Sunday, March 07, 2010

School of Education faculty and the Teacher Education Initiative are featured in the NY Times Magazine article "Building a Better Teacher"

Tags: ball, bass, forzani, news, teacher education initiative, teachingworks

University of Michigan School of Education Dean Deborah Loewenberg Ball and other faculty and staff who help to power the school's Teacher Education Initiative (TEI) are featured in the cover story of the March 7, 2010, NY Times Magazine. The article is titled "Building a Better Teacher" and its author covers some of the current ideas about how to improve educational outcomes by improving the quality of teaching, featuring the School of Education's efforts to combine a focus on broad teaching skills with appropriate content knowledge.

Ball is featured extensively in the article. In addition, Francesca Forzani is quoted and Hyman Bass and his work on Mathematical Knowledge for Teachers (MKT) is included in the article. The article is lengthy and the discussion of the work of the U-M School of Education begins at approximately the half-way point.

In the article, Ball discusses her early work filming and analyzing her own teaching when she was a third-grade mathematics teacher: "Her goal in filming her class was to capture and then study, categorize and describe the work of teaching — the knowledge and skills involved in getting a class of 8-year-olds to understand a year’s worth of math. Her somewhat surprising conclusion: Teaching, even teaching third-grade math, is extraordinarily specialized, requiring both intricate skills and complex knowledge about math."

This led to her further consideration of the relationship between content knowledge in a discipline (mathematics, biology, English, etc.) and pedagogical knowledge. Ball theorized that what is necessary for effective teaching is neither a union nor a subset of these types of knowledge, but rather a third, related area: knowledge for teaching. For mathematics, "she theorized that it included everything from the 'common' math understood by most adults to math that only teachers need to know, like which visual tools to use to represent fractions (sticks? blocks? a picture of a pizza?) or a sense of the everyday errors students tend to make when they start learning about negative numbers. At the heart of MKT, she thought, was an ability to step outside of your own head. 'Teaching depends on what other people think,' Ball told me, 'not what you think.'" Deborah Loewenberg Ball is dean of the School of Education, William H. Payne Collegiate Professor, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. Hyman Bass is Samuel Eilenberg Distinguished University Professor of Mathematics & Mathematics Education. Francesca Forzani is a doctoral student and is associate director of the Teacher Education Initiative.

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