ERIC Identifier: ED338593
Publication Date: 1991-11-00
Author: Harnett, Anne Marie
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teacher Education Washington DC.
Model Programs for Middle School Teacher Preparation. ERIC
Studies on the developmental characteristics and educational needs of young
adolescents (aged 10-14) indicate the need for specialized programs to prepare
teachers for this age group. Researchers and practitioners alike say it is
essential to develop a cadre of teachers grounded in the philosophy of middle
school education; knowledgeable about the psychological, social, and
intellectual development of early adolescents; and possessing the practical
skills to work with early adolescents (Silverman, 1990).
According to a national survey (Epstein & MacIver, 1990), middle grades
principals want their teachers to have command of their subject area, be able to
increase student motivation, and to understand early adolescence. Literature
reviews, as well as surveys of teachers in grades 6-8, lead to similar
conclusions. To achieve such goals, preservice teacher education programs must
provide experiences in middle school settings and courses that develop an
understanding of the early adolescent's unique needs.
A survey (McEwin & Alexander, 1987) of American Association of Colleges
for Teacher Education member institutions found that only 33% of the 504
respondents had any kind of specialized program for middle-level teacher
preparation. In most instances, present programs or those planned were tied to
state certification requirements. The three programs described below are
examples of concentrations in middle-level preparation that involve several
required courses or credits.
PROGRAM MODELS TEACHING EARLY ADOLESCENTS IN MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Teaching Early Adolescents
in Middle Schools (TEAMS) (Cunningham & Shillington, 1989) is a
collaborative program involving middle-level practitioners, teacher educators at
the Ohio State University, and preservice teachers who have had previous
leadership experience with early adolescents and are committed to middle-level
education. The program is a 5-quarter, one-half day, teacher training program in
which 4-member preservice student teacher cohort groups are formed on the basis
of personal choice and personality assessment. These students remain together
for the first two quarters and are the instructional context for most field and
Team members observe each other and engage in group process and small group
reflection discussions. These activities give the members first-hand experience
in using and valuing feedback and other group process skills they will need to
assist early adolescents in the process of self-identification.
During all five quarters, the interaction of theory and action is prominent.
First-quarter TEAMS students engage in limited observation of classrooms and
interdisciplinary team (IDT) settings, planning and teaching episodes,
reflection seminars, and tasks concerned with individual child development and
During the second and third quarters, students learn classroom management and
teaching strategies in a second field site. They observe school-based IDT
members model math, science, language arts, and social studies teaching methods
which they have studied in their university courses. Field-based mentors guide
TEAMS members as they apply instructional strategies and methods.
Student teaching is done during the fourth quarter. During the fifth quarter,
students return to campus for seminars devoted to processing and reflecting on
teaching experiences, building on strengths, and collectively reinforcing areas
that need further development.
Because mentoring is an important part of beginning teacher induction, the
organizers of the TEAM program decided that mentoring should begin in the
preservice stage. They asked principals in each participating middle school to
select entire IDTs to act as mentors for the student teachers. These teams plan
and supervise experiences to socialize preservice teachers into middle school
teachers' multifaceted roles: encouraging student teams to observe and
participate in IDT decision making for diagnosis of pupil learning needs,
curriculum/instructional planning, parent/community interactions, and completion
of evaluation forms for individual and team performance.
EARLY ADOLESCENT BLOCK PROGRAM
Another collaborative middle
school teacher education program is the Early Adolescent Block Program offered
through St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota (Putbrese, 1984). The
Block Program is 19 quarter credits of course offerings consisting of components
required by the Minnesota Board of Education for certification of middle school
teachers. Students who have completed the introduction to either elementary or
secondary education can be accepted into the Block Program.
During the initial days of the program, students remain on campus for an
overview of early adolescent education, developmental characteristics,
appropriate programming for middle-level education, and preparation for the
field-experience component. For the remainder of the quarter, students spend
four days each week in a cooperating middle school and the fifth day on campus
for a seminar.
Throughout the entire quarter the student remains with the first cooperating
teacher for advisor/advisee purposes and leisure reading. The advantage of this
arrangement is that it affords the student teacher the opportunity to bond with
one group of students and to observe the same students over a longer period of
In an effort to afford students exposure to several fields of study, this
program also requires each student to have 10-day field experiences in four
different curricular areas. In each 10-day segment, the type of experience and
level of involvement depends on the extent to which the cooperating teacher is
willing to involve the student teacher and on the student teacher's feelings of
competence in the subject area. Generally, students have the opportunity to
become involved in small group and individual instruction; many have the
opportunity to prepare and teach a class. They live the life of the teacher with
all its attendant tasks.
During the seminar, the Block students learn about the complexities involved
in middle school education through reflection on their experiences, and through
instruction and discussion on such topics as interdisciplinary teams,
advisor/advisee programs, learning styles, and early adolescent development. In
addition to the seminar, the students attend a regional or national middle
The Block activities replace formal college classes. All Block activities are
carefully monitored by the university professor and cooperating middle school
faculty. Students receive feedback from university professors on a regular
basis, and at the end of each 10-day assignment, they receive a written
evaluation from the cooperating teacher describing both strengths and
As a result of the Block program, students are able to make a conscious
decision about applying for licensure as a middle school teacher. Such early
decision making by the student diminishes the possibility of frustrating
experiences upon securing a teaching position.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY PROGRAM
State University (Raleigh) offers a middle years education degree program which
includes eight courses specifically designed for the middle years and prepares
students to teach in two fields: language arts/social studies or math/science. A
key course in the program is "Teaching in the Middle Years," usually taken in
the junior year and prior to student teaching (Arnold, 1988).
The course serves as a model for a good middle school classroom, using many
of the same methods that are successful in teaching young adolescents and
engaging the teacher education students in the types of activities they will be
using in their middle school classes. The professor encourages students to
become change agents by implementing new ideas in helping to create "real middle
schools" and not just renamed junior high schools.
It has been found that for both undergraduate and middle school students, a
focus on values encourages critical thinking, personal involvement, and
dialogue. Therefore, the prospective teachers engage in discussions about the
underlying assumptions and values of the course material. The professor and
students engage in collaborative work and interdisciplinary inquiry while
building a sense of community. The course covers four basic components of middle
years education: early adolescent development, curriculum, teaching/learning
methodology, and school organization.
Much work is still to be done in research on
middle-level teacher preparation and on the kinds of curricula and programs that
will best prepare prospective teachers of early adolescents. The programs
summarized point up both the need for more middle-level teacher education
programs and the direction these programs might take.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should be available at most
research libraries; documents (ED) are available in ERIC microfiche collections
at more than 700 locations or can also be ordered through the ERIC Document
Reproduction Service: (800) 443-3742. For more information contact the ERIC
Clearinghouse on Teacher Education, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 610,
Washington, DC 20036-1186, (202) 293-2450; or (800) USE-ERIC.
Arnold, J. A. (1988, Spring). Teaching in the middle years. Teaching
Education, 2(1), 43-46. EJ 399 761
Cunningham, R. C., & Shillington, N. (1989-90, Winter). Mentoring
preservice teachers through interdisciplinary teams: A school-university
partnership. Action in Teacher Education, 11(4), 6-12. EJ 404 513
Epstein, J. L., & MacIver, D. J. (1990, February). Education in the
middle grades: Overview of a national survey of practices and trends. Report No.
45. Baltimore, MD: Center for Research on Elementary and Middle Schools, The
Johns Hopkins University.
McEwin, C. K., & Alexander, W. M. (1987). Middle level teacher education
programs: A second survey (1986-1987). Boone, NC: Appalachian State University.
ED 292 781
Putbrese, L. M. (1984). Middle level teacher preparation: A breath of fresh
air. St. Cloud, MN: St. Cloud State University. ED 273 624
Silverman, M. L. (1990). A preservice program especially for middle school
candidates. School of Education Review, 2, 37-42.