The Infusion of Cognitive-Strategy Instruction Within the Preparation of Future Educators

Teachers who are trained in Instrumental Enrichment show positive changes in their general teaching, too— using “wait-time” during question-asking, skills for asking well-worded higher-order questions, conducting lively interactive discussions, and making connections between thinking skills and all subjects.
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A Proposal Addressed to University Schools of Education

Motivation for Proposal

In the August 19 2007 issue of the Boston Globe was an article entitled, “Minority Scores Lag on Teaching Test”  (contact the author at: tjan@glob.com  ). The article states, “More than half the Black and Hispanic applicants for teaching jobs in Massachusetts fail a state licensing exam – a trend that has created a major obstacle to greater diversity among public school faculty and stirred controversy over the fairness of the test.”

This situation is not a local problem, but exists throughout the country for minority candidates. The article indicates that Whites do far better than African Americans and Hispanics on these teacher certification tests.

Since many minority professionals and paraprofessionals are part of today’s school districts, the situation cannot be ignored for colleges and universities preparing teachers. The following proposal provides a means to address the cognitive preparation of such teacher-education candidates for the cognitive challenges that await them.

Introduction

One of the most important educational developments in recent years has been the understanding by educators that a set of higher-order thinking strategies underlies all academic learning, as well as the ability to function in the world of work and life. In spite of the current national obsession with the testing of lower-level achievement in frequently superficial ways, the basis for this achievement lies in the effective assisting of learners to acquire overarching cognitive techniques that transcend any one subject matter, yet assist also with the mastery of that subject matter. To that end, it is proposed university teacher education embrace a comprehensive commitment to infusing cognitive-strategy instruction in several aspects of its programs, as described below.

Teacher Education

In the preparation of future teachers, the importance of enabling young learners to acquire cognitive strategies cannot be overstated, particularly in the urban environments into which teacher-education candidates will enter upon receiving their licensure. Techniques such as comparing, categorizing, sequencing, formulating an argument, making decisions, problem-solving, organizing, and much more, all require explicit instruction and also explicit application to academic subjects.

However, teachers themselves, for whom cognitive-strategy instruction was never part of their own academic programs when they were school students, need the same techniques for two additional reasons: (a) to be successful at the thought required by the mandated teacher examinations which are needed for their licensure, and (b) for thinking carefully and systematically about how to cope with the challenges of classroom teaching with careful long-range planning and decision-making every day.

Thus, the teacher education program will benefit in three ways from infusing cognitive strategy instruction across several courses as well as during the supervisory experiences of practica—enabling teachers to actively teach cognitive strategies to their own students, enabling teachers to successfully pass mandated teacher examinations, and enabling teachers to carry out the all-important problem-solving which is part of everyday life for any successful teacher.