What Kind of Knowledge Does a Teacher Need?
I have one of those minds that is a treasure trove of useless information. My friends tell me I should go on Jeopardy!. I had a long unbeaten run in Trivial Pursuit broken (by my wife) just a few years ago. I can tell you that Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Robin Roberts of the Phillies, won 28 games and lost only 7 in 1952. I know that the tenth President of the United States, John Tyler, had 15 children. I can name all the states and their capitols and recite The Gettysburg Address. But unless you are playing parlor games (remember them?) or taking standardized tests, this knowledge is not particularly useful for anything.
But speaking of those standardized tests, I have recently been tutoring college juniors on the Praxis II tests that they must pass to be licensed as a teacher in New Jersey. While some of the questions on the tests do try to tap into knowledge that is necessary for teaching, many of the questions are of the random fact variety, a Jeopardy! quiz that puts your teaching license at risk. Fortunately, most of the teaching candidates at Rider pass these tests fairly easily, but some, often students with a history of being poor test takers, struggle mightily.
One of the challenges prospective elementary teachers face is that they must pass tests in 4 subject areas: English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. Only the English Language Arts test is actually focused on pedagogy. The others are content knowledge tests for the most part. As a former history major and current reading specialist, I tutor English/Language Arts and Social Studies. Here is a question from the practice test that the testing company (ETS) provides as an example of what students need to know to pass the Praxis in Social Studies:
Russ on Reading: What Kind of Knowledge Does a Teacher Need?: