The hidden benefit of TPA for #edtech

Sometimes being thrust into the middle of something big can be overwhelming.  Like, say you are a School of Education with an enrollment of 1,000 students and then your state legislation decides that graduation should now require an additional requirement.  And you’ve only got a timeline of a year before you need to begin field testing, and then another year before it’s fully live.  Also, there might be a budget crunch – which directly affects your ability to hire personnel resources and provide technical resources to scale out to those 1,000 students.

Ready, set, go!

So yeah, something like TPA can be overwhelming.  Fortunate for me, I’m too busy being overwhelmed by the fact that I just moved from a medium-sized college town in North Carolina to a full-fledged city in Wisconsin, so I’m able to see through all of the muck and the mire that will be overwhelming me later and see to the unintended benefits of this.

First, a bit of perfunctory background for those readers not familiar with it.  TPA is a new set of teaching accreditation standards co-developed by Stanford and Pearson designed to evaluate the ability of student teachers to effectively teach.  For now I’ll not comment how how successful this design is, or how valid it is as a construct, but rather just say that it exists.  The way the TPA works is that student teachers record a video segment totaling about 15 minutes during their student teaching section.  The video along with a lesson plan and reflective essay are sent to Pearson, and then Pearson scores that work on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 low, 5 high).  And much like your social security number, this score stays with you for the rest of your life and defines your worth as a teacher in the eyes of people who care about such numbers.

Please accept that as the 30,000-foot view for now.

So it’s understandable that a lot of people might see this new thing as a hurdle – or maybe even as a monster under the bed.  But part of what we do is also try to find the opportunities, right?

What’s the opportunity of the TPA?  The TPA process is a practicum in pedagogical portfolio building.  More than just something that students who go through the process have for showing to prospective employers, this experience represents a new vector for teaching their own students.  And we all know that we should be excited by this, right?  Generation Z (and every subsequent generation) is digitally native.  Their brains are wired in ways that traditional forms of education can’t always exploit to the fullest degree.

By having student teachers complete digital portfolios, and giving them experience with understanding how it’s used, and how it fits into curriculum, we will be giving them a new tool to use in their classrooms to help push that educational technology envelope.  Assignments that were traditionally end of semester reports or simple book reports can now become very dynamic and engaging projects that are delivered through this very flexible medium.

The value added is that we go beyond teaching students the lesson at hand, and at the same time give them an education that will help to invest them with a set of digital literacies that they will quite frankly need in order to be successful throughout the rest of their educational career and beyond into the rest of their lives as citizens and professionals (and maybe, just maybe, even as educators themselves).


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