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Teachers Deserve Project-Based Preparation

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By Tom Vander Ark & Emily Liebtag

In a study by McKinsey conducted to examine all the ways people are earning income, it was found that between 54 and 68 million people in the U.S. are independent workers. Diane Mulcahy, author and lecturer, stated in Who Wins in the Gig Economy, and Who Loses:

"Independent workers who are comfortable with and excited about developing their own income streams, marketing themselves, and connecting with others are best positioned to take advantage of the many opportunities the gig economy offers. These skilled and entrepreneurial workers win in the gig economy by moving from good jobs to great work."

We wrote Preparing Students for a Project-Based World to encourage educators to pay attention to this shift to a more gig and freelance economy. We know it means that the way we prepare students needs to change and that they will need to be better prepared for project-based work and have the ability to solve novel and complex problems.

To ensure that students are prepared for this work, we must first prepare their teachers. Teacher preparation and development currently does not help teachers understand how to develop students for this type of working world. New learning models, such as blended, personalized and project-based learning, require that teachers possess different skills than we have traditionally trained them to enter classrooms with. Reorganizing preparation and development around project-based learning will help to ensure that teachers are better prepared. We believe teacher preparation and development ought to reflect the following ideas:

Fortunately, there are schools and universities across the country that are embracing these design principles and shifting how they prepare and support the development of teachers. In Preparing Teachers for a Project-Based World, we provide examples to learn from and recommendations for schools, universities and organizations looking to do this work.

Key recommendations:

  • Shift activities, trainings and teacher work to be more project-based.
  • Project-ready teachers engage in job-embedded experiences and work. Provide them with ample opportunities to be in innovative schools.
  • Get teachers online and learning through different modalities, not just in face-to-face one-day workshops.
  • Provide teachers with coaches, mentors, choice and time.
  • Remember that project-based teaching takes time. Enjoy the journey and the process!

We are hopeful that if educators and leaders shift practices to focus on developing a more project-ready teacher workforce, that in turn students too will be ready for this increasingly project-based world.

"Preparing Teachers for a Project-Based World" is authored by Emily Liebtag and Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart. To learn more, download the full paper and follow along on social media using the hashtags #ProjectBased and #DeeperLearning.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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