Meeting the challenge
To build the Next Education Workforce, Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College works with schools and other partners to
- provide all students with deeper and personalized learning by building teams of educators with distributed expertise, and
- empower educators by developing new opportunities for role-based specialization and advancement.
Instead of asking all educators to be all things to all learners at all times, we need to unpack the tasks we ask each professional to do and reallocate those tasks, sustainably, across teams. An effective education workforce made up of professionals with diverse expertise requires meaningful opportunities for educators to acquire expert depth, explore functional breadth and have opportunities for advancement that don’t necessarily require leaving the classroom.
Schools don’t exist on org charts. They live in communities.
Our communities are rich in experienced adults who have knowledge and expertise but may lack the instructional skills of career teachers. Let’s integrate them into learning environments and prepare them.
Community educators should not be one-day volunteers or guest speakers. They should be crucial complements to professional educators. Some could play instructional roles. Others would provide complementary services that address the needs of the whole child.
Learning environments should be staffed by a range of professionals, including novices, experienced teachers and specialists who work together to meet the needs of all learners.
Novice teachers should join the profession as members of teams, not left to figure it out alone. They should have the opportunity to work with and learn from a range of experienced colleagues with diverse areas of expertise.
Areas of expertise should include content specialization, the ability to build relationships with students and their families, the pedagogical skills to guide deeper and personalized learning and much more.
We need to create leadership roles that do not necessarily remove educators from instructional roles and direct contact with learners.
We need teacher-leaders whose responsibilities require both instructional expertise and management acumen as they direct the work of teams.
We also need organization leaders who know how to build systems, empower educator teams and work with community stakeholders to identify and meet school and community learning needs.
Deeper and personalized learning for learners
When students learn in deeper and personalized ways, they engage in authentic tasks; have opportunities for collaboration and creative problem-solving; have voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn; and more. Education research has shown that this sort of learning is associated with positive outcomes for students and professional satisfaction for educators.
Rewarding advancement pathways for educators
An effective education workforce made up of professionals with diverse expertise requires meaningful opportunities for educators to acquire expert depth, explore functional breadth and develop into team and organization leaders.
It also requires accessible on-ramps for career switchers and others to enter the profession. Ultimately, that likely means pathways to education careers in addition to traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees. We should explore stackable certificates and a regimen of credentials that allows people to acquire the skills to deliver the services learners need.