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Experiences Working With Diverse Students in P-12 Schools

Candidates have multiple opportunities to work with students and others from backgrounds different than their own. All candidates must complete at least one cross-cultural field experience to fulfill program requirements. As described earlier in the institutional report, they may select placements in regional, national, and international settings. Optional participation in ELTAP (English Language Teaching Assistant Program) and GST (Global Student Teaching) gives candidates the opportunity to work with students, teachers, and faculty from different places around the world. Approximately 30% of candidates participate in the international programs each year.

Candidates often obtain multiple experiences in diverse settings. 100% of 2008 elementary graduates had at least two experiences in diverse or cross-cultural settings. We are also pleased that 20% of 2008 secondary graduates had two or more field or clinical experiences in diverse or cross-cultural settings. This indicates a special commitment given the shorter length of the program.

As shown in Demographics on Sites for Clinical Practice (NCATE Table 10), the sites in which our candidates complete their student teaching have high rates of students receiving free and reduced lunch (38% average) and students receiving special education services (13% average). All candidates work with diverse populations in the set of field and clinical experiences they complete.

In all field experiences, candidates work with students who have diverse needs, backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities. In all cases, candidates must demonstrate their ability to work with integrity, professionalism, and commitment to learning for all. In initial and advanced field experiences, candidates complete requirements that focus on engaging all learners. As candidates complete the student teaching requirements of their clinical experience, they plan and adapt instruction, base instruction on needs of learners, and communicate with families.

Evaluations of field and clinical experiences include items related to knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions related to diversity. Candidates are assessed by cooperating teachers in all experiences and also by university supervisors in their student teaching. As described previously, candidates receive high ratings in these areas.

Reflection

First, the UMM teacher education programs work to ensure that our candidates receive feedback. Candidates receive evaluations from cooperating teachers in early and advanced field experiences. These evaluations address a wide range of teaching skills including those associated with diverse learners and student learning for all. University faculty members review the completed evaluations and use the information to provide assistance to candidates when needed. During student teaching, supervisors complete at least four formal observations during clinical experiences. Each formative evaluation addresses instructional competencies, classroom management, and personal/professional attributes. The supervisors and candidates set improvement goals which are then assessed in subsequent observation visits. Candidates also complete detailed reflective assignments which require them to consider the feedback they have received. Reflective journals are submitted to supervisors weekly.

Candidates also receive suggestions from their peers. Prior to student teaching, candidates have seminars or courses at the university concurrent with their field experiences. The course activities include small- and large-group discussions and multiple opportunities for peer teaching. In these activities, candidates learn how to give and receive feedback. Ideas are shared and then tested in the field experience. As a major program component, working with diverse learners is the topic of many discussions. We have also designed opportunities for our candidates to interact with peers during their clinical experience even when they are in different schools. Elementary candidates participate in seminars with other candidates in their area. The secondary program has utilized web discussions to allow lively conversations among their candidates.

Candidates, peers, and supervisors interact in person and electronically to discuss growth, plan for improvement, and then share successes and disappointments after implementation.

School Sites

UMM TEP candidates complete clinical experiences in schools that are representative of Minnesota schools and schools across the country. These sites, as do schools across the country, differ from one another depending on the environment in which they are located. Every site provides candidates an opportunity to work with a population identified as a target population for attention under NCLB. Most of the sites have students receiving special education services and most have a high percentage (38% average) of students receiving free and reduced lunch. Though our region is not racially diverse, our candidates can choose from many sites which allow them to work in a diverse or cross-cultural setting. Our candidates must have at least one such experience, and we have succeeded in establishing sites that allow them to do so.





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