Preparing Teachers For Tomorrow
Current institutional and technological innovations are challenging face-to-face, college- and university-based teacher preparation programs as never before. Among those innovations are two emerging phenomena: New graduate schools of education (nGSEs) and fully online teacher preparation programs. nGSEs are new independent graduate schools that are not university-based but are state-authorized and approved as institutions of higher education to prepare teachers, endorse them for initial teacher certification, and grant master’s degrees (Cochran-Smith et al., 2019). Fully online teacher preparation programs are programs that relocate teacher preparation from the physical environments of the brick-and-mortar university to the digital environments of the internet and provide prospective teachers with flexible alternatives to face-to-face pathways. While both fully online teacher preparation programs and nGSEs have garnered enthusiastic media attention and critique, there is a very limited amount of in-depth knowledge about fully online teacher preparation programs and virtually no independent research on nGSEs. This dissertation helps to address those gaps in research. The central purpose of this dissertation was to examine the intersection of fully online teacher preparation and the phenomenon of teacher preparation at nGSEs by investigating teacher preparation at TEACH-NOW Graduate School of Education, a fully online, for-profit, nGSE headquartered in Washington, D.C. and rapidly expanding as a provider of initial teacher education. Intended to be descriptive and interpretive, this qualitative case study sought to understand the phenomenon of teacher preparation at TEACH-NOW from the perspectives of its participants. Based on qualitative analysis of multiple sources of evidence, the main argument of this dissertation is that TEACH-NOW operated at the nexus of a complex tension between the push to be innovative and the pull to be legitimate. Findings suggest that TEACH-NOW skillfully navigated that tension by establishing tight coherence around three key indicators of innovation (business model, technology, program structure) and by achieving major accepted markers of credibility within the larger teacher education organizational field. This dissertation also argues that TEACH-NOW’s approach to teacher preparation necessitated that teacher candidates self-manage their program experiences in accordance with their individual needs, circumstances, and preferences. The dissertation concludes with discussion of important themes and specific research, practice, and policy implications.