This Spring, Bank Street Graduate School of Education announced a partnership with Learning Policy Institute to launch Educator Preparation Laboratory (EdPrepLab), a new initiative to harness the collective strengths of exemplary preparation programs around the country. This initiative builds upon excellence in educator preparation in order to help ensure that new teachers and leaders can provide all K-12 students with deep learning opportunities that prepare them for the challenges of the 21st century.
EdPrepLab brings together a network of 15 of the nation’s leading educator preparation programs to collaborate on developing and documenting models of preparation that can inform other institutions across the country and help educators develop the analytical, metacognitive, and social-emotional skills of all students. The initiative will also support research to improve programs and educate policymakers at national and state levels to help build equitable schools and practices.
To launch the initiative, Bank Street hosted a two-day inaugural convening for the program’s founding partners to articulate a collective vision for EdPrepLab, engage in productive discussions and workshops around deeper learning, and plan the next steps for collaboration. In his opening remarks at the June 10 event, Bank Street President Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, asked a room of 120 educators and school leaders, “What would it take to create responsive and lively learning environments that engage and challenge children?”
He continued, “Students need opportunities to feel the power of interest and deep understanding, to infuse their cognition with emotion, and to expand the range of issues that they care about.”
Polakow-Suransky then introduced key research findings on learning and development that will drive much of the team’s work together, including the understanding that:
- Relationships are the essential ingredient in catalyzing healthy development and learning;
- Children actively construct knowledge through opportunities to connect new information to their lived experience;
- Learning is social, emotional, and academic; and
- The way schools respond to adversity affects student learning.
Building on these themes, Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO of Learning Policy Institute, took the stage to discuss how designing teacher preparation models based on the principles of learning and development, as well as the needs of students in 21st century classrooms, will lead to better learning outcomes for children.
“EdPrepLab exists to further develop these practices—to document and share them—and, ultimately, to invite others into the collaborative to create policy that leverages these practices as the norm, not the exception, in teacher education and in teaching,” said Darling-Hammond.
To illustrate how Bank Street’s developmental-interaction approach to teaching and learning is used to create meaningful learning environments for children, Graduate School Dean Cecelia Traugh introduced a short film created by Graduate School faculty members Carmen Colón, GSE ’06, Supervised Fieldwork Advisor and Course Instructor, and Margaret Blachly, GSE ’05, Psycho-educational Specialist, Emotionally Responsive Practice, “The Ideas Came from the Kids: The Developmental-Interaction Approach at Castle Bridge,” which shared an in-depth look at the educator practices at Castle Bridge, a pre-K through grade 5 school in New York City.
“[Bank Street and Castle Bridge] share a strong philosophical commitment to progressive education, which puts children’s experiences at the heart of learning, and which integrates curriculum across subject areas by connecting it to real world environments,” said Traugh. “In order to enact these practices, teachers must have a strong sense of the children’s development and know each child, their families, and communities well. The film is an effort to make developmental-interaction come alive.”
The two-day convening included learning opportunities, panel discussions, and working groups designed to orient participants to EdPrepLab’s foundational mission and build a shared understanding of school structures and supports that lead to deeper learning. Activities included tours of exemplary school settings across New York City, a vision setting session to help build common perspectives for their collaborative work, in-depth discussions on policy priorities and school and educator practice, and conversations about ways to envision bridging practice and policy. Inquiry groups and group planning sessions provided opportunities to reflect on shared learning and create strategies for next steps.
“Really getting to know the child and getting to know the family—that’s very, very important,” said Robert Cornejo, Kindergarten/First Grade Teacher at Castle Bridge School, during the Castle Bridge panel discussion. Practices such as family night and family interviews “are very important structures we have within the school that help us as teachers get to know the family and get to know the children,” he said.
“It is really critical for our students to be prepared to observe children, to learn about children through what children are doing,” said Carmen Colón during the panel. “Through many of our courses, such as practicum, we spend a whole year thinking about how to observe children to understand. We move our students from judgment and more [toward] thinking about looking at the characteristics and behaviors of children and what they communicate so that way, we can meet children where they’re at.”
EdPrepLab’s founding partners are: Alverno College, Milwaukee, WI; Bank Street College, NY; High Tech High, San Diego, CA; Montclair State University, NJ; San Francisco Teacher Residency (San Francisco United School District, Stanford University, and University San Francisco); Trinity University, San Antonio, TX; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Chicago Teacher Residency, IL; University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Colorado, Denver; University of Illinois, Chicago; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; University of Washington; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.
Over time, EdPrepLab will increase the number of participating educator and preparation programs in the network, inviting schools to apply to participate.
“The educator preparation faculty and P-12 school partners we hosted at our convening have a wealth of collective expertise in preparing teachers and leaders,” said Jessica Charles, Director of Scholarship on Educator Practice at Bank Street and Director of Educator Preparation Network at EdPrepLab. “The task of EdPrepLab is bringing that expertise together in a way that policymakers and faculty can advocate together for humane learning environments where deeper learning can thrive. We look forward to working with Learning Policy Institute and our partner institutions.”