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Building Blocks

Programs that prepare confident, skilled teachers share four common elements that draw upon scientific learning principles.

Building Blocks Hero

Released in 2017, Building Blocks highlights the work of four practice-based educator-preparation programs and the strategies they use to prepare skillful beginning teachers.

Each year, nearly 200,000 new teachers graduate from preparation programs in the United States.

Many report feeling unprepared to teach in classrooms of their own.

This must change.

Effective teachers matter – and if we aren’t doing enough to prepare teachers so they are ready to teach, we need a new approach. 

And so we set out to visit programs led by members of Deans for Impact. We wanted to see what it might take to prepare teachers who are good on day one, and on the path to be great over time.

To do that, we visited:

Building Blocks map of locations we visited

18 educator-preparation programs

13 states

We wanted to understand the complete context in which these programs prepare future teachers. We met with deans, faculty members, cooperating (mentor) teachers, school superintendents, school principals, and teacher-candidates. We spent almost equal time on college campuses and in K-12 classrooms.

All told, we interviewed and observed:

01   program faculty

257 program administrators, faculty and staff

02   teacher candidates

130 teacher-candidates

03   school district reps

93 school-district representatives

04   classrooms

71 classrooms and courses

We saw some things that troubled us. At some programs, we saw teacher-candidates who were given little or conflicting guidance on how to teach effectively. To our eyes, these teacher-candidates were unprepared for the realities of the classroom.


But we also were inspired.

At a variety of programs, we met teacher-candidates whose sense of professional identity, instructional skills, and understanding of how students learn far outpaced their novice experience levels.


We found that programs that prepared these confident, skilled teachers shared four common elements – modeling, practice, feedback, and alignment – that draw upon scientific learning principles. We see these as essential building blocks of effective teacher preparation.

Back of a school bus as it drives around a school driveway


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