About the NCRTL
The name of the National Center for Research on Teacher Learning (NCRTL) reflected its innovative vision and the focus of its research. Originally called the National Center for Research on Teacher Education, the NCRTL was founded at Michigan State University's College of Education in 1985 with a grant from the Office of Education Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. The center was renamed in 1991 to reflect its new emphasis on teacher learning and the center's desire to provide leadership in defining this new area of research. Outside support for the center's work ended in 1995. Those associated witht the center extended the work begun in the center in a wide range of other projects, supported by the College of Education and by sources outside MSU>
In its first five years, the center examined various approaches to teacher education-including preservice, inservice, alternative route, and induction programs-to further knowledge and understanding of the purpose of teacher education, the character and quality of teacher education, and the role of teacher education in teacher learning. This longitudinal research, known as the Teacher Education and Learning to Teach (TELT) Study, formed the foundation for many of the NCRTL projects.
Why Teacher Learning?
For centuries, educators assumed that learning consisted of rote memorization of new knowledge: students listened to lectures and read books, their progress measured by their ability to recite what they had heard and read. Research in the past 20 years, however, clearly shows that understanding occurs only when learners actively think about or try out new ideas in light of their prior knowledge. This shift in understanding how learning occurs marks an important new direction for teacher learning. The NCRTL extended its findings about learning from students-as-learners to teachers-as-learners in order to understand how teachers learn to teach.
Four Essential Elements
1. Responding to public
expectations for schools--Researchers concentrated on how teachers
can learn to teach in more powerful and demanding ways.
An Agenda for Research on Learning to Teach
Why is it so difficult to learn
to teach challenging academic content to diverse learners? Three hypotheses
guided NCRTL research.
All three tasks are essential in learning to teach and must be completed at the same time to be effective. When teachers change their beliefs about learning and teaching, they recreate their role in helping students learn. When teachers have a thorough understanding of the subjects they teach, they are able to choose worthwhile learning activities for students. And when teachers hone their reasoning skills about the practice of teaching, they can make the sophisticated decisions needed to manage complex learning activities.
By examining the conditions that are conducive to each of these aspects of teacher learning and then describing the kind of teaching that results from them, NCRTL research linked teacher learning directly to the goals of educational reform: more rigorous teaching and learning.