D. Standard 3. Continuous Improvement
There have been significant improvements related to Standard 3 over the past two years. The exhibit outlines past and revised improved practices. This narrative will summarize some of these improvements.
- A new position and office was created for the unit, Assistant Dean in the Office of Partnerships and Placements. In the past there was a Director of Placements whose primary job was to formalize and place teacher candidates; responsibilities did not include the ability to revise clinical procedures and policy. The Assistant Dean directs the overall operation of the Office of Partnerships and Placements, works closely with unit Department Chairs and program coordinators in the placement of initial teacher candidates, internship candidates, and practicum students. She works with department chairs and program coordinators to identify appropriate practicum supervisors, clinical supervisors, and cooperating teachers. She develops and provides professional development for practicum teachers, practicum supervisors, cooperating teachers, and teacher candidate supervisors and is responsible for the collection of evaluation data related to teacher candidate placements. She is highly visible with the unit's partnership and placement sites and serves as a liaison to the districts and has collaborated with administrators and teachers on special projects, professional development opportunities, and placement assignments. She works to strengthen school partner relationships in order to effectively design, implement, and evaluate field experiences and clinical practices. Meetings with Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Specialists in the schools, and teachers allowed the Assistant Dean to collect valuable district specific data about placements, teacher selection, integrating resources, and mentoring teacher candidates; this allowed for the unit and partner schools to be able to jointly determine placements and roles in order to maximize student learning in the PK-12 classrooms. Furthermore, leadership in the unit with the appointment of a new Dean further provided for school partnership collaboration; he has visited about half of the unit's partnership schools. This visibility of the unit in our partner schools assists with deepening and nurturing our partnerships for the benefits of all parties; there has been a significant improvement in interaction with school partners in the past two years.
- During the Fall of 2009 all paper information packets to clinical instructors were eliminated and instead handbooks and procedures were available electronically. A Wiki was created so all current information was posted on one website for teacher candidates, faculty, and clinical instructors. An electronic data system was used to collect required observation reports from unit faculty and clinical instructors during the student teaching experience. The Assistant Dean attended a meeting for each teacher certification program to introduce herself and improve placements and work in field experiences and clinical practice. She attended cooperating teacher and supervisor meetings held at the unit to connect and communicate with unit supervisors and clinical instructors.
- There were noteworthy revised academic policies relating to field experiences that improved practices. The first revised academic policy states: “Any candidate admitted to after August 24, 2009 who majors in Elementary Education or Early Childhood Education or Secondary Education and a teaching concentration in Special Education will be required to complete one full semester of student teaching in each certification area.” Thus, full placement of 14-15 week student teaching is now required of Elementary and Special Education teacher candidates. The second new policy confirms that the student teaching experience and the student teaching seminar are considered the culminating courses for teacher candidates. All program requirements, including all coursework and courses related to specialization must be fulfilled prior to the placement of a teacher candidate in a school setting. Unit faculty members expect teacher candidates to dedicate their full academic attention to their student teaching duties in the schools the semester they are enrolled. Consequently, teacher candidates are not permitted to register for any courses other than student teaching. Student teaching credit load was increased from nine credits to ten credits and all student teaching seminars were increased from one to two credits to allow for additional interaction and class time for reflection of content, professional and pedagogical knowledge, and skills during the student teaching experience.
- During the Fall of 2009 the Assistant Dean and the Director of Assessment planned and conducted four professional development workshops for unit supervisors and cooperating teachers to become familiar with exit evaluations for student teaching, The Teacher Candidate Work Sample (TCWS), and the unit observation report for student teaching, the Observation and Progress Report. Cooperating teachers (308) from twenty-two of the unit's thirty partnership districts or 75.86% attended one of the four trainings; this attendance supports the unit and school partners' collaborative work to support teacher candidate learning as well as collaboration with partners and training to support them in their roles.
- Spring 2010 changes related to Standard 3 included better communication with teacher candidates about administrative issues, details about program requirements, and current state and national topics in education. The Assistant Dean began writing monthly letters to teacher candidates. Beginning January 2010 she sent a letter each month by mail merge and also posted each letter on the Wiki The same semester, the Reflective Practitioner Committee worked together to edit and update the Student Teaching Handbook.
- During the Summer of 2010 exit student teaching evaluations were examined and analyzed by the unit's Assessment Committee and the Office of Partnerships and Placements. Revised exit evaluations were developed for Fall 2010. The unit implemented two pilots with a web based assessment system called Chalk and Wire, Fall 2010 and Spring 2011. Twenty-nine teacher candidates in the fall (Elementary, Special Education and some Secondary Education programs), and their corresponding cooperating teachers and college supervisors were trained to input observation reports for student teaching. In the spring of 2011, seventy-one teacher candidates in Special Education and their corresponding cooperating teachers and college supervisors were trained to use this data assessment system. Furthermore, during Spring 2011 a more multifaceted data collection system was adopted for all initial field experiences. All payment requests for clinical instructors became electronic Spring 2011. SurveyGizmo was adopted as the survey data system for payment, practicum, initial disposition assessments, and student teaching reporting as well as exit evaluations; this is exclusive of the pilot group of teacher candidates with Chalk and Wire.
- Additional improvements during Spring of 2011 included offering a three-credit graduate course for cooperating teachers. The course is called “Professional Development for Cooperating Teachers” and the online course is designed to provide information and specific skill sets needed to serve as a Cooperating Teacher. Specific modules include:
The course is being taught Spring 2011 and the unit planned to have each initial teacher certification program represented. Upon completion of the course, the unit will evaluate the success of this medium of professional development for cooperating teachers and clinical instructors. The unit will then develop more systematic training and professional development and some of the information may be disseminated through an online medium or graduate courses. The Assistant Dean and the Director of Assessment are working together to outline strategies and plan workshops and professional development based uplines responsibilities of graduate candidates and cooperating teachers
- Introduction to supervision of teacher candidates
- Rhode Island Professional Teaching Standards (RIPTS)
- Cultural Competency
- Assessments in Student Teaching (Examination of the Observation and Progress Report used for evaluations during student teaching, Dispositions Survey, and the Teacher Candidate Work Sample)
- Mentoring/Coaching Your Teacher Candidate
- development of a course evaluation tool, linked to unit assessment, that is used in all sections
- development of a dyadic observation process in field supervision that includes course faculty and field supervisor
- added tutoring component to 2 core courses that require application of reading skills with students
- program revisions include TESL course with tutoring component that has candidates using their skills with English Language Learners
- strengthened field experience by significant increase in required field hours and remuneration to cooperating teachers
- created community based placement for candidates to apply their skills. For example - ESL writing clinic for grades 5-7 held in Central Falls Librar
Plans for future improvement
The unit has short and long term plans for growth and improvement in field and clinical experiences.
- First, plans are being made to pilot the co-teaching model for student teaching, as developed and studied by St. Cloud University, during the student teaching experience. The model will be used with a group of MAT graduate teacher candidates. Training may take place summer 2011 for fall 2011 implementation or fall 2011 for spring 2012 implementation. Research about the model and student achievement levels will coincide with implementation.
- Second, the unit will be asking teacher candidates to share something they learned from their teacher preparation courses or program with their cooperating teacher during their placement. This could be a research study about theory or teaching, new method or strategy for a best practice, or even a new way to teach content using technology.
- Finally, there is a long-term plan to be a leader in developing a statewide database of highly qualified cooperating teachers and clinical instructors. There is the vision that this portal could be updated by district level administrators and viewed and used by not just the unit but also all colleges of education who prepare teacher candidates.
We plan to strengthen the state-wide collaboration among teacher preparation programs to ensure the highest quality of cooperating teachers. Data from the newly developing teacher evaluation system will be used to identify the most effective teachers.