Thursday, April 2, 2009

Teacher's Training in Canada: How Do Teacher's Colleges Compare?

I interview teachers across Canada for teaching positions in London, England. I've been doing this for almost 5 years now, so I'm in a unique position to comment on our teacher's colleges and how they compare. Some teachers graduate fully prepared for teaching and sadly, some graduate without any clue as to what the "real world" of teaching will be like. So, here are my thoughts on a few that really stand out.

Queen's University
This is the university that accepted me into teacher's college (Ottawa U & Nipissing both put me on waiting lists), so I am obviously biased here. But even if I didn't go to Queen's I would notice that their training is quite different than other universities across Canada.

They have 2 things going for them in particular - an alternative practicum and a placement office. The alternative practicum is a chance for teachers to expand their skills and do something outside of traditional teaching. It is also well funded for students with OSAP debt, giving them opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise. In my case, I went to Bangladesh for a three week practicum and helped to build latrines, screen for eye cataract surgery and assist the doctors with pre and post operation work. Certainly different than typical teacher's college right?

The placement office at Queen's helps teachers to write resumes and prepare for interviews. The team (Elspeth, Alan and Sharon) does an outstanding job at preparing teachers, so when I go to interview them, they sound professional, confident and capable of teaching in any school. This is probably the #1 reason to go to Queen's for teachers college! You need to know that when you graduate, you will know how to get a job at the end of it all.

2. McGill University
McGill is a lot like Queen's in that they also have staff on hand to help teachers prepare for the job hunt. Antonella Nizzolla works with teachers and helps them make good choices about where to apply and how to be successful in their applications. Kind of like a guidance counsellor, Antonella knows her stuff and is excellent at her job. McGill grads always interview incredibly well and their teaching experience in London has been excellent. Their resumes are always well written, and end up on the top of the pile.

3. OISE - University of Toronto
OISE is massive, which I would normally say is a problem, but in this case, it works for them. The best & brightest get into U.of T. so you know that the teachers who get into OISE are in an elite class of their own. But it's not just that they are academically smart that puts them above the rest. They are also professional, capable, and very well researched. They have an 'inner-city' cohort that teachers love. In my world, that's very important. Inner city school teaching is different from the suburbs. It just is. So, it's always refreshing to interview teachers from OISE as I know they know what I am looking for when it comes to inner city school teaching in London.

4. University of Victoria
Again, I'm biased here as I live in Victoria so spend a large amount of my time with U.Vic grads. 10% of the graduates from last year are teaching with us in London this year. That is a very high number! The real reason I like this program is that it's small (about 100 teachers in each program) and the faculty clearly really care how their teachers do. Every time I visit, they ask about the teachers from last year. They know where each and every one of their teachers is now, which says a lot about their staff. The teachers are usually very well prepared for interview and do incredibly well with teaching in London.

5. Nipissing
Nipissing makes this list because they have one really good thing going for them - their focus on technology in the classroom. Every teacher has a laptop and is tapped into technology throughout class. The downside to this? Well, let's face it - they're on facebook and twitter when they should be participating in class. So, I've interviewed some that are outstanding and others that are...well, not so much. I love that Nipissing grads already know how to use Smart Boards (IWB's) as we use the same technology in London. That really helps when they arrive and are thrown into a classroom with an IWB.

I spend more time in BC and Ontario than anywhere else, so can't comment on most other provinces education programs. What do you think? Do you think another university should be in this list? Please share your thoughts below.

Also, here is a comprehensive list of all the teacher's colleges in Canada.

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  1. I have to brag about the University of Lethbridge! I haven't gone through the Ed program here, but my husband has so I've seen everything he's gone through. It's a very small university so you get to know the profs and other students very well which makes for an amazing support system. Before you are accepted into the Ed faculty you complete Ed 2500, an introduction to teaching which includes a bit of student-teaching experience so you can really decide if teaching is for you before jumping in. There's three practicums rather than the usual two at the other Alberta universities. The first one is in elementary, second is in junior high or high school, and the last (which is a semester-long internship) is your choice. I really like the system because it gives you a chance to try out different grades and areas. The last practicum is also great because you can choose to do it anywhere in the world, a few of my friends have gone to Belize to teach! Plus I just love the city of Lethbridge, it's a really great place to live and go to school :)

  2. Hi Amie - thanks for sharing that. I know the teachers I have met from Lethbridge have been amazing, so I would agree with you. I really like the fact that they train across the age groups. I find there is a real split in teachers between primary & secondary and there doesn't need to be (see the April 1st post to see what I mean). Also, the BC teachers get "K-12" written on the B.Eds (or PDPP's), but are trained in primary or secondary. They can teach across all ages though and often do so in London. My own degree from Queen's just says "k-6" which really is quite limiting.

    Thanks again!

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  4. This is really interesting! I would definitely like to mention my university which is known for it's education program more than anything else, seeing as it is an undergraduate school. In my opinion, it's faculty of education is superior to the other universities in Manitoba (for some reason, we don't use the term "teacher's college" here in Manitoba, I've only heard that from reading this blog, etc.) for several reasons. Firstly, you can enter the 5-year integrated program and you are observing in a classroom your first or second year (I've been in the program for 6 years and have had 4 practicum placements). Secondly, like others you can do your placement in Thailand, Greece, Costa Rica or China, and that list is always growing. And of course, it's very small and just a fabulous faculty with so many caring individuals. Like some of the others, we have a program called "contact to contract" which holds weekly workshops and pd sessions, including resume writing, etc.
    And although we specialize in a stream (early, middle, senior), we do take classes that focus on every level.

    Just thought I'd mention it seeing as no one ever hears about Winnipeg :)

  5. Oh, and I forgot to mention the name of my school :)
    University of Winnipeg!

    And after reading up on some of the other schools I am so happy to see that there are other excellent schools in the country with many of the same advantages that I find with mine!

  6. Thanks Jodi! The most exciting thing for me is that you and Amie found Classroom through this blog & online, and I've never been to either of your universities. Which shows that blogging is effective right?

    Also, I should venture further and come to Alberta and Manitoba. Or, when you come back from teaching, you can represent us at your uni. That would be awesome!

    Thanks for sharing :-)

  7. Hi!

    I was wondering if you could blog information about NARIC and whether North American universities match up with their standards. Do you find that your teachers have to take additional classes?

  8. Hi Ann,
    Thanks for the question. Naric is a funny one actually. In the last 5 years I've done this job, I've never once had a Canadian teacher have to go through the Naric assessment, but I've had almost all the American teachers have to go through it. In my opinion, it comes down to population size. Canada only has about 50 Teachers Colleges, whereas America must have hundreds. Plus, we only have so many universities - not like in the states, where you have your Ivy League, and state colleges. I can understand why the UK asks Americans to be assessed by Naric for that reason alone.

    I don't believe any of my American teachers have had to take any extra courses though. Just QTS. Have you been told you need to take extra courses?

    Sorry I can't be more help.

  9. Got to give a shout out from little Bishop's University in Quebec! We may be a tiny school (my B ED program will have 17 students!), but that is what makes it so special! The entire department is small enough that we become a really tight knit group, and have an amazing faculty that are able to really get to know each and every one of us and help us with any question or concern, no matter how trivial! They have also been known to meet us out for a pint after class to continue discussing/debating!

    In addition, Bishop's grads are sought out across QC, because of how much time we actually get to spend in the classroom practice teaching. we have practica every year, ranging from day trips, to weekly visits, to the 6 and 13 week practica we do in our last few years.

    Unfortunatly there are not many opportunities for overseas exchanges through the education department :( (though they do sponser some teachers to do their practicum in France or Spain!), but I was able to do a regular university exchange to South Africa, and then volunteer teach in a Grade 1/2 class!

    For those of you who have never heard of Bishops, check it out!
    Small school, big spirit!


  10. The University of Saskatchewan has made changes to their program. I am a member of the first cohort to go through Program 2012. I find it was a useful and exceptional program. We spent more time in the classroom than any other program I have heard of, even before our internships. Most of us felt that we were very prepared for our internship duties and challenges. There is a strong emphasis on familial curriculum, inquiry learning, place based pedagogies and the philosophies of learning. I am so happy I was a part of this group and not the old program! Now, all teacher candidates are required to enroll in Program 2012. The faculty is extremely supportive and the college is very welcoming. Please check it out!
    Tracy Flicek


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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