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Ohio State’s Student Teaching Experience Exemplifies Increased Clinical Emphasis in Educator Preparation

By Jane Leibbrand, Communications Consultant and Education Policy & Practice Writer

With the advent of research coming from clinically-based programs (some alternative, such as residency programs), reports such as that released by NCATE’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation in 2010, and new CAEP accreditation standards, most universities have moved the goalposts on clinical experiences in teacher preparation.

To meet CAEP’s new expectations for candidate effectiveness in the P-12 classroom, leaders are restructuring preparation programs to grant clinical experience a centrality it has not had in the past. CAEP Standard 1 expects candidates not only to understand, but to demonstrate understanding of the InTASC standards. In addition, the standard expects completers to be able to apply content and pedagogical knowledge as demonstrated in outcome assessments. Too, Standard 4 expects programs to document that completers contribute to an expected level of student learning growth (a requirement to be phased in); it also expects data showing that employers are satisfied with the preparation that their new teachers have received. In other words, CAEP expects candidates and graduates to teach effectively, moving P-12 student learning forward and achieving expected growth.

In order to provide new types of evidence of candidate effectiveness, candidates need many extended opportunities to practice teaching. Ohio state law mandates a minimum of 100 hours of field experience prior to student teaching. That totals only two and a half weeks in a P-12 classroom prior to practice teaching/internship, and does not align with new research and practice on the depth and breadth of clinical experiences needed in today’s preparation programs to address diverse P-12 student needs. Regulation is inevitably behind practice, as this example shows. At Ohio State, the average number of clinical hours before student teaching is about 350. “We adhere to the NCATE definition that those hours must be supervised, which means that our initial observation-only experience is not included in the 350 clinical hours,” says Erica Brownstein, Assistant Dean of Educator Preparation in the College of Education and Human Ecology. “Our undergraduate programs are structured to have a field experience every year, as is now common in many programs, so that our candidates have an opportunity to see the realities of P-12 teaching — its responsibilities, challenges, and rewards,” she continues.

An Example of the Extended Student Teaching/Internship

Until very recently, many higher education providers still treated student teaching as a separate activity during the candidate’s last semester. Typically, candidates would begin by observing for two or three weeks, then gradually taking on teaching responsibilities, and teaching full-time for a few weeks (with four to eight being typical) by the end of the semester. By state law in Ohio, candidates are required to have a minimum of four weeks of full-time teaching; that number of weeks has also been typical in other states by law or regulation. These state laws characterize teacher preparation in the past, when student teaching occurred after coursework was completed. That scenario is one example of the chasm between theory and practice which has existed for decades. The gap has been one of the sticking points for critics of educator preparation: candidates just weren’t prepared for the realities of the classroom, said not only the critics, but also many superintendents and graduates themselves. That chasm is beginning to close as providers restructure their programs.

At Ohio State, most candidates are in a year-long clinical setting, which comprises a full course load during both semesters. In the majority of programs, in the fall semester, candidates spend a significant amount of their time in the P-12 classroom. For example, many candidates are in P-12 classrooms working with students individually and in groups during the morning for four days per week. They are also taking coursework, which affords numerous opportunities to discuss what happened that morning in the classroom with faculty and peers, synthesizing theory with practice. Candidates submit lesson plans and other samples of their work into the Tk20 online assessment system. Faculty can then see candidate development and progress throughout the program. The system is the backbone of Ohio State’s assessment capacity, and candidates and faculty use it regularly.

In the second semester, candidates are teaching full-time for 14 weeks. To integrate theory and practice, most programs schedule a weekly seminar where student teachers meet in small groups with faculty to discuss teaching issues—urban settings, pedagogical content knowledge, classroom management, and other relevant topics. They can apply the suggestions and ideas the following day in the classroom.

The Ohio State University educator preparation programs follow the co-planning/co-teaching model. The model incorporates more guidance and structure around the planning conversations and during the teaching process. The model uses student-learning guided questions and has a cognitive coaching theoretical base. Planning is focused around a series of questions. For example, the teacher and the candidate will ask, “How will you know if they’ve learned?“ The model is research-based, and evidence demonstrates that P-12 student learning is greater than in classrooms with the teacher of record alone.

Video a New Element in the Evidence Array

In most programs, the faculty supervisor conducts at least one, if not more, video observations. The student teacher videos him/herself teaching and has a meeting with the university supervisor scheduled for that same day. The student teacher then narrates through the video to the supervisor. They follow a structure to encourage explicit descriptions of thinking, positive reflection, and analysis of P-12 learning. Having these video observations adds depth and richness to the clinical experience, as the candidate and supervisor can gain a clear picture of strengths and weaknesses during the teaching.

The edTPA® requirement for video has been a driver that has pushed providers to normalize this practice; CAEP lists “Analysis of video recorded lessons with review and evaluation based on rubrics and disinterested raters” as documentation that could be used to demonstrate “candidate capacity to use instructional practice and InTASC knowledge— 1.1 under candidate clinical experience measures.” At Ohio State, candidates complete the edTPA assessment during student teaching.

Program Outcomes Drive and Advance Practice

State data systems now collecting and analyzing employer and candidate feedback on programs, as well as analyses from new assessments such as the edTPA, are helping to shed light on effective and ineffective practices in educator preparation. This information is helping to reshape preparation programs and improve their effectiveness. The move to a year-long student teaching experience is based on new research and improving feedback systems.

About the Author

Jane Liebrand, Communications Consultant Education Policy & Practice Writer

Jane Leibbrand, Communications Consultant Education Policy & Practice Writer

Jane Leibbrand is a Tk20, Inc. communications consultant and education policy and practice writer. She served at NCATE/CAEP for 21 years, first as director and subsequently vice president for communications. In that role, working directly with two presidents of the organization, she helped organization leadership bring the accrediting body to the fore as a leader not only in standards development but also in education policy. Leibbrand’s experience also includes teaching high school English (Virginia) and freshman college English (University of Georgia). She has authored many journal and magazine articles as well as numerous op-eds and reports.

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