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Students Enter New Teacher Certification Program

By Brian Rosenberg
Editor in Chief

Fifteen students entered MIT's new Teacher Certification Program by enrolling in Issues in Teaching and Learning (11.124), the beginning of the program's six-class required series.

The program's goal is to teach MIT students "to learn to appreciate the kinds of conceptual intuitions that young people bring to their studies, and ... [to] monitor their conceptual progress," said Professor of Music and Theater Arts Jeanne M. Bamberger. Bamberger and Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Susan Carey are teaching this semester's class.

The State Bureau of Teacher Certification is expected to register the program sometime this academic year. Currently, the program trains only math and science teachers, but Bamberger said "we hope to extend the fields of specialization to include humanities, arts, and social studies as well." If the program is accepted, MIT students who finish six classes will be certified to teach students in grades six through twelve.

One unique feature of the certification program is the presence of six Boston-area teachers, who are also spending the academic year at MIT as part of another new program, the MIT Teacher Fellows Program. Bamberger said the fellows program is designed to help teachers "develop innovative approaches to math and science teaching ... so they can become effective agents of change in the schools to which they will return."

The fellows will help Bamberger and Carey teach 11.124, and each will serve as a mentor for one or more students in the certification program. In addition, each fellow will be given an MIT faculty mentor in his or her field. Fellows and mentors will identify areas of mutual research interest and develop new teaching techniques.

"It seems like the teachers will be very beneficial -- they've been in the classroom and they know what's going on," said Jake M. Yara '93, a student in 11.124.

The certification program is jointly sponsored by the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. "The program is in urban studies because we want to focus on urban education. We are particularly concerned that our teachers be prepared to meet the challenges of working in inner-city settings," Bamberger said.

A large part of the funding for the fellows program comes from the 40th anniversary gift of the Class of 1952. "The gift was earmarked for something to do with MIT's primary education program. It pays half of the teachers' salaries, and also supports the certification program in a significant way," Bamberger said.

History of programs

Both the certification and the fellows programs were proposed two years ago by the MIT Council on Primary and Secondary Education. "The committee outlined five areas they wanted to take action on. One was bringing teachers to MIT for a year, and another was some kind of teacher development program. Last year, working groups were formed to combine the two ideas, and we had a design by the spring," Bamberger said.

Upcoming changes in state teacher certification requirements gave the program a final push into reality, Bamberger said.

According to the new requirements, which go into effect in October 1994, prospective teachers must have a degree in the specific area they intend to teach. New certification programs will also be responsible for demonstrating that students have developed "competencies" in a number of areas related to teaching and learning.

Bamberger said the program will borrow ideas from a UROP she has sponsored. "We set up something called the Lab for Making Things [in a Cambridge elementary school] where UROP students worked with children and tried to understand the way they thought about things," Bamberger said.

Last fall, the UROP grew into an undergraduate seminar, Teaching Children Engineering Design, which Bamberger taught. Some of the students now in 11.124 participated in the seminar, she added.

"I'm glad that MIT finally put a program like this together," Reninger said. "I know people who've graduated who wanted to go into teaching, but didn't want to go elsewhere and thought it would have been too difficult to get certified, so they didn't bother," she added.

In previous years, MIT students interested in teaching had to complete their certification through the Wellesley Education Department.