Standard 3. How does the unit work with the school partners to deliver field experiences and clinical practice to enable candidates to develop the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions to help all students learn?
3.1 How does the unit work with the school partner to deliver field experiences and clinical practice to enable candidates to develop the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions to help all students learn?
James Madison University's Professional Education Coordinating Council (PECC) determined that Standard 3 would be measured against elements at the target level. The reason for this decision was multifaceted, and included the presence of widespread, varied, and historically strong partnerships, and a shared, consistent, and reflectively based process for evaluating candidate performance in clinical practice. Unit faculty, school partners, and others collaborate in a variety of ways, both formally and informally, to design, deliver, and evaluate field experience and clinical practice. The unit participates in a broad array of partnership activities with local school divisions – Augusta County, Harrisonburg City, Page County, Rockingham County, Staunton City, Shenandoah County, and Waynesboro City.
The rich history we enjoy with our partners includes not only the school divisions in our local communities in which our candidates are placed, but also a unique collaborative relationship with colleagues from three area universities and colleges who are engaged in the preparation of teachers. This nationally recognized partnership, the MidValley Consortium, is a partnership among the James Madison University, Easter Mennonite University, Mary Baldwin College, and Bridgewater College teacher preparation programs and seven regional school divisions (Rockingham County, Augusta County, Shenandoah County, Page County, Harrisonburg City, Staunton City, and Waynesboro City) which host education candidate practicum and student teachers during field placements. Work of the consortium includes a range of activities such as the development and implementation of the student teaching evaluation instrument. Data gathered from this tool serves as a primary method of looking at candidate performance in clinical practice at both the program and unit level.
A 7-member steering committee representing teachers, administrators, and teacher educators meets monthly to plan consortium activities. The steering committee and central office contact persons from the seven member school divisions meet annually to evaluate consortium projects, set policy, and approve the annual budget. Since its establishment in 1988, one of the primary endeavors of the consortium is the development and delivery of training to cooperating teachers who host candidates from the institutions. The Consortium continues to train approximately 100 Clinical Faculty each year, and we now have over 700 active trained teachers. The skills taught in Clinical Faculty training are essentially the same skills as those needed to mentor beginning teachers. Many of our Clinical Faculty do indeed serve as mentors to beginning teachers in their own school divisions. The members of the MidValley Consortium collaborate to rotate requests for clinical faculty among the four institutions over a period of time to provide the best match for student teacher needs. Consortium members meet annually to review their student teaching placement needs and to determine which clinical faculty each institution will request for the next year. The seven participating school divisions honor the consortium’s requests for specific clinical faculty whenever possible.
Partnerships are a critical component of the Virginia Department of Education program approval process. As part of the required state biennial measures accountability, the 2009-2011 Accountability Measurement of Partnerships and Collaborations Survey was submitted in July of 2010 and subsequently received State Board of Education approval in the fall of 2010. This measure details the many partnerships and collaborations that the professional education unit maintains with local school divisions, individual schools, and regional consortia. Over 100 partnerships are noted, with wide-ranging opportunities for candidates and other school professionals to engage in meaningful field experiences and clinical practices. In addition, the partnerships provide unit faculty occasions to collaborate with school partners, thereby affording them the opportunity to continue to engage in meaningful dialogue and examination of the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions needed in the classrooms of today.
While the MidValley Consortium and the accountability measures of the Commonwealth provide the larger context for our partnership and collaboration with schools, we also are actively engaged in more intimate relationships with administrators and teachers that inform and guide our day-to-day operations. The most formalized school partnership programs have historically been with Augusta County and Waynesboro City Schools, supporting JMU teachers-in-residence, and selected JMU faculty liaisons.
Advisory groups and standing committees also inform our relationships. At the teacher education unit level, the Community Relations Professional Development and Growth committee (CRPDG), includes representation of the unit as well as from the public schools. The charge to the committee includes: 1) developing, monitoring and coordinating partnership efforts with school divisions and other community members, including other Colleges and organizations within JMU; and 2) identifying ways in which James Madison University can provide valued services to its community partners and monitoring these endeavors.
For the past four years, a school partners advisory committee comprised of instructional leaders from the seven local school divisions, has met regularly to exchange information and ideas. Through these discussions, models used for placement and supervision of field experiences are being examined and new models piloted. Conversations and planning on all manner of issues related to not only the preparation of teachers but the teaching of students in the schools has been the focus of the meetings. Input on the revision of the unit’s Conceptual Framework was solicited and incorporated into the unit’s document. Common issues, concerns and approaches to evaluating the dispositions of our candidates resulted in the divisions’ adopting some of the strategies to be considered in the evaluation of their school faculty.
The close relationships that we embrace with our school partners are reflected in all aspects of our program. While the placement of candidates is truly a joint venture, so to is the development of research projects, identification of professional development activities, supervision of candidates and development of unit policies and procedures. We sustain our relationships through regular and systematic communication and planning at the unit, program, division and school building level.
A prime sample is the work that has been undertaken by Dr. Alison Kretlow in the Exceptional Education Department. Through her work with Response to Intervention (RTI), connections are made in the classrooms in research, professional development activities supporting teachers and working with our candidates in the field.
3.2.a Standard on which the unit is moving to the target level.
Unit and school-based faculty are involved in designing, implementing and evaluating the unit’s conceptual framework and the school programs in a number of different ways.. Each semester, candidates, cooperating teachers and university supervisors are asked to evaluate all aspects of field experiences through the use of surveys and course evaluations. More formal feedback of the conceptual framework is provided by groups such as the School Partners Advisory Group, which reviewed the Conceptual Framework most recently in February of 2011.
Unit and school-based faculty participate in professional development activities and instructional programs sharing expertise and integrating resources to support candidate learning. The unit focuses on obtaining feedback from our partners and making adjustments to programs based on this input. As a result, we have revised or revitalized our curriculum for initial, advanced and in-service programs. Examples include incorporating opportunities for our candidates to become more knowledgeable and skilled in RTI in their professional education program, linking professional development for elementary teachers in problem based mathematics instruction, and incorporating school improvement plans as part of the required curriculum for school leaders enrolled in our Educational Leadership program.
The unit and our seven partnership schools as well as divisions across the Commonwealth jointly determine student teaching placements. The placement process varies from one division to another, but always involves significant collaboration among partners. Not only do our partnerships support field experience and clinical practice placements, they are also vital to the selection of and support provided to clinical faculty. The Education Support Center coordinates these functions and is charged with working with schools and agencies to select cooperating teachers/on-site internship supervisors. Individual programs are responsible for the selection of university supervisors for field experience and clinical practices. Careful preparation of cooperating teachers as well as all clinical faculty in the use of the evaluation tool through training offered by the ESC ensures consistency between the on-campus and field-based programs. The Student Teaching Performance Guide provides detailed guidelines and expectations for both candidates and clinical faculty.
Candidates, cooperating teachers, and university supervisors use Tk20 management system to access feedback forms and monitor candidate progress. Data collected through Tk20 is then provided to both the unit and the individual programs to assist with review of candidate progress and the review of unit operations and programs.
Field experiences allow candidates to apply and reflect on their content, professional, and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions in a variety of settings. Candidates enter into schools as observers, gradually becoming more and more involved in the responsibilities of teaching and culminating in assuming full responsibility for the learning of the students. The design, implementation and evaluation of field experiences and clinical practices allow candidates to be fully engaged in the application of theory to practice supported by colleagues, clinical and university faculty. The evaluation forms that are used for clinical practice are based on an alignment with our conceptual framework.
Candidate participation in clinical practice is integrated into the school program and into teaching practice. Observations, planning, instruction and assessment of students are all conducted to support the culture of the schools in which the candidates are placed. Our approved programs meet the competencies prescribed by the VDOE, and at the same time, we are cognizant of the unique needs of each classroom and support our candidates in adapting their strategies and methods to support the learning of all students, integrating their knowledge of best practices into the culture of the classroom in which they are placed.
Seminars accompany all field placements, allowing opportunities for rich exchanges of ideas and reflections on practice. These small group learning environments, facilitated most often by university faculty members, provide a forum for candidates to question their own practices and experiences, while learning from others. The seminars are content-rich, focusing on topics such as working with diverse learners, collaboration with families, and applications of content specific methodologies.
In a pilot program initiated during the 2010-11 academic year, secondary candidates were placed with instruction teams in a local high school for one full semester rather than being placed with two different content specific teachers in two different locations.. The rationale was that the extended experience would allow for candidates to become more involved in instructional teams, more immersed in the culture of a school and have opportunities to develop relationships with students over a semester long experience. In addition, the placement practice supported the schools long-term planning for classroom-based support and created a co-teaching situation. The model will continue to be explored and expanded as we move toward new ways of envisioning and solidifying our partnership relationships.
Candidates are active members of the school communities in which they are placed. Candidates are involved in a variety of school-based activities including collaborative projects, using information technology and engaging in service learning. Even before the candidates step into the classroom as a pre-service teacher, they are expected to participate in service learning activities as part of the education foundations experience. Through our partnerships with area schools, opportunities for working with children and families in settings outside of the traditional classroom enrich the candidates' understanding of addressing the needs of the whole child as a way of establishing a community of learners. The learning for our candidates is connected to the content of the class and while perhaps not directly linked to specific pedagogical theories or practices, certainly provides contexts and experiences on which their teacher preparation programs are built.
All programs include one or more opportunities for collaborative projects, ranging from inquiry projects in elementary education to support for the development and implementation of teacher work samples in middle and secondary education. Candidates’ use of information technology is integrated throughout their programs, including their use of web-based applications such as Blackboard and Tk20, Smartboards and other presentation formats, and response systems and digital media applications. The support of the Educational Technology and Media Center in the College of Education provides technical support to the candidates and the faculty in the development and implementation of technology mediated instruction.
Candidates in advanced programs create links between theory and practice through a lens supported by their own experiences. Candidates in programs for other school professionals are engaged in field experiences and clinical practices that are directly related to the roles for which they are preparing. In fact, their projects are often based on real world challenges they face on a daily basis in their classrooms. Candidates in the Educational Leadership program typically complete practicum and internship experiences in their own school divisions. A critical component of the program is the development of school improvement plans that can readily be applied and have an impact on the home schools and/or divisions of the candidates. This direct link between the advanced program and the schools is impacting the environments in which the students are learning and ultimately their academic success.
Similarly, in the Reading Specialists program, the classroom-based research conducted as their culminating project will have a profound impact on the children they teach and provide a vehicle for sustaining the work of the program.
A cornerstone of the unit programs’ clinical practices is having candidates work collaboratively with other candidates and clinical faculty to critique and reflect on each other's practice and their effects on student learning with the goal of improving practice. While programs might facilitate this in different ways, all programs emphasize the role of co-teaching and collaboration between clinical faculty and candidates during clinical practice. Seminars designed to facilitate collaboration and reflection are a part of clinical practices and may take place on-site, on-campus, or through web-based media such as Ellumination, Skype, and course-specific Facebook accounts. Candidates are provided feedback on their impact on student learning through observation forms, evaluation instruments such as the ST-9, and careful analysis of projects such as Teacher Work Samples.
Field experiences and clinical practices facilitate candidates’ exploration of their knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions related to all students. All candidates participate in course-related activities and reflections designed to inform and develop their knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions related to working with students with exceptionalities and those from diverse, ethnic/racial, linguistic, gender and socioeconomic groups.
In January of 2010, Dean Wishon named a Field and Clinical Experiences Ad Hoc Committee to explore efficiencies and effectiveness of our current field experience practices and policies. Throughout the remainder of the academic year, the committee reviewed current practices, identified available options and suggested necessary changes. In particular, it focused on examining the use of existing resources, best practices and philosophical foundations for field experiences. After meeting with local school representatives and sharing information with our School Partners Advisory Council, the committee decided to explore developing a capacity model of placement and a focused model of supervision. As a first step, the task force worked to establish a cluster model for field experiences at a single school or campus with designated university contacts for each cluster. The pilot is being implemented on a broader scale during the 2011-12 academic year.
Two small pilot programs were conducted in fall 2010, one in Waynesboro City and one in Fairfax County, with middle education faculty serving as the field experience supervisors. Feedback from the university supervisors, candidates, and school partners was gathered and used to revise this model. In spring 2011, a cluster of candidates was again placed in Fairfax County with a single university supervisor. In addition, several secondary education student teachers were placed for the entire 16-week placement in Harrisonburg High School, with one supervisor assigned to this cluster. Concurrently, a modified cluster model was also undertaken, utilizing the same placement for a 16-week practicum, and an 8-week subsequent student teaching placement. This model had been used in the past for some elementary education and special education field experiences. As reported by candidates, university supervisors and cooperating teachers, this sustained model of placement had the benefit of socializing candidates to the school and classroom culture, and enabling them to “hit the ground running” during their student teaching placement.
In reviewing TES results and gathering feedback on these pilots, school partners have shared that the advent of a statewide tool for evaluating teachers based on student performances may create a problem if veteran teachers do not want student teachers in their classrooms because the classroom teacher wants to maximize instructional efforts. This has led to wider discussions among all partners on how to best address these concerns while continuing to provide the needed professional field experiences for our teacher candidates. In collaboration with the School Partners Advisory Council a modification of the proposed cluster pilots to include a long-term capacity model is under now under discussion. This would mean that the Professional Education Unit and school partner representatives would jointly determine the number and placements of all levels of candidate field experiences throughout a system. Candidates would be placed in one division for the majority of their field experiences, with their specific assignments determined by the capacity of each school and classroom to provide a quality experience. School partners have expressed that having long-term projections of the number of candidates and the types of needed field and clinical experiences would be of great benefit and lead to more deliberate and planned placement processes. Implementation of such a changed process will be based on the success of previous collaborative initiatives. For example, in 2008, the process of distributing student teaching requests was revised from a semiannual request cycle to a yearly request cycle, with both fall and spring clinical practice requests submitted to school divisions at the same time. Last year, school divisions and professional education unit program coordinators favorably reviewed the process. The unit has adopted this practice and continues to have student teacher candidates submit their application for student teaching in October the year prior to their planned student teaching experience.
Access to Tk20 reports has led the unit to examine the ST-9 data on a regular basis. One of the questions investigated was whether there was a significant difference between university supervisors (US) and cooperating teachers’ (CT) ratings. Results indicated that the ratings were very similar and followed a similar trajectory across all programs. In examining this data, the next question asked was whether the instrument itself provides enough discriminability. The unit will continue to examine this, utilizing our school partners’ knowledge of the newly constituted state teacher evaluation system to inform this process.