Teacher Preparation

Some Ed. Schools Striving to Put More Practice in Teacher Prep

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 29, 2015 2 min read
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What are teacher-preparation programs doing to improve the all-important “clinical” or hands-on practice portion of teacher preparation?

A helpful resource out from Urban Teacher Residency United, a nonprofit consultant to so-called year-long residency programs for prospective teachers, outlines promising practices from among 22 programs that have lengthened the student-teaching experience for aspiring teachers. The programs range from traditional university-based undergraduate programs, to programs that work primarily with charter schools, to graduate programs run in cooperation with districts and nonprofits.

While it might seem easy simply to double the typically 12-week student-teaching period, the report intimates that it’s often a lot more difficult than that.

Faculty supervisors and cooperating teachers need to be trained to give highly targeted and specific feedback to teacher-candidates. The competencies to be mastered should be clear and assessed periodically. There should be a lot more emphasis on practice in structured or controlled settings—simulations, rehearsals, and so forth. Programs should have a way of aggregating and candidate performance so they can track their programming. Often, faculty structures need to be revisited.

We have profiled a number of these programs over the years at Education Week, too (see the links below), but there are a couple of new names in here that deserve attention. Has anyone heard of little Heritage University, in Toppenish, Wash.? Well, I for one am intrigued. The university’s HU105 program, targeted at teachers of English-language learners, has a competency-based curriculum, its faculty visit schools and teachers-in-training three days a week, its residency is two full years long, and faculty spend a lot of time each Monday tweaking their training in response to how candidates are progressing. That is pretty advanced as teacher education programs go.

Meanwhile, something that came to mind while I was reading this report: Like those stickers on supposedly common-core aligned textbooks, a lot of teacher-preparation programs have been stamping themselves “residencies” these days. It’s not clear whether they’re meeting all of the targets set out by the UTRU in this resource, which could help observers make some important distinctions.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.