Improving the Quality of Teaching through National Board Certification Theory and Practice
reviewed by Jo Ann Coleman - 2004
Title: Improving the Quality of Teaching through National Board Certification Theory and Practice
Author(s): Jill Harrison Berg
Publisher: Christopher-Gordon Publishers Inc., Norwood, MA
ISBN: 1929024568, Pages: 169, Year: 2003
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Jill Harrison Berg's text, Improving the Quality of Teaching through National Board Certification Theory and Practice, is, undoubtedly, a "must-have" for anyone interested in how to have both improved teaching and improved teachers. In the "Acknowledgements" section, Ms. Berg's private and professional mission is encapsulated in the few simple, yet profound, words: she hopes to be trained in the "knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be of service to humanity" (p. xv). This book is a vital part of her legacy–for it can change lives and attitudes–if, and only if, the reader is willing to read with his head and his heart and to do more than offer "lip service" to the practical ideas set forth in this book.
In short, Berg's text is a roadmap for empowering teachers. Teacher educators, administrators, curriculum developers, and the like should be familiar with this "roadmap," the how-to's and the "whys" of National Board Certification. By directing teachers in what constitutes quality teaching, this process of becoming empowered leads to better self-awareness, calm and reflective assessment of what works in the classroom and what does not and why, growth as a professional, and greater warmth as a teacher–for, through this process, we are able to look closely and not critically, at our students so their interests, hobbies, and personal concerns become a vital part of our lessons and our lives. Teachers and students can connect and stay connected as long as the commitment to self-analysis and reflection, so vital to the National Board Process, continues.
Berg's "reader-friendly" text is organized with a Preface, Acknowledgments, Foreword (written by James Kelly, the Founding President of NBPTS), Introduction, Part One-Theory, Part Two-Practice, four phenomenal appendices, a bibliography, an author section, and a contributing NBCT's section. All this "must-know" knowledge is conveniently compacted into 169 well-written pages.
Of particular interest is James Kelly's "Foreword" for it provides necessary background information as to the inception of the National Board Process, information some of us thought we knew but did not. He reminds us that the "standards movement" of the late 1980s which led to such stringent standardized testing (and has, in more ways than we care to admit, come full circle) was fueled by policy makers and reform advocates who really did not understand what or how the teacher teaches. Thus, in response to this dilemma arose the National Board's mission, "A Nation Prepared," in 1986 stating what a teacher should know and be able to do in the form of the five core propositions.
Kelly boldly states what may of us have known, but perhaps not articulated: Teachers must be leaders and be "directly involved in educational policy and educational reform" (p. xx). But how?
Berg answers this question by proving that the "top/down-command/control" approaches to reaching teachers does not work; in fact, it is counterproductive. So, by following National Board guidelines as outlined and explained by Berg, the power of the process is back in the teachers' own hands–where it belongs.
After noting that 93% of NBCT's reported that they felt they were better teachers and felt recommitted to their profession, Berg states her mission for the book: "to identify the theory beneath why the NBC process might improve the quality of teaching" and to make "strategic and practical recommendations about how it should be pursued based on that theory (p. 5)." Berg successfully accomplishes her mission–and does so with organized grace and style.
Part One, Theory, explains the interrelationships among teachers, students, and the curriculum and the collaborative problem solving and teaching that is inherent in NB Certification. Berg reminds the reader that "research tells us that adults will not change without recognition that there is a need" (p. 12), but, in reminding us, she shows us how the NB process proves the "need" through this comprehensive process.
Part One continues by showing how NB certified teachers are able to practice at high levels. These teachers value collegiality, share high professional goals, and hold a common set of assumptions and beliefs about their practice: proven quality.
Part Two, Practice, demonstrates that one of NB Certification's greatest assets is that teachers must produce "clear, consistent, and convincing evidence that they are able to practice to NB standards (p. 5)." These teachers must follow a strict regime of collecting data, documenting, analyzing, making realizations about students and about themselves, and reflecting--always reflecting on their practice and their students. In 2002, set standards existed in 31 areas. And the organization of candidate support activities involves nine well-supported strands.
Part Two continues with a section about "Life after Candidacy" which documents how many candidates, as the direct result of the NB's rigorous expectations, take on leadership-type roles such as content-area curriculum specialists, researchers, higher education partners, etc.
The National Board Process is not for every teacher who has completed his/her third year of teaching: it is a life-changing experience for the strong-hearted and strong-willed teacher, who sincerely wants to make a difference, and, like Berg, be "of service to humanity."
This is a brilliant step-by-step book, the true" how to" for empowering teachers.