Academic journal article New Waves

Integrating Interprofessional Service-Learning into Teacher Education Programs: Preparing the Next Generation of Teachers

Academic journal article New Waves

Integrating Interprofessional Service-Learning into Teacher Education Programs: Preparing the Next Generation of Teachers

Article excerpt

Introduction

There is a growing emphasis in higher education around the importance of developing active citizens (Markham, 2013). As a result, the numbers of communityuniversity initiatives that center on civic engagement are increasingly prominent. These collaborative initiatives involve partnerships for research and service designed to capitalize on the university's goals of civic engagement and applied research (Anderson-Butcher & Ashton, 2004; Benson, Harkavy, Johanek, & Puckett, 2009).

In part because of its long history of field education as a central component for learning, teacher education has been actively involved at the interface of the university and the community for many years. Although fieldwork requirements vary across programs, opportunities for field-based learning have long been considered an important component of teacher education programs (Bernadowski, Perry, & Del Greco, 2013). Just as more engaged universities are seeking to transform universities and communities, more engaged teacher education programs are seeking to transform preservice teachers' field experiences through greater involvement with community members (e.g. vulnerable students and families) and in partnership with school districts as they work to help solve problems (Kronick & Cunningham, 2013).

Among the more pressing problems currently facing many elementary schools is how to more effectively address nonacademic barriers to children's learning such as emotional issues, behavioral challenges, living in poverty, and family problems that can impede their ability to be successful in school (Anderson-Butcher et al, 2008; Mellin, 2009). Addressing these challenges becomes even more vital in communities where teachers are increasingly struggling to meet the needs of students from nontraditional families, such as grandparent-headed families, many of whom are exposed to significant family and environmental stressors and trauma (Wadsworth & Santiago, 2008). This study aimed to explore the perceptions and experiences of preservice teacher education students participating in an interprofessional service-learning initiative designed to address the educational and psychosocial needs of grandparent-headed families.

Interprofessional Education and Collaboration

In recognition that no one profession can address the increasingly complex needs of today's students, including those from nontraditional families, teachers are increasingly asking for help from social workers to better support children's healthy social and emotional development and more effectively intervene with those children already experiencing difficulties (Adelman & Taylor, 1999). In fact, effective collaboration between teachers and social workers is now considered critical for providing adequate academic and psycho-social services for children in a range of educational settings (Berzin et al, 2011). Such collaboration may best be presented along a continuum along which interdisciplinary collaboration can be distinguished as the "integration of the knowledge and expertise of professional to reach a common goal through shared decision-making and practice" (Mellin, 2009, p. 5).

In an effort to strengthen the effectiveness of interdisciplinary collaboration in educational settings and better meet the increasingly complex learning and behavioral needs of today's students, greater attention is now being given to the potential role that preservice interprofessional education and collaboration can play in strengthening the foundation for teachers during professional preparation. The need for preservice interprofessional education, defined as occasions when two or more professions learn with, from, and about each other to improve collaboration and the quality of care, is now considered as inevitable as the need for collaborative services, yet opportunities for preservice interprofessional education and collaboration continue to be available primarily on an ad hoc basis (Allen-Meares, 1998). …

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