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Design, Implementation, & Evaluation Of Field Experiences & Clinical Practice

At the heart of the UMM TEP’s conceptual framework is the goal of preparing graduates who will promote student learning for all students in all places. The unit is committed to preparing teachers who demonstrate proficiency in all standards and who are ready to begin teaching successfully in a variety of school settings. To do this, the UMM TEP has aligned all preparatory course work and concurrent field and clinical experiences with the conceptual framework, state standards, and professional standards. All assignments that candidates are required to complete match with one or more specific UMM TEP goals as well as state and professional standards. Throughout all stages of the program, candidates demonstrate their growth and provide evidence of their knowledge of the Standards of Effective Practice.

In their two-year program, elementary candidates complete four field experiences (totaling approximately 240 hours in classrooms) prior to student teaching. Secondary candidates complete one comprehensive practicum (150+ hours) in the semester before student teaching. In each of these experiences, candidates apply the topics, knowledge, and strategies studied in the concurrent courses. The expectations are developmental and build within each experience and grow from one experience to another. For example, in the first practicum as admitted candidates, elementary candidates plan, implement, and evaluate a mini-unit with an emphasis on student learning. In the second practicum, they plan and teach an extensive unit (preprimary) or complete an in-depth curriculum analysis (middle level). In subsequent field placements, they continue to expand their instructional applications, and their performance is judged at increasingly higher levels of expectation. Similarly, secondary candidates begin their fall practicum with careful observation and work with small groups of students. After learning essential planning skills, they plan, teach, and analyze a series of lessons. At the end of the semester, they are responsible for daily instruction for two weeks and complete a thorough analysis of student learning.

Though performance expectations and depth of assignments increase as the candidates develop, certain aspects of the experience are consistent. Students are expected to keep a reflective/analytical journal, observe students, interview and collaborate with teachers and other professionals, and teach lessons or in some way work with students. Following the TEP’s integrative model, candidates also are expected to explore instructional technology and student diversity present in every clinical experience.

Student teaching is the capstone clinical experience for our candidates. They complete eleven weeks of student teaching—usually in one placement—where they demonstrate competencies necessary for effective teaching. Assignments and expectations for student teaching are explained in depth at preliminary meetings and information is available on our website for both elementary and secondary education. Candidates are observed formally by cooperating teachers and university supervisors (a minimum of four times each). Requirements for student teaching include maintenance of GPA, completion of required education courses, and recommendations by faculty members both in teacher education and in the candidates’ majors.

Field and clinical experiences are chosen and assigned to allow students to work with diverse populations. Multiple experiences allow students to work with a variety of students in a variety of schools. Candidates choose from required or open placements to best gain a breadth of experience. Most work in small and large schools and in rural and suburban schools. All complete at least one field experience in a cross-cultural setting. Elementary and secondary candidates complete practicum experiences and student teaching in a variety of grade levels representing the scope of their licensure.

Technology

Developing candidates’ understanding and use of technology as an instructional tool is a high priority of UMM TEP. During program courses taken in conjunction with practicum experiences, elementary and secondary education candidates gain competencies using computers with educational software, digital cameras, document cameras (visualizers), video recorders, and a SmartBoard. They are then required to seek out these and other instructional tools available at the clinical sites. These tools are utilized in required assignments including the Integrated Technology Lesson focused specifically on using instructional technology to engage learners, enhance student learning, and provide access to curriculum for all students. UMM TEP ensures candidates use and understand technology as an instructional tool through ongoing assessment of candidates’ use of technology in the classroom. This is done through practicum evaluations and the assessment of the Integrated Technology Lesson.

Clinical Faculty Qualifications and Preparation

For early and advanced field placements, the cooperating teacher need not be tenured but must be recommended by the principal.

Student teaching placements are made only with tenured teachers and must also have administrative approval. Teachers selected to serve as cooperating teachers for teacher education candidates must meet several criteria set by the UMM TEP. Cooperating teachers must have at least three years teaching experience and must be highly qualified in the field in which the potential student teacher is seeking licensure. Varying school-based decisions at placement sites about which teachers are best-qualified are also taken into consideration when selecting cooperating teachers. Communication in the placement process is in person, in writing, or by telephone usually with school principals or with placement directors.

To ensure and monitor the quality of our school-based clinical faculty, we have collected data about the accomplishments of the cooperating teachers. Our most recent cooperating teachers had an average of 19 years of experience, and 63% had earned master’s degrees. One cooperating teacher reported an earned doctorate and another was board certified.

Cooperating teachers are given detailed information about the roles and expectations of the program at the outset. The cooperating teachers receive hard copies that outline not only their expectations but also the details of the candidate expectations. These include assignments, suggested schedules, scoring rubrics and other pertinent information. This information is also available online, and we encourage our school-based clinical faculty to make use of the information. The main source of support and training comes from personal contact with the university supervisor, who serves as the liaison between the school and the university. The supervisor makes at least four classroom visits, and conferencing with the cooperating teacher and candidate is one of the expectations during the visit. The supervisor answers questions, clarifies information, and in cases of a struggling candidate, will take a leadership role in assisting both the candidate and the cooperating teacher through the necessary processes to address concerns.

Our local partners (within approximately a 60-mile radius) are often invited to be part of the Teacher Education Advisory Council meetings once a year. At the meeting, there are professional development opportunities related to supervision and other important teaching issues. At the Fall 2006 meeting of the council, for example, we shared updates about our program and also shared information about new legislation related to literacy instruction and standards. We also used the opportunity to ask about how well our field experiences were working and what suggestions they had for us about making placements, the structure of the experience, and the best ways to maintain communication.

Candidate Support

The UMM TEP university supervisors provide support for candidates from the beginning to the end of the clinical experience. During student teaching, they visit the site at least four times to help student teachers and assess their progress. During these visits, University supervisors conduct seminars to answer questions, observe the learning environment of the candidates, clarify assignments or expectations, and give suggestions and feedback. In conferences with the student teachers, supervisors address the program requirements and standards in relation to the candidates’ experiences. They are given the opportunity to share successes and challenges and to problem solve. Broader professional issues (e.g. ELL, class size, school funding, and parent involvement) are also discussed. Supervisors also complete formative and summative evaluations of teacher candidates. These evaluations help the student teachers know areas of strength as well as areas of needed growth. Supervisors also meet with the cooperating teachers to answer questions and provide support. If a candidate is struggling with any part of the experience, the supervisors will be an increased presence at the site and will be in frequent contact with the cooperating teacher.

Electronic communication through Email, Moodle, and other technologies is increasingly utilized to maintain frequent contact with candidates and cooperating teachers. Supervisors maintain visitation logs that are filed in the candidate’s file at the completion of the experience. On surveys, graduates give mixed ratings on the assistance of university supervisors.





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