Academic journal article Education

A Partnership in Progress

Academic journal article Education

A Partnership in Progress

Article excerpt

To practice [education] without books and journals would be like sailing a ship without charts and maps. But to read and study unconnected to practice would be like not going to sea at all.

-Paraphrased from Sir William Osler, M.D. (Eagleton, C. & Cogdell, R., 1977)

Creating the most effective and well-educated teachers possible has been always the clear focus of the Teacher Education Department at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK). During the academic year of 1999-2000, the College of Education at UNK embarked on a process of self-evaluation and renewal of its program for the preparation of future teachers. UNK is a member to the National Network for Education Renewal (NNER) which was founded by Dr. John I. Goodlad. Promoting school-university partnerships and focusing on simultaneous renewal are important goals in our renewed teacher education program. A tripartite task force was created to identify areas in need of revision or, in some cases, elimination from the existing teacher education model. This tripartite consisted of equal numbers of faculty members and administrators from UNK's College of Education, a combined faculty from the Colleges of Fine Arts and Humanities and Natural and Social Science, and members of area PK-schools. The tripartite determined that the existing model, although sound in many respects, needed renewal if it was to remain effective and serve as the exemplary program it had been for so long. Visits were made to selected elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the United States as well as three teacher education programs. From these experiences a number of possible models were developed and discussed. A final model, which blended the strengths of several models, was approved by the task force in 1999. A concern of the tripartite was the limited field-based experiences for preservice teachers. It was determined that any renewal in teacher preparation must embrace a highly expanded, more focused field-based experience. Renewal is never to be confused with reform. Reform limits itself. Renewal, once established, serves as a continuous method of self-assessment and evaluation.

A More Focused Field Experience

The central element of the expanded field-based experience was that it would be linked simultaneously with educational theory and related coursework. Whatever would be taught would also be experienced or practiced in a more expedient manner. The time delays that often accompanied instruction and the application of information in the previous, more traditional model have been reduced greatly. Another key feature to the renewed field experiences was that as preservice teachers advanced through the program, their field experiences would become more complex and interactive.

The expanded field-based experiences have increased from five in 1999 to eleven in 2006 (an increase of 45%). The Nebraska Department of Education's requirement of 100 hours of field-based experience remains the standard for preservice teachers. Currently, all UNK secondary education majors complete a minimum of 170 hours of field-based experiences prior to student teaching. Students majoring in Elementary, Early Childhood or Special Education complete a minimum of 250 hours in field-based experiences prior to their student teaching assignment. Few of these courses are strictly new offerings; many are pre-renewal courses that have been modified to include field-based experiences for the student.

Block Schedule a Necessity

The University of Nebraska Kearney is located in a rural setting. Sites for the expanded field experience often require a lengthy commute for preservice teachers. Time restraints and schedule restraints made it necessary to develop a unique model for the scheduling of classes for all preservice teachers. Working in partnership with the College of Fine Arts and Humanities and the College of Natural and Social Science, the College of Education was successful in designing a block scheduling model which includes selected courses from the list of general studies which are required of all students. …

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