Assessment: Lessons Learned from a Year Long Undergraduate Teacher Education Pilot Program

Article excerpt

This study sought to determine whether the overall intent of a year long internship which integrates teaching practice with the study of the professional core courses yields benefits as perceived by the participating pre-service students and their mentor teachers. The pilot program was a one-year field experience, intended for use with a cohort group of pre-service teachers. It was designed for undergraduate and certification-only students who are preparing to teach grades K through 12. This study provided insight into possible changes in program design, such as closely working with classroom teachers to enhance pre-service students' experience in classroom settings. The study indicates that teacher preparation institutions need to align their program to what is actually happening in the public schools. Clear requirements and expectations must be agreed upon with fewer changes as the program progresses.

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In the last decade, calls for reform have focused upon collaboration and implementation of Professional Partnership Programs (PPP). The intent of these calls is to link colleges of education with the public schools. In recent years, the Commission on Student Learning in Washington State has sponsored conferences for the 4 -- year universities focused on the state's education reform efforts. To meet the student achievement standards set by the state, that is, the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) and the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), teacher preparation institutions are being asked to substantially change their teacher training programs.

To ensure that all students have access to an effective teacher, major transformation of teacher preparation is required. Therefore, in response to the goals set by authorities in Washington State to transform teacher education programs at the 4-year institutions, a planning team made up of classroom teachers and university instructors at our institution envisioned a teacher preps/ration model. The team created a program that recognized the development of prospective teachers as a responsibility to be shared by university preparation programs and school districts alike. Informational meetings were held with a Public Elementary School Partnership group of eight local cooperating teachers.

The underlined assumptions for the pilot program were as follows:

* Teachers develop greater expertise for the work they are asked to do in classrooms when their preparation program exposes them to increase and add K-8 classroom environments through fieldwork, desktop conferencing, and media presentations.

* Teachers must have both basic knowledge about teaching and the ability to teach under real time constraints. Lacking either, the teacher is ill prepared. A field-based program will improve the skills of teachers in a socially significant way that can be detected by individuals not associated with delivering the program.

* Universities are better able to deliver an effective teacher preparation program when their faculty work collaboratively with school district personnel.

* Some aspects of teacher training are so vital and interactive that they should be addressed in a natural setting: each class/ module/field experience. Each of these classes/modules/field experience coordinators would be responsible to identify the activities that would address the important competencies that are established for each, to be monitored by the lead faculty member for each component.

After a series of meetings, the university and the local school district agreed on a joint venture to implement the new model of teacher preparation program. The intent of the pilot program is to develop and implement an undergraduate level professional internship at one of the elementary schools in partnership with the College of Education and School of Professional Studies at the University. Through this partnership, the candidates observed and worked with real students, teachers, and the curriculum in natural settings. …