Field Experiences and Clinical Practices

Unit Work to Develop the Knowledge, Skills, and Professional Dispositions

Each professional education program at PSU offers a sequenced and coherent series of field experiences, beginning with observations in classrooms and schools and culminating in an intensive and extensive clinical practice experience (student teaching/internship). These experiences offer candidates opportunities to observe and assist classroom teachers, work with students individually and in small groups, prepare and teach lessons, utilize technology to enhance student learning, and engage in professional activities.

As candidates participate in their field and clinical practice experiences, candidates are monitored, supervised, and evaluated by school and unit faculty. Candidates are required throughout their programs to demonstrate that they are able to make connections between their experiences in the field and the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they are learning in their professional education programs. They are also required to reflect thoughtfully on their experiences, assess their own learning, and set goals for professional growth. Field experiences and clinical practice support the core values of the conceptual framework and provide multiple opportunities for candidates to integrate theory into practice. The field experiences prior to student teaching are coordinated by program coordinators and supervised by the unit faculty who teach the courses in which the field experiences are associated. These experiences are designed in collaboration with school faculty and school administrators.

Plymouth State began as a Normal School in 1871. We have a long history of preparing high quality teachers and administrators for the state. In recent years, PSU has been influences by the national emphasis on systematic collaboration between institutions of higher education and P-12 schools. We have sought to coordinate and focus our relationships with areas schools in order to enhance teacher preparation and student teaching.

In the 2003 IR report, the Unit reported having PDS agreements with three schools. Faculty received a 3 credit release to work with these schools. Due to lack of resources, a change in the leadership of teacher education, a new president and provost these arrangements resembled partnerships not a true PDS. Currently we have one formal relationship with the Newfound Area School District. Candidates in the Early Childhood Studies teacher certification program are in the Newfound Schools with two full time tenure track faculty completing their last methods course prior to student teaching. These same candidates will be working in these schools to complete their student teaching in Spring 2011.

Candidates file an application to student teach at the beginning of the semester prior to enrolling with the Office of Teacher Certification (OTC) . Candidates also complete a placement request form, indicating the school, town, and/or region in the state where s/he would prefer to student teach. Based on that information, feedback from the program coordinator and advisor the Coordinator of Teacher Certification and Clinical Experiences contacts potential schools for placement. Secondary certification candidates are placed by program coordinators. Additionally, a similar system is followed at the post baccalaureate level.

School Faculty who are selected to be cooperating teachers are accomplished professionals who are certified in the appropriate content area and have three or more year of teaching experience, as required by state standards. Many cooperating teachers hold advanced degrees or are enrolled in a master’s degree program. A number of cooperating teachers are involved in state and professional organizations and share this involvement with the student teacher. Cooperating teachers and school administrators receive information about the roles and responsibilities of the cooperating teacher and expectations for the student teacher from the OTC. Cooperating teachers receive an honorarium for a 3- credit tuition voucher valid for one year from completion of the supervision.

Candidates are supervised by university faculty (Clinical Faculty) as well as cooperating teachers during the culminating field experience. The clinical faculty may be either full time unit faculty or part time/adjunct faculty members hired for the purpose of supervising student teachers. Part time clinical faculty are educators with many years experience who are usually retired teachers or administrators. Part time clinical faculty may apply for a position or are recommended by program coordinators. The Coordinator of Teacher Certification and Clinical Experiences as well as the Director of Teacher Education are responsible for recruitment, hiring, and training clinical faculty. The hiring process is found on the Human Resource web page of the university. All new clinical faculty are mentored by experienced supervisors and are assigned no more than two student teachers to supervise. All clinical faculty are evaluated by student teachers with feedback from program coordinators.

All clinical faculty provide regular and continuing support for student teachers and other interns through such processes as observation, conferencing, group discussion, email correspondence, and the use of other technology. Clinical faculty are required to make at least four formal observations of student teachers. These observation visits include the observation of at least one full lesson, a written record of the observation, a 20-30 min conference with the student teacher, and a conference with the cooperating teacher. Written midterm and final evaluations are completed by the university supervisor and the cooperating teacher. Student teachers return to campus at least twice during the semester with staff from the OTC, unit faculty, and their program coordinators. Post baccalaureate candidates attend a monthly seminar during the semester enrolled in student teaching/internship.

Cooperating teachers and clinical faculty attend a training session with the OTC and the specific department before the beginning of the semester. Clinical faculty are hired for one semester and evaluated annually. Student teacher evaluations of the cooperating teachers and the clinical faculty show consistently high scores.

The expectations of the students, cooperating teachers, administrators, and clinical faculty are outlined in the student teaching handbook, which is updated bi-annually, and available on the OTC website. Teacher Education departments hold separate seminars for student teachers to review syllabi and requirements for successful completion of the experience. In addition, candidates are required to attend four seminars organized by the OTC. Seminar 1 and 2 are organized prior to student teaching. Seminar 3 and 4 are scheduled during the student teaching experience and the students are required to attend two all day seminars for professional development activities on campus. Additionally several programs require a co-requisite seminar to be taken in conjunction with student teaching.

Entry and exit criteria for student teacher are explained in the Student Teaching Handbook and in the student teaching syllabi. Candidates are introduced to the OTC Gate system during the Introduction courses by staff from the OTC. Through advising, email communications, and program coordinators candidates are informed about the criteria for successful completion of a teacher certification program. The requirements for eligibility for student teaching (undergraduate) and internship (post baccalaureate) are available through the web site.

Candidates are assessed by clinical faculty and cooperating teachers using an in-depth student teaching evaluation form developed by members of the CTE in 2006. The midterm evaluation is designed as a formative assessment tool to assist the candidate in identifying strengths and weaknesses and to develop goals for the second half of the culminating experience.

General feedback about candidate performance and the effects on student learning is also solicited each semester with surveys of cooperating teachers and school administrators. These surveys provide information on school faculty’s general perceptions of the candidates. The feedback is useful in identifying areas of strength and weakness in the programs and as a basis for strategic planning and program improvement.

Candidates are highly likely to work with students with exceptionalities and students who are diverse in terms of gender and socioeconomic background. Depending on the location of the schools, candidates may be more or less likely to work with students from diverse ethnic and racial groups. The field experiences are completed within a 20 mile radius of the university. These schools are less likely to have students from diverse ethnic and racial groups.


Moving to the Target Level

Collaborations between Unit and School Partners
1.    As noted previously, the Unit was in the beginning phases of developing PDS agreements with three schools. The agreements arranged did not meet the criteria of a PDS as defined by NCATE however, a strong relationship was present between the Unit and School Partners.  Due to the lack of resources, a change in leadership in the Office of Teacher Certification (2007) and the transition to a new Provost (2007) and President (2006), the PDS model described was not fully developed.  After discussion with the Director of Teacher Certification during the 2009-2010 academic year, the Early Childhood unit faculty proposed a plan to enter into a formal agreement to form a PDS school with the Newfound Area School District (SAU #4).  A five year plan was developed and presented for support to the Director of Teacher Education and a memorandum of understanding was developed collaboratively with SAU #4. The planning process (relationship building) began in the fall of 2009 with the OTC and the Early Childhood faculty.  This fall (2010) candidates in the Early Childhood Studies program have been placed with a cooperating teacher within this school system and will continue their student teaching, with the same teacher in the spring.

2.    As part of the PDS agreement cooperating teachers are receiving an honorarium and the use of our Library for professional activities. Additionally, the textbooks that our candidates are using in the methods courses are being given to these cooperating teachers. The Unit faculty will continue to work in the schools to mentor the candidates and work with the cooperating teachers. The superintendent of the SAU will be attending the annual PDS conference this spring with the unit faculty and the Coordinator of Teacher Certification and Clinical Field Experiences. Additionally, a grant of $75,000.00 was awarded to support this PDS agreement. The public school teachers are working in collaboration with the unit faculty to review the field experience requirements and have provided invaluable input to us as a unit.

3.    As the PDS model is shared with other unit faculty, programs within the Unit are excited to work on similar agreements. The Elementary Education faculty have begun the first stage of a PDS agreement with the Laconia School System (SAU #30) by building the relationships. A formal agreement will be developed in the Fall 2011.

4.    The on-campus Child Development and Family Center (CD&FC) has been nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children since 1995. The center serves as a model program and teacher preparation site for the Education Department.  It fulfills a similar function to a PDS, on a smaller scale.  The CD&FC, Early Childhood Studies candidates are required to complete extended field experiences at the center, including a 150-hour practicum.  The director of the Center teaches courses in the Early Childhood program, is an active member of the Education Department’s Early Childhood Committee, and works closely with early childhood faculty.

5.    Partnership schools are schools where unit faculty has established long-term relationships with teachers and administrators. Typically, candidates are placed in these schools for field experiences associated with their methods/practicum courses and/or for student teaching.  Supervision for candidates is shared by cooperating teachers and university faculty.  PSU does not have formal agreements with all partnerships schools, though many of the relationships are of long standing and are secured with a Student Teaching Placement Confirmation Sheet which is an agreement with the school and the university.  Within partnership schools, relationships are cultivated and sustained by unit faculty and the Office of Teacher Certification.

6.    During 2007-2008 academic year, the conceptual framework was reviewed and revised by unit faculty and school based personnel. The committee reviewed all of the documents and sought input from clinical faculty as well as cooperating teachers in revising the documents. The committee made minor adjustments to the framework from this feedback and review.

7.    Feedback from school based faculty and administrators has always been part of the unit assessment system however, a more systematic approach has been developed with the hiring of the new Coordinator of Assessment. Additionally the input from school based faculty and administrators regarding the preparation of post baccalaureate programs has driven curriculum changes that will be implemented in the Fall 2011. These include: requiring ALL initial teacher candidates to take the Foundations of Teaching; discussion on implementing a required literacy course for all initial teacher candidates; review and revision of practicum field experience evaluations for advanced preparation programs; and the implementation of an online seminar that will include modules monitored by program coordinators/advisors.

1.    As part of the continuous improvement plan a number of improvements have been made. All early field experiences have been articulated within departments and handbooks and/or policies concerning these experiences have been developed. For each field experience, faculty work closely with school based faculty to plan effective experiences for our candidates. Unit faculty seek input on knowledge, skills and dispositions from the school based faculty and develop focus plans when necessary. In extreme situations candidates are advised to drop teacher certification as a major.
2.    Field experiences are sequenced so that candidates begin with more simple tasks, such as structure observations, and gradually take on more challenges. Every program leading to teacher certification includes at least one “methods course” with an accompanying field experience that requires candidates to spend substantial time in a school classroom learning to prepare and teach lessons. In their culminating clinical experience, candidates are expected to assume the full responsibilities of professional educators. The field experiences have been discussed and reviewed by unit faculty during the bi annual retreats. Programs have adapted their programs to meet the needs of our candidates as they move through the program. The most notable improvement has been the documentation of where these field experiences are occurring through our student management system maintained by the OTC. This documentation has insured that candidates are working with diverse learners.
3.    The post baccalaureate initial teacher certification has experienced great improvements in the last three years relative to the implementation of field experiences and clinical experience. A system of accountability has been put into place to document candidate field experiences and clinical experiences. All candidates are now evaluated using the same tool as the undergraduates. Program coordinators have aligned syllabi to meet state and national standards and a system wide electronic folio has been implemented.
4.    Prior to student teaching the OTC has improved and implemented additional seminars to ensure that all candidates are informed of the expectations of the rules of student teaching. The second seminar was implemented in Fall 2008 which covered the state rules and regulations of ethical professional teachers. The governor of NH has passed a bill against cyber bullying and there was repeated problems with the use of the internet and cell phones by candidates during early field experiences. Based on this feedback a seminar was developed and is presented to all candidates during the last month of the semester prior to student teaching.
5.    Due to NCATE’s requirement for 6 – 8 assessments, one of which is the impact on student learning and reflection, the use of reflective practice and evidence to support what our candidates know and are able to do. Programs have implemented teacher work sample (TWS) methodology into their student teaching requirements (Early Childhood, Elementary Education, English Education, Social Studies). Additionally, the implementation of the electronic portfolio across the unit will allow us to collect data regarding reflection and analyze by program and level. Use of Mahara as the efolio tool has been presented and is being implemented across all programs preparing initial teachers and advanced professionals.
6.    The student teaching evaluation tool has been developed, piloted, revised, and assessed for reliability (interrater and internal consistency). As part of the continuous improvement plan, data is aggregated by the unit for baccalaureate and post baccalaureate levels. The data is also disaggregated by program and levels in order to assist faculty with program review. Candidates who successfully complete student teaching have demonstrated their content and pedagogical knowledge, their commitment to the teaching professional and to professional growth, their capabilities as a collaborator, their ability to communicate effectively with families to support students learning, their ability to plan, organize and manage the classroom routine, their competence in utilizing information technology to support teaching and learning, and their ability to teach so that all students can learn.

1.    The Gate System for the baccalaureate candidates has been implemented and improved since the last NCATE visit. Previous practice including faculty evaluations to complete Gate 1 and Gate 3. Since all candidates are not the same, many were trying to go through the Gate systems in the year prior to student teaching. The evaluations were not useful at Gate 3 and the members of the CTE decided to drop this requirement. Additionally, the electronic student management system has helped advisors when working with candidates on their programs of study.
2.    In order to ensure consistency across programs, staff from the OTC work with the introduction classes to provide an orientation for all potential candidates. This is also occurring in the Foundations of Teaching course for post baccalaureate candidates.
3.    Assessments at the unit level and program level are all aligned with state and national standards. Additionally these assessments are linked to the unit’s conceptual framework.
4.    General feedback about candidate performance and the effect on student learning is also solicited each semester through surveys of cooperating teachers, the student teaching evaluation form and the required assessment (#5) for SPA approval. Programs not approved by a SPA have developed assessments to assess candidate performance on student learning. School administrators are surveyed every three years for input regarding our candidate’s performance. The next cycle for this assessment will be Spring 2011. These surveys provide general perceptions of the capabilities of PSU candidates during clinical practice and after graduation, rather than on individuals. The feedback has been useful in identifying areas of strength and weakness in the programs and as a basis for strategic planning for program improvement.
5.    During the 2008-2009 academic year, unit faculty began an in-depth analysis of how we were measuring dispositions of our candidates. The literature was reviewed and a number of inventories were reviewed. It was decided that each program would devise a process to systematically assess dispositions. The Art, Biology, Chemistry, Health, Physical Education, Social Studies, Mathematics, and Music programs are utilizing a dispositional rubric developed by the Physical Education Teacher Education faculty which was analyzed for inter-rater reliability and content validity. The Education department and English Education are using the Act for Growth to assess dispositions.

In the last several years, it has become increasingly clear to the CTE and the OTC that the system for placing student teachers does not guarantee that all students’ teachers have experiences working with a range of diverse learners. The unit has worked at clustering the placement of candidates in certain schools and locations where candidates would be certain to have experiences working with diverse learners. During the Fall 2010 approximately 55% of the candidates are teaching south of Concord, NH where the population is more diverse. Ideally, we would like to be able to support our candidates through such means as shared transportation to and from student teaching placements or relationships with landlords who will provide low rent housing for candidate’s student teaching in designated schools.

The unit has changed the long established system whereby candidates are able to choose their student teaching placements to one in which the OTC and program coordinators work collaboratively to select the best possible site. This has helped to ensure diverse placements that will meet the needs of each of our candidates. The collaborative relationship between the OTC and the programs have created an atmosphere of continuous improvement across the unit and throughout the university.