What are "essential teaching skills"?

July 31, 2009, 6:22 am

In my last post, I expressed incredulity at Pat Rogan’s statement that by limiting education degrees to no more than 30 hours of pedagogy courses, the state of Indiana would be “put[ting] educators without essential teaching skills into classrooms”. I brought up the example of one-room schoolhouse teachers and homeschooling parents as examples of people who teach successfully without anywhere near that amount of coursework. Another example I realized this morning was my own profession of college teaching. Most college professors have never had a pedagogy course in their lives, and yet many of those are among the best classroom educators our society has to offer. They certainly have “essential teaching skills”.

Of course there are also many professors whose teaching is atrocious. But there are also high school teachers with 30+ hours of pedagogy courses whose teaching is equally atrocious, and it’s highly questionable whether they have “essential teaching skills” despite surviving all that coursework.

What exactly are “essential teaching skills”? How do these differ from one teaching situation to the next — the preschool classroom, elementary schools, public high schools, private high schools, college classrooms, homeschoolers’ living rooms? Is there a single set of “essential teaching skills” that is common to all teachers, regardless of their context? And what role does education coursework play in conveying those skills?

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