Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

A Promising Practicum Pilot-Exploring Associate Teachers' Access and Interactions with a Web-Based Learning Tool

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

A Promising Practicum Pilot-Exploring Associate Teachers' Access and Interactions with a Web-Based Learning Tool

Article excerpt

Introduction

Field Experience / Practicum in Pre-service Teacher Education

An essential element of pre-service teacher education programs includes the practicum or field experience (Allen, 2003; Beck & Kosnik, 2000; Crocker & Dibbon, 2008; Darling-Hammond, 2006; Wideen & Holborn, 1990; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001), which in this paper refers to the in-class teaching experience where teacher candidates (i.e., pre-service teacher education program students) have opportunities to observe and teach in classrooms. The practicum component of a pre-service teacher education program, ideally reflects the program's overarching philosophies and goals, guides the implementation of the field experience as well as the role of the associate teacher; however, communication of program philosophies and goals does not always occur (Darling-Hammond, Hammerness, Grossman, Rust, & Shulman, 2005).

There exist many discrepancies in practicum experiences within and among pre-service teacher education programs, however, one commonality shared by exemplary pre-service teacher education programs included "strong relationships between universities and schools that share standards of good teaching consistent across courses and clinical work" (Darling-Hammond & Baratz-Snowden, 2007, p. 120). Darling-Hammond and Baratz-Snowden (2007) concluded that effective practicum programs included clear and explicit goals regarding teacher candidates' practice; associate teachers who modeled sound practice; regular teaching opportunities for teacher candidates, with ongoing feedback and guidance from the associate teacher; regular opportunities for the teacher candidate to apply theory to practice; a gradual increase of teacher candidate responsibility in all areas of classroom practice; and regular and structured opportunities for teacher candidate reflection on classroom practice.

The Associate Teacher--A Critical Role

The associate teacher, the classroom teacher who hosts, supervises, and works with the teacher candidate on a daily basis during the field experience, plays a fundamental role in the teacher candidate's growth and development as a teacher (Allen, 2003; Beck & Kosnik, 2000; Crocker & Dibbon, 2008; Darling-Hammond, 2006; Wideen & Holborn, 1990; Wilson et al., 2001). The importance, diversity, and multifaceted nature of the associate teacher role becomes even more pronounced given the complexities of maintaining an effective practicum as just previously described. Darling-Hammond et al. (2005) summarized the multifaceted role of the associate teachers, describing the ideal field experience for teacher candidates. They maintained that:

   ..typically, the ideal has been a placement in which student
   teachers are supported by purposeful coaching from an expert
   cooperating teacher in the same teaching field who offers modeling,
   co-planning, frequent feedback, repeated opportunities to practice,
   and reflection upon practice while the student teacher gradually
   takes on more responsibility. (p. 409)

A Problem with Practicum

The associate teacher plays an important role in the teacher candidate's growth and development as a teacher, yet there still exists a lack of support, collaboration, and training to assist the associate teacher in this influential role (Allen, 2003; American Federation of Teachers [AFT], 2000; Hobson, 2002; Levine, 2006; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future [NCTAF], 1996; Sanders, Dowson, & Sinclair, 2005). The recommendation for increased or additional associate teacher supports to assist them in implementing this critical role resonates throughout the field experience and associate teacher literature (Beck & Kosnik, 2000; Borko & Mayfield, 1995; Duquette, 1998; Kahn, 2001; Levine, 2006; Ramanathan & Wilkins-Canter, 1997; Rippon & Martin, 2006; Sanders, 2005; Volante, 2006). …

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