Professor draws praise for research on teacher education
Tom Russell, a pioneer in self-study teaching and teacher education practices, recently received the first-ever award for Outstanding Contributions to Research in Teacher Education in Canada from the Canadian Association for Teacher Education (CATE).
Dr. Russell has been exploring how teachers learn from their own teaching practices for 20 years. His research helps seasoned teachers continue growing and trains teacher candidates how to learn from their earliest experiences in the classroom.
“Students like practicums and know they’re important, for instance, but that doesn’t mean they’re getting the most they can from them,” he says. “We want students to think about their experiences, analyze them, make sense of them, and ask how they could be better.”
Dr. Russell met four other recent PhD graduates in the 1980s who, like him, wanted to better understand how teachers could learn from their own experiences. They realized how easy it is to follow the same pattern in the classroom for years on end. In order to adapt and improve, they believed teachers need to stand back from their lessons to analyze and study their own teaching practices.
Dr. Russell and his colleagues started a group within the American Educational Research Association called the Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices, and quickly had 300 members. The group has hosted a biennial international conference at the Bader International Study Centre since 1996. In 2005 the group launched a journal, Studying Teacher Education: A Journal of Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices, which Dr. Russell co-edits.
Over the last 10 years, Dr. Russell has integrated his long-standing interest in self-analysis with a desire to learn how teachers listen to students. At the end of every class, his students hand in small slips of papers with brief comments about the key idea they took away, and what they want to understand better. Many thousand such slips of paper remind him how teaching needs constant refinement, feedback, and study.