3a. Collaboration between unit and school partners
1. Who are the unit’s partners in the design, delivery, and evaluation of the unit’s field and clinical experiences?
Millikin’s School of Education (SoE) has a close working relationship with regional public school districts, primarily Decatur Public Schools District 61. We also place interns and student teachers in several other small consolidated districts within 35 miles of Millikin’s campus, including two private, church-supported units. Administrators and teachers in these schools participate in the design, delivery, and evaluation of all field experiences.
Millikin’s Committee on Teacher Education Programs (CTEP) is responsible for making decisions regarding the field experiences. Made up of all full-time SoE faculty, and representative faculty from all departments involved in the preparation of P-12 teachers, members offer insight and recommendations regarding what kind of field experiences are most desirable for particular content areas as well as the sequence of field experiences in relation to content course work.
The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is comprised of principals and teachers representing various school districts, a Community College representative, directors from social agencies and early learning centers, and some SoE faculty. The committee meets yearly to review internship sequences and objectives, and offer feedback and evaluative input regarding the success of internships.
The field placement coordinator meets with clinical faculty twice yearly to review how the student teaching experience can be enhanced or more effectively delivered, and to also learn what school faculty think is working well. The field placement coordinator also delivers an annual August workshop for all school faculty for the upcoming year. Along with being a professional development activity for the teachers, this workshop gives them an opportunity to discuss what changes they would like to see with the program.
2. In what ways have the unit’s partners contributed to the design, delivery, and evaluation of the unit’s field and clinical experiences?
Field and clinical experiences are designed, supervised, and evaluated through the efforts of qualified professionals in Millikin’s School of Education, experienced mentor teachers, and the Community Advisory Committee. After each field or practicum experience, the teacher mentor and the university faculty member complete a written evaluation and feedback survey form. The data from these evaluations and feedback surveys is analyzed once a year by the unit so that effectiveness of field experiences can be determined. Written evaluations on specific teacher candidates are used in post-internship conferences to help the teacher candidate meet benchmarks and progress satisfactorily through the program.
One example of how our partners have contributed to design and delivery of field experiences is within our block internships for sophomores and juniors, that occur prior to the student teaching year. Each semester, the professors that teach in the block meet with the teachers in the schools who will work with the sophomore or junior interns before the block internship, and again after the block internship. These evaluation meetings have given our partner schools and their teachers an opportunity to mold the internship assignments to best meet the need of the grade levels and subject areas where our interns are placed, and offer input about how the blocks are run. For example teachers requested that block interns have a day of observation in the classroom before beginning their lessons. They also requested that lessons be reviewed and approved by them well in advance of the teaching day. Teachers also suggested an adjustment to the number of assignments accomplished during the block internship time.
3. What is the role of the unit and its school partners in determining how and where candidates are placed for field experiences, student teaching, and internships?
Millikin’s Field Placement Coordinator matches the field experience needs of the candidate with a potential site and grade level or content area. In the case of Decatur Public Schools, all placement requests are submitted to the building principal for consideration then sent to the District Director of Teaching and Learning for final approval. In some of the smaller county school districts, the Field Placement Coordinator contacts the principals directly to obtain field placements.
Each candidate’s field experiences are tracked by the Field Placement Coordinator so that a minimum of 30 hours is spent in classrooms that reflect diverse student population characteristics such as ethnicity, race, gender, ESL, special needs, and varying socioeconomic status. Geographic location and grade level within the program type are also taken into consideration. As an example, if a student is seeking a Type 03 Elementary Certificate with a Middle School endorsement, one of their field placements must be in a middle school setting.
Information from partnering school districts is also taken into consideration. For example, a district’s Director of Teaching and Learning may request that placements not be made at a specific school if the school is undergoing restructuring based on federal NCLB guidelines, has a new principal, or many new untenured teachers. To discover compatible mentor teachers within the school systems, the Field Placement Coordinator may also discuss the needs of particular teacher candidates with the building principal in an effort to positively influence the success of the student teaching semester.
4. How do the unit and school partners share expertise and resources to support candidates’ learning in field experiences and clinical practice?
The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) provides regular assessment and guidance for field and practicum experiences. The CAC, which is comprised of a select number of administrators and mentor teachers from partner schools, meets annually with the School of Education faculty and the Field Placement Coordinator. Through discussions at these meetings, the SOE receives valuable feedback for improving field experiences along with celebrations of success.
Mentor teachers provide written feedback evaluating the effectiveness of each semester’s block experiences for early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. At the end of each semester, the SOE faculty involved with the block meet with the mentor teachers to discuss changes and successes with the overall field experience.
The unit and the school partners both provide resources used to support candidates’ learning in field experiences. The unit provides stipends for mentor teachers, and hires clinical faculty for student teachers. The mentor teachers provide classroom curriculum, consumable materials, and lab equipment to help the teacher candidate prepare lessons.
Decatur School District 61 is also providing resources for substitute teachers for the 2008-2009 pilot of our Co-Teaching Student Teaching model. The unit is providing university Co-Teaching mentors for each school that is participating in the pilot, as well as professional development workshops for co-teaching school faculty.
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