Rita Mitchell, Huston-Tillotson University
The teacher is the individual ultimately responsible for establishing and maintaining an effective educational environment that provides each K-12 student the opportunity to develop his or her potential to the fullest extent possible. The 21st century learner requires a new skill set that reflects societal changes. The adult learners preparing to become teachers have also changed.
There are several best practices we would suggest for making an education curriculum effective for adult learners. Courses in the education program should be outlined in a logical sequence that provides a solid academic foundation in the philosophical, theoretical, and historical framework of the field of education. There should be a strong research base not only to allow adults to actively participate in research conducted by professors, but also to help adults develop appropriate skills to conduct research in their own school classrooms. The faculty should encourage and the department should support adult efforts to attend and present conference sessions at professional conferences at the local, state, regional, national, and international level. The community should be viewed as an extension of the classroom. The Teacher Preparation Program should promote assignments/projects/lessons and units that utilize reality-based, community-oriented efforts that go beyond the scope of the traditional one-dimension approach, but require the incorporation of theory and practice. These activities should help pre-service adult learners understand how the concepts and skills they teach to school students will be used in the "real world."
As a result of these curricular innovations, pre-service teachers are better able to design realistic and practical educational environments when they become practitioners. K-12 students from these environments begin to think and act more independently and develop confidence in themselves and their abilities from the practical application of concepts and skills introduced in the classroom.
Faculty and administrators in an education program should be aware of current societal issues that will have an impact on the careers of the pre-service teachers as they become practitioners. While the program cannot obviously change every year, there should be workshops and seminars conducted each semester that focus on key issues. Adult learners should have an active role in program development, maintenance, and change. There is an ongoing line of communication with program graduates who are working in public, private, and parochial schools. Efforts are also made to keep in touch with program graduates. The graduates provide a perspective on how successful various elements of the program have been in preparing adults to become creative, effective, productive practitioners in education programs designed to address the unique academic needs and characteristics of school students. Adult learners enhance numerous and various skill sets.