[Chronique de Normand Baillargeon] If I could learn more about the teacher shortage…

What a back-to-school season we are experiencing! And I think that we have unfortunately not finished having bad surprises. Take a closer look: we had, and we may still have, problems with school transport and class ventilation.

Inflation highlights more than ever the fact that the school supplies and materials required by the school pose to poorer families, along with that of lunch, a challenge that others do not experience.

The pandemic — and the remote schooling it has imposed — is already having, and will continue to have, its effects. The research carried out around the world on this subject leaves no doubt: there will be academic delays, sometimes significant, and making up for them will be a major challenge in the years to come. In fact, we are already seeing it back home, just as we are already seeing an increase in school dropouts and failures and a drop in CEGEP enrolments.

In addition to all this, there is the shortage of teachers, which we are talking about and worrying more and more, with good reason. I described it in these pages as a national drama. I persist and sign.

A real drama

I suspect, along with others, that we do not have, at the time of writing, complete and accurate data on the shortage of teachers. But she is there. It is also, it should be remembered, present in many countries.

This drama — which affects many trades and professions, it must also be said — has many causes, no doubt about it.

To limit ourselves to our own, we should, among these causes, name the real difficulties of exercising this profession, which make it less attractive in the eyes of the youngest and which contribute to causing this terrible professional desertion which afflicts and which causes a very large number of teachers, graduates and in practice, to leave the profession.

Among the reasons that motivate these departures, there are undoubtedly salaries, which have just been improved; the lack of professional resources (remedial teachers, psychologists, etc.) to ensure the integration of students with difficulties in regular classes; the place given to the subsidized private sector, with its effects on the public sector; and certainly many more.

But in the face of this tragedy, one cannot help but wonder if something is wrong with the training given to teachers by our faculties of education.

I suggest taking this hypothesis seriously and launching two projects.

In evaluation

The first would relate precisely to the training given to future teachers.

Imagine that a group of independent researchers interview people who have started but not finished their training; others who have finished it and are teaching; still others who finished but chose not to teach or left the profession after a few years.

Imagine that they reach—it won’t be difficult—a broad consensus on research-established and proven things that future teachers should be taught; about undeniably false things, which nevertheless circulate, and which they should be informed of and taught to stay away from; on elements of scientific culture making it possible to read and evaluate research; on important elements of the history of education and pedagogy; on ideas, concepts and theories of philosophy of education.

Each of these groups would be asked for their perception of the training received. But we would also ask them specific questions whose answers would tell us crucial things about this training. For example: have you been told about different learning styles, left-brain and right-brain—warning: these are pedagogical legends—and if so, what have you been told?

Other examples of questions to ask: do you know, among the things that every teacher must know, what is and what implies the famous “seven plus or minus two”? Have you heard about positive behavior support? What have you been told? Who was called Ziggy? What do you know about instrumentalism? Have you been explained the thought of Plato, Rousseau, Dewey? Tell me about it! Do you know how a meta-analysis is done? What is a search with control group? A hypothesis test?

Such research could help vindicate or silence those who criticize teacher education in its current form and who have long called for it to be entrusted to a national institute, which would, among other things, be based on evidence and on a high idea of ​​culture.

My second project would challenge these people. They would first be asked to train 100 secondary school teachers in one year. This was done in the past, before a certificate was abolished through which graduates in a subject taught in secondary school could access the profession in one year. It should have been perfected and not eliminated.

They would also be challenged — and this is more difficult and would be more revealing — to train 100 primary school teachers. Extensive program.

Next ? You guessed it: we would do the same follow-up with these teachers as with the others. Are they finishing their training? How did they find her? What answers do they give to the previous questions? Will they teach? Are they staying in the business?

If I could launch these two projects, I would do so urgently. And I would be very happy to find out what they would teach us. This would help us decide if the proponents of a national teacher training institute are right.

To see in video


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