Rear view of teens sitting in the classroom and raising hands to answer the teacher's question

Teacher prep programs: What elements help graduates most?

Preparing teachers for success with students in urban schools requires more than classroom management skills, content knowledge and lesson planning expertise. Teachers who are empowered to make a difference inside and outside the classroom have a powerful influence on their young students.

Kim Barker, a doctoral student in the College of Education & Human Development’s Teaching and Learning program and a former elementary school teacher, is taking a closer look at teacher preparation – more specifically, with graduates of the college’s Urban Accelerated Master’s and Certification (UACM) program – to determine what elements of their preparation helped them become effective teachers and advocates for their students in urban schools.

“Historically, we see that teachers may make progress in their certification and degree programs but when they get into their own classrooms, all of the contextual pressures can overwhelm them. They tend to revert back to their own school experiences and draw on teaching practices they experienced as students, which may not be a good fit for their students or school,” she explained. “I really want to look at effective teachers and see what it was about their preparation that helped them sustain their vision for what they want their classrooms to be.”

Barker serves as coordinator for the federally-funded Quality Instruction for English Learners grant, which offers on-site training and mentorship to support UACM students and other teachers in their first years of their careers. This role gives her the opportunity to gain hands-on experience supporting teachers working with diverse populations while conducting research on what initiatives have made the most impact on teachers working with English language learners.

She’s also looking at data the College of Education & Human Development collects from students in teacher preparation programs to gain more insight into what students respond most to in earning their teaching degrees.

“It’s been a neat opportunity to get this big picture perspective,” Barker said. “We’ve been able to see how the college as a whole is preparing teachers, and get perspectives from different stakeholders – finding out what students and mentor teachers in the field think.”