Randy Hitz is the Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University.
Educators throughout the nation and state are strengthening the profession by recruiting a more diverse and talented pool of candidates, improving preparation, and improving ongoing support for teaching and learning. We seek a more seamless, efficient and effective system. In this blog post I will specifically address two ways we are improving teacher preparation.
At the heart of preparation are school/university partnerships and, most notably, the student teaching or clinical experience. There are significant national and state efforts devoted to improving clinical experiences for educators, for evaluating performance, and for creating more seamless systems for professional preparation and professional development. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has an initiative with eight alliance states, including Oregon, to improve the clinical experience. The NCATE standards have recently been adopted by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) and have become increasingly rigorous, especially with regard to expectations related to clinical experiences and school/university partnerships. The creation of a new set of model standards for teachers (InTASC) by the Council of Chief State School Officers is a major step forward and these new model standards have also been adopted by both the Oregon Department of Education and the TSPC. The InTASC standards are aligned with NCATE standards and with the standards of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. As such they form a key leverage point for improving school/university partnerships and the clinical experiences for teacher candidates.
Changes to Clinical Experience
Portland State University and many other universities with high quality teacher preparation programs are making many changes in the clinical experience and two are of utmost importance. First, we are moving away from placing student teachers individually in random schools and classrooms to systematic and strategic “clustering” of four to eight student teachers in schools where they can gain an optimum clinical experience AND contribute to the success of the P12 students in the school.
A cluster of student teachers along with cooperating teachers, university supervisors, and university faculty members makes a powerful learning community that engages in discussions of quality teaching and learning, influences one another’s teaching, and works together toward common goals that improve the student teaching experience and the achievement of P12 students.
We are also beginning to engage student teachers and cooperating teachers in “co-teaching.” The traditional model of student teaching calls for the student teacher to do two or three weeks of solo teaching thus replacing a great teacher with a novice teacher. In co-teaching, the cooperating teacher remains in the classroom to give more feedback to the student teacher. This approach increases the time for the teacher candidate and cooperating teacher to discuss one another’s lessons, but just as importantly, it keeps both individuals in the classroom in order to maximize P12 student learning. Through co-teaching the teacher candidate and cooperating teacher engage in more communication and collaboration around planning, instruction, and assessment.
Chalkboard’s CLASS project has done much to strengthen the profession after initial teacher preparation and through Chalkboard’s new teacher education initiative they will extend their influence to preparation. This initiative, combined with the national efforts and good work of local universities, will do much to improve the clinical experience for educators and advance the profession. Ultimately it will lead to a better education for all of Oregon’s P12 students.