Mark M. Alter
Professor, Educational Psychology
"Our students are bright, inquisitive, and provocative, and when they graduate, I am proud many choose to teach in New York City public schools."
"It's a lot of fun to figure out what makes a kid tick," says Mark Alter. "Even more exciting is preparing other people to think about how to work with kids."
Alter has an extensive background in the classroom, as well as a PhD from Yeshiva University in special education, a focus that gives his teaching a unique context. "Kids who have disabilities challenge everything we know about teaching and learning," he says. "Teaching any student with a disability requires greater information regarding who they are in terms of their social, psychological, physical and academic strengths and limitations. All children are entitled to an appropriate education and this requires a match between what the teacher knows and is willing to learn and what the children bring to the classroom. Teachers need to approach each student as an individual and adjust their teaching style to that kid's needs."
With many years experience in the professional development of teachers, as well as curriculum development and applied research, Alter is working with faculty to further improve the teacher education programs. "We are especially concerned with understanding what aspects of teaching and learning, teacher education and classroom instruction affect student learning," says Alter, who served as chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning for 14 years prior to stepping down in June 2004.
Alter is working with other department faculty to generate scholarly work that will help policy makers make more informed decisions about such issues as class size, student outcomes, and integrating classrooms with kids who have and don't have disabilities. The Center for Research in Teaching and Learning, inaugurated during Alter's tenure, currently work in concert with the faculty, doctoral students, private foundations and the Department of Education to achieve these goals.
Alter is cheered by the accomplishments of the department, and one way he measures its success is by looking at the rise in student enrollment in recent years. "We received more than 400 applications this past spring for our accelerated, full time fast track programs in teacher education, which start in the summer," he points out. "This is such a competitive market and it is significant that students have chosen to apply to us. They want to come here to learn to be the very best teachers."
Alter relishes his interaction with the students. "Our students are bright, inquisitive, and provocative. And when they graduate, I am proud they enter the field of teaching and that many of our graduates choose to teach in New York City public schools."