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Preparing Teachers for Success in the 21st Century

Corinne Martinez

In California, initiatives such as Linked Learning are being adopted by school districts to transform the learning experiences for high school students. Linked Learning promotes the integration of workplace knowledge with traditional content knowledge and provides a means for students to develop the skills they will need to be independently successful in college or the workplace. However, to achieve this vision requires teacher education reformers to turn teacher-centered classroom practices into more flexible and demanding pedagogies that include rigorous academics and a deeper understanding of knowledge, learning through inquiry, and project-based learning.

Recently, the College of Education (CED) at CSULB transformed its educator preparation programs to incorporate a Linked Learning perspective. These programs include a (a) replicable model for the Single Subject Credential Program that prepares new teachers to participate as professional educators in Linked Learning pathways; and (b) Master’s degree programs that prepare teachers, counselors, and administrators for distributed leadership roles in Linked Learning.

In fall 2016, the CED launched a special Linked Learning cohort of the M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction (C & I) program. Existing courses in the M.A. in the C & I program have been modified to focus on teacher collaboration, interdisciplinary project-based learning, authentic application of rigorous academics, and knowledge of what it means for students to be college and career-ready.

I have been developing and studying the integration of a Linked Learning lens throughout the program, and specifically in a 3-unit course in curriculum and instruction introducing project-based learning (PBL). In this course-based research, multiple methods are used to assess teachers’ knowledge of PBL principles, as well as instructional activities that support students’ development of higher order thinking skills, and knowledge students will need for 21st Century careers and the global environment.

Preliminary findings suggest an increase in knowledge of PBL design principles. One teacher described the effects on participating in the PBL course: "I found a new way of doing things. I've learned to show the students, ‘This is what needs to be done, but you figure it out. You choose. You decide. And I'm here to help you.’ Standing back, I learned to stand back a bit more.”

Educators discuss poster boards at the Linked Learning Action Research Projects Gathering

Teachers showcasing project-based learning units.

Another teacher shares key PBL design principles developed from the course, “I think it's really a different approach to teaching. For me, teaching English, I always used to be, ‘let's read the book, and then you answer these questions, and then you take the test, and then you write the essay about the book.’ And, now I think that Project-based Learning . . . forces [me] to view that unit in a much different way, to think outside that box ...’’

Further analysis of the surveys will help tease out the relationship between extended professional development and the implementation of project-based learning. In addition, teacher’s interviews and teacher-constructed PBL units will provide a better understanding of how robust this relationship may be across different skills, subjects taught, and teacher and classroom characteristics. Overall, this study and similar studies provide an opportunity to examine an avenue to well-prepared teachers for 21st Century students.

Note: collaborators on this research project include, Fabian Rojas Ramirez, Ed.D. Doctoral Candidate in the College of Education.

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