members will profit from the same instruction on the same content at the same pace. Lurking just beneath the surface of these highly rationalized practices, however, are the illusion of homogeneity, the social construction of classifications, the prevailing biases of race and social class, and self-fulfilling prophesies of opportunities and outcomes.

The considerable student differences within supposedly homogenous classes are obvious and well documented. And yet, for most people, the characteristics and categories by which students are sorted remain more salient than the “exceptions” that impugn those categories. Many educational constructs, including those used to classify students, began as narrowly defined, highly specialized, technical terms or measures. However, as they make their way from research to professional journals and teacher preparation programs to popular media to the everyday talk of policymakers and the public, they loose their narrow definitions and specialized uses. What may have begun as specific technical concepts or as informal notions such as “at risk,” “gifted,” “high ability,” “college prep,” “attention deficit,” “hyperactive,” “handicapped,” etc. are quickly reified and become a deeply embedded feature of students’ identities in their own and others’ minds. African American, Latino, and low-income students are consistently overrepresented in low-ability, remedial, and special education classes and programs. This is not surprising, given that grouping practices grew from the once accepted practice of preparing students of different racial, ethnic and social-class backgrounds for their separate (and unequal) places in society. In part, placement patterns reflect differences in minority and white students’ learning opportunities that affect their preparation and achievements. But they also reflect the fact that US schools use white, largely middle-class standards of culture and language styles to screen for academic ability and talent. Teachers and school psychologists sometimes mistake the language and dialect differences of Hispanic and Black students for poor language skills, conceptual misunderstandings, or even poor attitudes. An additional hazard for students of color is that schools often confuse cultural differences with cognitive disabilities, particularly retardation. Researchers have noted for the past 25 years that students with identical IQs but different race and social class have been classified and treated very differently in special education placements. The misidentification problem triggered both federal and state court decisions requiring that potentially disabled students receive due process. In a far reaching decision, the California courts ruled in Larry P. v. Wilson Riles (1979) that schools could no longer use intelligence tests to identify minority students as mentally retarded. However, substantial problems remain and new ones emerge, including recent evidence that African American boys are disproportionately identified as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Placement in a low class becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of low expectations, fewer opportunities, and poor academic performance. Poor performance begins the cycle anew, giving additional justification to schools to reduce expectations and opportunities. Extensive research makes clear that, in every aspect of what makes for a quality education, kids in lower tracks typically get less than those in higher tracks and gifted programs. Finally, grouping practices help shape students’ identities, status, and expectations for themselves. Both students and adults mistake labels such as “gifted,” “honor student,” “average,” “remedial,” “learning disabled,” and “mild mental retardation” for certification of overall ability or worth. Everyone without the “gifted” label has the de facto label of “not gifted.” The resource classroom is a low-status place and students who go there are low status students. The result of all this is that most students have needlessly low self-concepts and schools have low expectations. These recommendations reflect growing support for heterogeneous grouping as necessary to ensure that all students have access to high-quality curriculum, teachers, and learning experiences. For example, early analyses of the disappointing performance of U.S. students on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) support mounting concerns that the low scores stem, in part, from the tracking of most American students in less academically demanding math and science classes. Increasingly, educators and policymakers are developing an awareness that schools cannot teach or achieve social justice unless they eliminate grouping practices. A number of school desegregation cases have cited the practice as a source of continuing racial discrimination. However, this goal will not be accomplished quickly, and policy reports will simply gather dust unless enlightened educators understand and act to change the norms and political relations these grouping practices embody. There is a long, hard road ahead.

5 Qualities of a Good Special Education Advocate

Are you the parent of a child with autism that is having a dispute with school personnel, and would like some help? Are you the parent of a child with a learning disability, or another type of disability, that could use an advocate to help you in getting an appropriate education for your child? This article will give you 5 qualities that make a good special education advocate

An advocate is a person that has received special training, that helps parents navigate the special education system. In some cases the advocate is a parent of a child themselves, but this is not always the case. Before you hire an advocate check on their experience, and also make sure that the advocate is familiar with your child’s disability, so that they are able to advocate effectively

Qualities:

1 A good advocate must be familiar with the federal and state education laws that apply to special education, and be willing to use them, when needed. This is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), State rules for special education (how they will comply with IDEA), and No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The advocate does not have to memorize the laws, but should have a basic knowledge of what is in them. The advocate must also be willing to bring up the laws, at IEP meetings, if this will benefit the child.

2. A good advocate should not make false promises to parents. If an advocate tells you. that they will get the services that you want for your child, be leery! Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in special education, and advocates should not promise things that they may not be able to get. An experienced advocate who knows the law and your school district, should have a sense about what can be accomplished.

3. A good advocate should be passionate about your child, and the educational services that they need. Advocacy sometimes takes a lot of time. If the person helping you is not passionate about your child, they may not be willing to help you for the length of time that it takes to get your child an appropriate education.

4. A good advocate must be willing to stand up to special education personnel, when they disagree with them, or when the school personnel tell a lie. If the advocate you pick, has every quality, but is not willing to stand up to school personnel, he or she will not be an effective advocate for your child.

5. A good advocate is detail oriented, and makes sure that any services promised by special education personnel, are put in writing. A good advocate will read the IEP before they leave the meeting, and bring up any changes that should be made. Sometimes the little details are what makes for success!

By keeping in mind these 5 qualities, you will be better equipped to finding an advocate that will be able to help you, get an appropriate education for your child.

Listing Education on a Resume

So you’ve gone to the time, expense and effort to complete some aspect of formal education. Or maybe you started to work on this, but then inevitably, life happened… had to take a job to pay the bills, got married, had kids, moved, etc. etc. There’s a universe of things that life can throw at you that can interrupt even the most well-intentioned plans for education.

There are some rules of thumb out there when listing education on a resume which should be considered.

1. DON’T list the year you graduated. Unless you are in an education, government, scientific or highly technical field where having a date of graduation is essential, please don’t broadcast how old you are by including this information. (Human resource managers do the math!) Sure, if you are an adult learner who just got done with a degree, it’s new and important to you just like it is to a person fresh out of high school who immediately went to college. However, resist the temptation to perhaps look younger by listing the graduation date!

With the exception of the four fields mentioned above, the cold, hard truth about education is this:

Most employers really only care whether you graduated… Yes or No.

They don’t care what your GPA was, how many times you made it to the Dean’s list, what scholarships you landed, and sure, you can list that you graduated as magna cum laude or summa cum laude… but that often isn’t a deciding factor as to whether or not to hire you- it just becomes distracting with all of the scholarships, awards, grade points, etc. Keep it clean and simple.

2. A common mistake recent graduates also make is that they want to list their education FRONT AND CENTER… naturally because this is generally the MOST IMPORTANT THING the person has ever done in their lives to date. However, most human resource managers are really probing for what kinds of experience that the person has, not their education. So the best advice is to put the education later in the résumé rather than near the beginning.

3. DO list all of your education. Some people in this economy are becoming sensitive about feeling ‘over-qualified’ or ‘over-educated.’ Think of it this way- employers are in the catbird seat right now… they can afford to hire workers that they couldn’t dream of hiring just five years ago. So they are ‘cherry-picking’ the top candidates and if they can find a top leader in a field who is willing to come work for them, they’ll gladly take them. Who wouldn’t?

Additionally, if you didn’t complete a degree, you can indicate: “Program coursework in: (area of study).

Give yourself credit for the time you’ve put into it, even if the end result isn’t what you had hoped for. It shows initiative and a desire to improve your knowledge and skills.

I’ve had a few clients that I’ve worked with who had put down a degree name on their résumé, but it turned out that during our consultation, that, well, they never ever REALLY ended up finishing their degree.

This kind of misrepresentation is one of the oldest tricks in the job search book… if this sounds like you, it would be in your best interest to be as forthright as possible about your educational background. Human resource managers are well aware of this trick!!! Quite honestly, the EASIEST background check to do in the world is to verify whether a person graduated or not from a particular institution. Fudging it or trying to convey a different impression is a fast-track to the trashbin for your résumé.

So this is an ‘either’ or an ‘or’ situation.

EITHER you got the degree OR you took program coursework in a field.

If you are currently in progress, you can indicate:

Degree name (spelled out, please): area of study (anticipated completion date: ______)

As for the rest of your education, anything else that is not from a formal, accedited institution or career school falls into the ‘professional development’ category, and can include everything from industry certifications, workshops, trainings, continuing education units (CEUs), conferences, seminars, conventions and the like.

You’ll want to call this specific section “Professional Development,” which conveys to an employer that you are always actively taking steps to improve and hone your skills so you can do your job better.

Not working right now? Have some resources? Try keeping up on industry trends by registering for a class in your field through a trade association. It’s a great way to keep your ‘toe in the pool’ and stay current.

Keeping your mind engaged while looking for employment is very important. Sometimes, being laid off is the very opportunity needed to open a new chapter for professional enhancement… there simply wasn’t time for it previously. You never know where this can lead to! A recent client of mine spent the money to get certified with another industry credential. One of the requirements of the certification was to take an exam. When she showed up at the exam location, she found out that she was the only unemployed person there- everyone else was there through their company. The amazing thing was that she got three highly-qualified job leads by talking to the people there at the exam location… and she was so thrilled that the exam itself wasn’t the highlight of the day!

A Bondage of Education

From a very early age I can remember my parents, teachers, and friends discussing this idea of education. What it is, what it should be, what it could be, but more importantly how I would use it to “further” my life. I had this notion that education was going to school, memorizing what the teacher said, applying it to a test, and repeating the routine for the next twelve years. The term “career ready” is not only what gave me the desire to have straight A’s in high school, but what brought me to a university. I came with hope to finally break away from the restraint that I believed was only a result of what a high school education could do to an individual’s mind, but quickly came to realize that a “liberal education” from college was not that different. Liberal education was designed to free individuals from the bonds that society placed upon them, but present-day education is what holds those bonds together.

I will never forget the first time I failed a test. It was in fifth with one of my favorite teachers. I remember receiving the test back with a zero on the front and instantly covering the test up so no one could not see the sign of failure. The teacher must have seen my shock because I was told to stay after class. She explained to me how I had made a 100 but I did not “take the test right” which is what resulted in the zero. From then on, I developed what college students call “test anxiety.” I worked to follow directions, to be structured, and to never ask a question that could possibly be wrong. I made straight A’s, participated in school organizations, was president of my class, and lived to fill the resume that would be sent to potential colleges. I did what students are expected to do. When I came to college I was excited because I could finally learn outside the perimeters of standardized tests. What I did not expect was to hear phrases from professors such as, “don’t worry this will not be on the test,” or having to spend thirty minutes of class listening to students ask how many questions will be on the exam. Teachers from my high school always told us, “college will not be like this, so enjoy it while you can,” but it was all the same. Listen, take notes, memorize, take test, repeat.

I began to realize that maybe this was what education was intended to be. A system that engrains students with the idea that to conform and restrain one’s mind to standardization is what makes us “successful.” David Brooks discusses how college students are “goal-orientated… a means for self-improvement, resume-building, and enrichment. College is just one step on the continual stairway of advancement and they are always aware that they must get to the next step.” Students go through elementary, junior high, high school, and now even universities not to “free our minds” or truly educating ourselves, but to climb the ladder of social order. One can relate education to Plato’s cave allegory, “they are in it from childhood with their legs and necks in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only in front of them unable because of the bond to turn their heads.” This system of education that parents, professors, politicians, employers, and even students talk so highly about is not about producing the world’s next great minds, it is about producing the world’s next source of capital. Society has taken a liberal education and twisted it to where it will fit students into its workplace.

Everyone says that your first semester of college is the hardest. You move away from home, meet new people, and are thrown into a whole new environment. I knew it would be tough, but never thought I would be the student that curled onto her dorm room rug and cried over a seventy-eight on a couple of tests. I had made back-to-back “failing grades” in my mind and had the mindset that I could never recover. What could I accomplish without a 4.0 GPA and four years on the Deans List? To make matters worse, I received a zero for a homework assignment. Believing that there must have been something wrong, I made my way to my TAs office hours where he proceeded to tell me that I did great on the assignment but had to give me a zero based on a small technicality. That is when I had the realization that a modern-day college education has nothing to do with a liberal education. From then on, every test I would take and grade that followed would no longer determine how I would go about learning. I decided that in order to receive a true liberal education I had to throw away every concept of what I thought education was. In Plato’s book I was reminded that “education is not what the professions of certain men assert it to be” and when I decided to make my way out of ‘the cave’ of education I was thankful for the realization that I had broken the bonds that society tried so hard to place tightly around me. Leo Strauss said that a “liberal education supplies us with experience in things beautiful,” and that is when an individual is truly free.

I sometimes think about where I would be if I had the mindset that I do now about education when I received that zero if fifth grade. Would I have waved it in the air as a badge of pride representing how I refused to conform to the institution instead of hiding it from my friends in shame or would I had done it all the same? A true liberal education is what enables individuals to achieve, admire, and model greatness. So, when I hear a professor repeat the phrase “don’t worry, this won’t be on the test,” a part of me wonders if even they have given up on helping break the bonds placed upon us.

Teacher Education and Teacher Quality

1.0 INTRODUCTION

One of the sectors which fosters national development is education by ensuring the development of a functional human resource. The institution of strong educational structures leads to a society populated by enlightened people, who can cause positive economic progress and social transformation. A Positive social transformation and its associated economic growth are achieved as the people apply the skills they learned while they were in school. The acquisition of these skills is facilitated by one individual we all ‘teacher’. For this reason, nations seeking economic and social developments need not ignore teachers and their role in national development.

Teachers are the major factor that drives students’ achievements in learning. The performance of teachers generally determines, not only, the quality of education, but the general performance of the students they train. The teachers themselves therefore ought to get the best of education, so they can in turn help train students in the best of ways. It is known, that the quality of teachers and quality teaching are some of the most important factors that shape the learning and social and academic growth of students. Quality training will ensure, to a large extent, teachers are of very high quality, so as to be able to properly manage classrooms and facilitate learning. That is why teacher quality is still a matter of concern, even, in countries where students consistently obtain high scores in international exams, such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). In such countries, teacher education of prime importance because of the potential it has to cause positive students’ achievements.

The structure of teacher education keeps changing in almost all countries in response to the quest of producing teachers who understand the current needs of students or just the demand for teachers. The changes are attempts to ensure that quality teachers are produced and sometimes just to ensure that classrooms are not free of teachers. In the U.S.A, how to promote high quality teachers has been an issue of contention and, for the past decade or so, has been motivated, basically, through the methods prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act (Accomplished California Teachers, 2015). Even in Japan and other Eastern countries where there are more teachers than needed, and structures have been instituted to ensure high quality teachers are produced and employed, issues relating to the teacher and teaching quality are still of concern (Ogawa, Fujii & Ikuo, 2013). Teacher education is therefore no joke anywhere. This article is in two parts. It first discusses Ghana’s teacher education system and in the second part looks at some determinants of quality teaching.

2.0 TEACHER EDUCATION

Ghana has been making deliberate attempts to produce quality teachers for her basic school classrooms. As Benneh (2006) indicated, Ghana’s aim of teacher education is to provide a complete teacher education program through the provision of initial teacher training and in-service training programs, that will produce competent teachers, who will help improve the effectiveness of the teaching and learning that goes on in schools. The Initial teacher education program for Ghana’s basic school teachers was offered in Colleges of Education (CoE) only, until quite recently when, University of Education, University of Cape Coast, Central University College and other tertiary institutions joined in. The most striking difference between the programs offered by the other tertiary institution is that while the Universities teach, examine and award certificates to their students, the Colleges of Education offer tuition while the University of Cape Coast, through the Institute of Education, examines and award certificates. The training programs offered by these institutions are attempts at providing many qualified teachers to teach in the schools. The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher training programs in order to ensure quality.

The National Accreditation Board accredits teacher education programs based on the structure and content of the courses proposed by the institution. Hence, the courses run by various institutions differ in content and structure. For example, the course content for the Institute of Education, University of Cape Coast is slightly different from the course structure and content of the Center for Continue Education, University of Cape Coast and none of these two programs matches that of the CoEs, though they all award Diploma in Basic Education (DBE) after three years of training. The DBE and the Four-year Untrained Teacher’s Diploma in Basic Education (UTDBE) programs run by the CoEs are only similar, but not the same. The same can be said of the Two-year Post-Diploma in Basic Education, Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs run by the University of Cape Coast, the University of Education, Winneba and the other Universities and University Colleges. In effect even though, same products attract same clients, the preparation of the products are done in different ways.

It is through these many programs that teachers are prepared for the basic schools – from nursery to senior high schools. Alternative pathways, or programs through which teachers are prepared are seen to be good in situations where there are shortages of teachers and more teachers ought to be trained within a very short time. A typical example is the UTDBE program, mentioned above, which design to equip non-professional teachers with professional skills. But this attempt to produce more teachers, because of shortage of teachers, has the tendency of comprising quality.

As noted by Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) the factors that contribute to the problems of teacher education and teacher retention are varied and complex, but one factor that teacher educators are concerned about is the alternative pathways through which teacher education occur. The prime aim of many of the pathways is to fast track teachers into the teaching profession. This short-changed the necessary teacher preparation that prospective teachers need before becoming classroom teachers. Those who favor alternative routes, like Teach for America (TFA), according to Xiaoxia, Heeju, Nicci and Stone (2010) have defended their alternative pathways by saying that even though the students are engaged in a short-period of pre-service training, the students are academically brilliant and so have the capacity to learn a lot in a short period. Others argue that in subjects like English, Science and mathematics where there are usually shortages of teachers, there must be a deliberate opening up of alternative pathways to good candidates who had done English, Mathematics and Science courses at the undergraduate level. None of these arguments in support of alternative pathways, hold for the alternative teacher education programs in Ghana, where the academically brilliant students shun teaching due to reasons I shall come to.

When the target is just to fill vacant classrooms, issues of quality teacher preparation is relegated to the background, somehow. Right at the selection stage, the alternative pathways ease the requirement for gaining entry into teacher education programs. When, for example, the second batch of UTDBE students were admitted, I can say with confidence that entry requirements into the CoEs were not adhered to. What was emphasized was that, the applicant must be a non-professional basic school teacher who has been engaged by the Ghana Education Service, and that the applicant holds a certificate above Basic Education Certificate Examination. The grades obtained did not matter. If this pathway had not been created, the CoEs would not have trained students who initially did not qualify to enroll in the regular DBE program. However, it leaves in its trail the debilitating effect compromised quality.

Even with regular DBE programs, I have realized, just recently I must say, that CoEs in, particular, are not attracting the candidates with very high grades. This as I have learnt now has a huge influence on both teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. The fact is, teacher education programs in Ghana are not regarded as prestigious programs and so applicants with high grades do not opt for education programs. And so the majority of applicants who apply for teacher education programs have, relatively, lower grades. When the entry requirement for CoEs’ DBE program for 2016/2017 academic year was published, I noticed the minimum entry grades had been dropped from C6 to D8 for West African Senior Secondary School Examination candidates. This drop in standard could only be attributed to CoEs’ attempt to attract more applicants. The universities too, lower their cut off point for education programs so as attract more candidates. The universities as alleged by Levine (2006) see their teacher education programs, so to say, as cash cows. Their desire to make money, force them to lower admission standards, like the CoEs have done, in order to increase their enrollments. The fact that, admission standards are internationally lowered in order to achieve a goal of increasing numbers. This weak recruitment practice or lowering of standards introduce a serious challenge to teacher education.

The Japanese have been able to make teacher education and teaching prestigious and therefor attract students with high grades. One may argue that in Japan, the supply of teachers far exceeds the demand and so authorities are not under any pressure to hire teachers. Their system won’t suffer if they do all they can to select higher grade student into teacher education programs. To them, the issues relating to the selection of teachers are more important that the issues relating to recruitment. However, in western and African countries the issues relating to recruitment are prime. It is so because the demand for teachers far outweighs that of supply. Western and African countries have difficulties recruiting teachers because teachers and the teaching profession is not held in high esteem. Teacher education programs therefore do not attract students who have very good grades. It is worth noting that, it is not the recruiting procedure only that determines whether or not teacher education will be prestigious, however recruiting candidates with high grades, ensures that after training, teachers will exhibit the two characteristics essential to effective teaching – quality and effectiveness. Teacher education can be effective if the teaching profession is held in high esteem and therefore able to attract the best of applicants. Otherwise, irrespective of incentives put into place to attract applicants and irrespective of the measures that will be put in place to strengthen teacher education, teacher education programs cannot fully achieve its purpose.

In order to strengthen teacher preparation, there is the need for teacher preparation programs to provide good training during the initial teacher training stage, and provide and sustain support during the first few years after the teachers have been employed. That is why Lumpe (2007) supports the idea that pre-service teacher education programs should ensure teachers have gained a good understanding of effective teaching strategies. Methodology classes therefore should center on effective teaching strategies. Irrespective of the pathway the training program takes, the program must be structured such that trainees gain knowledge about pedagogy, besides the knowledge of subject matter. They should also get enough exposure to practical classroom experience like the on-campus and off-campus teaching practice. Whether or not there is the need to fill vacancies in the classroom due to the high teacher attrition, many countries face, teacher preparation programs should aim at producing quality and effective teacher and not just filling vacancies.

3.0 DETERMINANTS OF TEACHER QUALITY

Teacher quality has such enormous influence on students’ learning. Anyone who has been in the teaching business will agree that teacher quality is central to education reform efforts. Priagula, Agam & Solmon (2007) described teacher quality as an important in-school factor that impact significantly on students’ learning. Quality teachers have positive impact on the success of students. Where the students have quality and effective teachers the students make learning gains while those with ineffective teachers show declines. With respect to the classroom teacher, teacher quality is a continuous process of doing self-assessment so as to have professional development and a self-renewal, in order to enhance teaching. For the teacher educator, an effective or quality teacher is one who has a good subject-matter and pedagogy knowledge, which the he/she can build upon.

Outstanding teachers possess and exhibit many exemplary qualities. They have the skills, subject matter, and pedagogy to reach every child. They help equip their students with the knowledge and breadth of awareness to make sound and independent judgments. Three determinants of teacher quality will be considered here. They are; pedagogical knowledge, subject-matter content knowledge and experience.

3.1 PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

Trainees of every profession receive some sort of education that will give them insight into and prepare them for the task ahead. That of the teacher is called Pedagogical Content Knowledge or Pedagogical Knowledge. Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be described as, knowledge the teachers use in organizing classrooms, delivering the content the students must show mastery over and for managing the students entrusted into their care. Generally speaking, pedagogical knowledge is knowledge the teacher uses to facilitate students’ learning. Pedagogical Content Knowledge is in two major forms – teachers’ knowledge of the students’ pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching methodologies. Students come to class with a host of pre-conceptions relating to the things they are learning. The pre-conceptions may or may not be consistent with the actual subject-matter that is delivered. Teachers must have a good idea of both kinds of preconception, in order to help students, replace the inconsistent pre-conceptions or build upon the consistent pre-conceptions to bring about meaningful learning. Teachers must have a repertoire of teaching methodologies for facilitating students’ learning. When the methodologies are applied wrongly little or no learning occurs in students. In effect when either of the two is weak, the teacher becomes a bad one because that teacher will not be able to execute his/her responsibility in the vocation he/she has chosen. Due to this during teacher preparation, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is emphasized.

Teachers gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge from various sources. Friedrichsen, Abell, Pareja, Brown, Lankford and Volkmann (2009) distinguished three potential sources of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. They listed the sources as professional development programs, teaching experiences and lastly teachers’ own learning experiences. During their days as students in teacher education programs, teachers are assisted in variety ways to gain Pedagogical Content Knowledge. For examples, during practice, they learn how to put the pedagogical skills they learnt. Teacher education programs and other professional development programs create avenues for teachers to gain pedagogical content knowledge through workshops, lectures, working together with colleagues, and in teaching practice. Then their experiences in their classrooms as they teach students lead them to gain insight into which methodologies work under best under specific situations. That last source is usually ignored. It indicates that the professional knowledge of the teacher begins to develop long before the teacher becomes a candidate entering into teacher education. This means, the way teachers teach influences to a large extent the prospective teachers’ professional knowledge and beliefs. This type of learning is, generally, overlooked by teachers at all levels because unintentional and informal, it is.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge can be gained through formal and informal means. Learning opportunities for pedagogical content knowledge, formally, designed by institutions, based on learning objectives which generally are prerequisite for certification, constitutes the formal means. In formal learning, students have clear ideas about the objective of acquiring pedagogical skills. Informal learning, on the other hand, is not organized intentionally. It takes place incidentally and so can be considered as ‘side effect’. As Kleickmann et al (2012) described it, it has no goal with respect to learning outcomes, and it is contextualized to a large extent. This is often called learning by experience. Informal, but deliberative, learning situations exists. This occurs in situations such as learning in groups, mentoring, and intentional practicing of some skills or tools. Werquin (2010) described informal, but deliberative, learning as non-formal learning. Unlike formal learning, non-formal learning does not occur in educational institutions and does not attract certification. Whether pedagogical content knowledge

Pedagogical Content Knowledge is used to bridges the gap between content knowledge and actual teaching. By bridging the gap, it ensures that discussions of content are relevant to teaching and that discussions themselves are focused on the content. As such, Pedagogical Content Knowledge is something teachers must pay attention to. Teachers who possess and use good Pedagogical content knowledge have good control over classroom management and assessment, knowledge about learning processes, teaching methods, and individual characteristics (Harr, Eichler, & Renkl, 2014). Such teachers are able to create an atmosphere that facilitates learning and are also able to present or facilitate the learning of concepts by even lazy students. They are able to make learning easier by students hence teacher with high pedagogical content knowledge can be classified as quality teachers. It is worth noting that it is not pedagogical content knowledge only that makes good teachers. A teacher will not be good if he/she is master of pedagogical knowledge but lacks subject matter content knowledge.

3.2 SUBJECT-MATTER KNOWLEDGE

The goal of teaching is to help learners develop intellectual resources that will enable them participate fully in the main domains of human taught and enquiry. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter the teacher possesses. That is to say, teachers’ knowledge of subject-matter has influence on their efforts to assist students to learn that subject-matter. If a teacher is ignorant or not well informed he/she cannot do students any good, he/she will rather much harm them. When the teacher conceives knowledge in such a way that it is narrow, or do not have accurate information relating to a particular subject-matter, he/she will pass on these same shallow or inaccurate information to students. This kind of teacher will hardly recognize the consistent pre-conceptions and challenge the misconceptions of students. Such a teacher can introduce misconceptions as he/she uses texts uncritically or inappropriately alter them. It is the teacher’s conception of knowledge that shapes the kind of questions he/she asks and the ideas he/she reinforces as well as the sorts of tasks the teacher designs.

Teachers’ subject-matter matter content knowledge must go beyond the specific topics of their curriculum. This is because the teacher does not only define concepts for students. Teachers explain to students why a particular concept or definition is acceptable, why learners must know it and how it relates to other concepts or definitions. This can be done properly if the teacher possesses a good understanding of the subject-matter. This type of understanding includes an understanding of the intellectual context and value of the subject-matter. The understanding of subject matter generally reinforces the teacher’s confidence in delivering lessons, thereby making him/her a good teacher.

3.3 EXPERIENCE

Experience is one of the factors that account for variations in teacher salary, the world over (Hanushek and Rivkin, 2006). The fact that salary differences are based on the number of years the teacher has served, suggests that employers believe the teachers experience makes him/her a better teacher and such a teacher must be motivated to remain in the service. Though some studies like that Hanushek (2011) have suggested that the experience positively influences teacher quality only in the first few years, and that beyond five years, experience ceases to have positive impact on teacher efficacy, common sense tells us the one who has been doing something for a long time does better and with ease. Experience will therefore continue to pay, since, more experienced teachers have the propensity to know more about the subject-matter they teach, and think and behave appropriately in the classroom, and have much more positive attitudes toward their students.

Teachers who have spent more years of teaching, usually, feel self-assured in their skill to use instructional and assessment tools. These teachers are able to reach even the most difficult-to-reach students in their classrooms. They also have greater confidence in their capability to control the class and prevent incidence that might make the teaching and learning process difficult. Their experience makes them much more patient and tolerant than their counterpart with few years of experience (Wolters & Daugherty, 2007). Novice teachers progressively gain and develop teaching and classroom management skills needed to make them effective teachers. They spend time learning themselves – trying to understand fully the job they have entered. The teachers who have spent more years teaching have gained a rich store of knowledge the less experience teachers will be trying to build. Teachers’ sense of effectiveness is generally associated with good attitudes, behaviors and interactions with their students. This is something the experienced teacher has already acquired. These explain why more experienced teachers are usually more effective teachers than the novices.

Another reason more experienced teachers tend to be better teachers than their inexperienced counterparts, is that, experienced teachers have gained additional training, and hence, have acquired additional teaching skills, needed to be effective from direct experience. Usually the training of teachers does not end at the initial teacher training stage. After graduation, teachers attend capacity building seminars, workshops and conferences. These give teachers the opportunity to learn emerging teaching techniques and also refresh their memories on the things they have learnt. Such seminars, workshops and conferences mostly add to the teacher’s store of knowledge. The other advantage the experienced teachers have is that they have encountered more situations to develop the skills needed to be effective teachers through additional direct, and sometimes indirect experiences. That is to say, they have encountered challenging situations which gave them the opportunity to build their skills. Whether they were able to overcome these challenging situation or not, does not matter so much. If the teachers encounter difficult situations in their classes, they learn from them. If the teachers are able to overcome difficult situations, they get to know how to resolve such situations at the next encounter, otherwise their reflections and suggestions from co-teachers gives them ideas about how to approach same or similar situations. They also have a greater chance of being exposed to current and competent models. More experienced teachers have a higher chance of demonstrating superior self-efficacy in most areas, because they have learned the needed classroom management and instructional skills from their colleagues. Teachers who have been in active service for many years are most likely to be classified as quality teachers, because of what they have learnt from in-service training, capacity building workshops and seminars, their interaction with other teachers and what they have learnt from experience in their classrooms.

4.0 CONCLUSION

Teacher education aims at providing teacher education program through initial teacher training for teacher trainees, and in-service training for practicing teachers in order to produce knowledgeable and committed teachers for effective teaching and learning. To realize this mission, teacher education programs have been instituted for the training of teachers. These programs differ from one country to another. Even within the same country, there may be different programs training teachers for the same certificate. These alternative programs are a created, specially, where there are shortages of teachers, and attempts are being made to train large numbers of teachers at a time. These alternative programs ease the teacher certification requirement, allowing those who under normal circumstances would not become teachers. This introduces serious challenges. Because large numbers of teachers are needed within a short period, their training is somewhat fast-tracked resulting in what is usually referred to as half-baked teachers – teachers of lower quality. Applicants who did not gain admission into the program of their choice come into teaching only because they have nowhere else to go. Such applicants tend not to be dedicated to the teaching service in the end. Fast-tracking initial teacher preparation actually harm the mission for which the initial teacher training institutions were created. This is because the teacher produced through such training are usually not of high quality.

Teacher preparation has a direct impact on students’ achievement. The most important in-school factors upon which student’s success hinges, is a teacher who has been well prepared. A well-prepared teacher is one who has gone through a strong teacher preparation program. It is therefore necessary for educators to work to create needed improvements in teacher preparation. To strengthen teacher preparation, teacher preparation programs must provide strong preparation during the initial teacher training period and give support to fresh teachers until they are inducted. Pre-service teacher education should emphasize the acquisition of effective teaching strategies. This can be done in methodology classes and corresponding field experiences. Students who have quality teachers make achievement gains, while those with ineffective teachers show declines, therefore having high quality teachers in classrooms has a positive impact on students’ achievements.

Pedagogical content knowledge, subject matter content knowledge and experience determines the quality of a teacher. Teachers make subject-matter accessible to students by using Pedagogical content knowledge. Pedagogical content knowledge has two broad areas of knowledge: teachers’ knowledge of students’ subject-matter pre-conceptions and teachers’ knowledge of teaching strategies. What Pedagogical content knowledge does is that, it links subject-matter content knowledge and the practice of teaching, making sure that discussions on content are appropriate and that, discussions focus on the content and help students to retain the content. The teacher’s job is to facilitate the learning of subject-matter by students. The degree to which the teacher can assist students to learn depends on the subject-matter content knowledge the teacher possesses. Teachers who possess inaccurate information or comprehend the subject-matter in narrow ways, harm students by passing on the same false or shallow subject-matter knowledge to their students. The last of the three determinants of teacher quality is experience. Teachers who have served more years gain additional and more specific training by attending seminars, conferences and workshops and in-service training and so tend to understand their job better. They also might have met and solved many challenging situations in their classroom and therefore know exactly what to do in any situation.

5.0 REFERENCES

Accomplished California Teachers (2015). A coherent system of teacher evaluation for quality teaching. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(17) 1 – 23.

Benneh, M. (2006). Particular issues on teacher education and training in Ghana. Dakar, Senegal: UNESCO.

Friedrichsen, P. J., Abell, S. K., Pareja, E. M., Brown, P. L., Lankford, D. M., & Volkmann, M. J. (2009). Does teaching experience matter? Examining biology teachers’ prior knowledge for teaching in an alternative certification program. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46, 357-383.

Hanushek, E. A. (2011). The economic value of higher teacher quality.” Economics of

Education Review 30, 466-479.

Hanushek, E. A., & Rivkin, S. G. (2006). Teacher quality.” In E. A. Hanushek, & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the economics of education, vol. 2 (pp.1051-1078). Amsterdam: North Holland.

Harr, N., Eichler, A., & Renkl, A. (2014). Integrating pedagogical content knowledge and pedagogical/psychological knowledge in mathematics. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 924.

Kleickmann, T., Richter, D., Kunter, M., Elsner, J., Besser, M., Krauss, S., & Baumert, J. (2012). Teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge: The role of structural differences in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 20(10). 1 -17.

Levine, A. (2006). Educating school teachers. Washington, DC: Education Schools Project. Retrieved from http://www.edschools.org/teacher_report.htm

Lumpe, T. A. (2007). Application of effective schools and teacher quality research to science teacher education. Journal of Science Teacher Education 18, 345-348.

Ogawa, H., Fujii, H., & Ikuo, A. (2013). Teacher education in japan through training program with experiment study. Chemical Education Journal (CEJ), 15, 1 – 10.

Priagula, C., Agam, K. F., & Solmon, L. C. (2007). How stakeholders can support teacher quality. Charlotte, N.C.: Information Age Publishing.

Werquin, P. (2010). Recognising non-formal and informal learning: Outcomes, policies and practices. Paris, France: OECD publishing.

Wolters, C. A., & Daugherty, S. G. (2007). Goal Structures and teachers’ sense of efficacy: Their relation and association to teaching experience and academic level. Journal of Educational Psychology 99(1), 181-193.

Xiaoxia A. N., Heeju, J., Nicci, N., & Stone, E. (2010). Recruiting, preparing, and retaining high quality secondary mathematics and science teachers for urban schools: The Cal teach experimental program. Issues in teacher education 19(1), 21-40.

Frank J. Tipler: The Omega Point Resurrection

According to Frank Tipler, the most fundamental of fundamentals, the most holy of holies, is that all that he postulates (resurrection, an afterlife, immortality) is predetermined by the laws of physics, no more and no less.

So what does Frank Tipler postulate? His basic premise is that life (including you and me), the Universe and everything will be resurrected down to the quantum level in what Tipler calls the Final Singularity or the Omega Point. This has nothing to do with religious mumbo-jumbo but expressible in the hardcore language of, and in the laws of physics. This is the ultimate goal of the cosmos which produced human intelligence which in turn will resurrect the cosmos (and all it ever did and does contain) at the Omega Point.

Frank Tipler starts with the laws of physics that will require that biological intelligence (meaning humans) will venture out into the Universe, and humans, being humans, will remake the Universe more to their liking. It’s a sort of super-sizing of Genesis 1: 28. Human intelligence will take control over the entire Universe which would appear to make us an inevitable Type 4 Civilization (which no astrobiologist has ever postulated, a Type 3 being the theoretical highest, one which has domain over an entire galaxy). That humans will evolve into a Type 4 Civilization, well that’s a pretty big ask and certainly not predictable according to any laws of physics I know. For comparison, astrobiologists tag our modern civilization as about Type 0.7, so we have a long, long way to go. The potential fly in the ointment is that humanity might just go kaput way before we come within shouting distance of achieving even Type 1 or Type 2 status.

In fact, what they (our descendants) will do, according to Tipler’s laws of physics, is halt the ever accelerating expansion of the Universe, reversing this into a Universe that starts contracting leading to a Big Crunch, or as Frank Tipler calls it, the Final Singularity or Omega Point. As far as I can determine, the laws of physics require no such mandatory astro-engineering on the part of intelligences in the cosmos. Frank Tipler doesn’t explain why he postulates this inevitable emergence that emerges out of the laws of physics. IMHO, if there is one thing that cannot be predicted as emergent phenomena from the physical sciences, it is behaviour and intent, human or animal.

Anyway, one has to have the currently ever expanding Universe start to contract, otherwise there can be no Final Singularity, no Omega Point and thus no resurrection of anything or anybody.

But wait, maybe ET wants the Universe to keep on expanding, so are we going to have a Star Wars over whether the Universe eternally expands or not? Of course no doubt Frank Tipler would argue that ET would also want to reverse the Universe’s expansion, but then given the age of the cosmos, and that advanced technological ET civilizations should have been strutting their stuff for aeons, why don’t we see any evidence of ET’s astro-engineering the Universe to bring about contraction and an eventual Final Singularity?

According to Frank Tipler, the outside of the Singularity is outside of space and time (a nonsense and totally indefinable and unsubstantiated concept if ever there was one) yet the inside of the Singularity is inside of space and time since we are on the inside and we are inside space and inside time.

The concept of being outside of time and space is unscientific pseudo-science, junk science, and not verifiable. The concept is so bad that it’s not even wrong. It doesn’t deserve even that much dignity.

Quite apart from that, the Singularity is a physical impossibility where the laws of physics break down into what one could term pure bovine fertilizer. Taken to its logical extension, a Singularity should have zero volume and infinite density. However, that’s not just actual nonsense but theoretical nonsense. Frank Tipler should know that! Tipler’s precious laws of physics rule out the very structure he requires.

Frank Tipler also equates the Initial Singularity (the Big Bang event with zero information content) with the Final Singularity (which is also termed the Omega Point which has infinite information content). Tipler’s god is the ‘god’ of physics but his (Initial and Final) Singularities of Physics equate to what others term the God of Theology. It’s just that the great unwashed understand the language of theology but not the language of physics so people who believe in the God of Theology actually really believe in the ‘god’ of physics but are ignorant of that fact.

Then, Tipler postulates that current advances in computers are such that our human descendants will be able to create computers that hold data and simulate things with ever and ever greater realism which will ultimately result in a Mother of All Computers that will enable the Mother of All Simulations. That Mother of All Simulations will contain all of the past and present information or knowledge content of the Universe, which is as close to infinity – if not infinity – as makes no odds. The evolution of computer power will be such that it can simulate, that is resurrect anything and everything including every human who has ever lived down to the quantum level so there will be no doubt that when you are resurrected as a simulation you will have absolute connection to the you that really existed way back when. Your sense of self, of identity, will remain intact. Note that according to Tipler’s laws of physics, humans will construct this Mother of All Computers, apparently out of thin air, but certainly not because any laws of physics is forcing the issue.

This all of a sudden morphing of the Mother of All Computers that will resurrect life, the Universe and everything by simulating all life (past and present), all of the Universe (past and present) and everything that is or ever was – in 100% perfect detail down to the quantum level isn’t adequately explained. Exactly where this Mother of All Computers will come from if humans fail to build it isn’t outlined. Maybe ET will build it! Tipler’s laws of physics explain all. But IMHO, the laws of physics don’t construct computers or demand humans build computers; they just allow them to exist.

Maybe I’m missing an important point here, but if a computer is going to be able to simulate the entire content of the Universe down to the most fundamental of levels, then the computer will have to be the size of the Universe! Further, simulations need to be programmed and that would mean that the human programmers would have to be all-knowing to create a simulation identical to all that was and is. Maybe I’m missing Tipler’s boat again, but if it’s called the Titanic, well maybe that’s not a bad thing.

To repeat, Frank Tipler insists that the laws of physics absolutely dictate that this scenario, that we will be brought back and resurrected along with a New Earth as a computer simulation in the end times which is the Final Singularity which in turn requires a contracting Universe. This will happen with 100% certainty.

I don’t know if Tipler has a psychoanalyst but if so, he should put that person on higher (danger money) wage remuneration. IMHO Tipler is a few quarks short of a proton. Nor am I alone in such an opinion. In fact Tipler has been bucketed by his peers. Even a brief scan of Tipler’s entry on Wikipedia shows such peer reviewed opinions of Tipler as being a “crackpot” and a physicist who engages in pseudo-science. Tipler’s Omega Point resurrection scenario has been phrased by his colleagues as a “masterpiece of pseudo-science’; a “most extreme example of uncritical and unsubstantiated arguments put into print by an intelligent professional scientist”; “completely ridiculous”; “pure speculation”; “many flaws and missing proofs”; “highly conjectural”; “unverified”; “improbable”; not to mention “pseudo-scientific eschatology”.

Now this hostility is rather strange if as Frank Tipler claims, all he postulates follows of necessity from the laws of physics. If it were this cut and dried, this inevitable, his hypothesis would follow no matter what other physicist crunched the numbers. All other physicists would reach the same conclusion as Frank Tipler did just like all physicists will come up with “42” if asked to calculate what “7 times 6” is. All physicists have access to the same laws of physics, yet only Frank Tipler comes up with the Omega Point resurrection as being inevitably derived from those laws. Tiper’s hypothesis should be standard and universal in all physics texts yet to the best of my knowledge no physics text includes the Omega Point resurrection as standard issue (like Newtonian gravity). That implies that no physicist adopts Tipler’s point of view. If I were Frank Tipler, I’d say that something is screwy somewhere and that something is Frank Tipler himself.

I’m not sure where Tipler got his academic bona-fides in physics from, I rather suspect from inside a cereal box. Okay, that’s a bit harsh since he is a professor of mathematical physics as Tulane University in New Orleans, but he certainly never took a course in Logic 101, or if he did, he didn’t pass it! I’m no fan of religion and theology and the notion of supernatural deities and eschatology, but such philosophies make more sense than Tipler’s laws of physics version IMHO.

Further reading:

Tipler, Frank J.; The Physics of Christianity; Doubleday, New York; 2007:

Tipler, Frank J.: The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead; Doubleday, New York; 1994: