Standard 3: field experiences and clinical practice
3.1.a Collaboration Between Unit and School Partners Summarize processes and outcomes of collaboration between unit and school partners in the design, delivery, and evaluation of field and clinical experiences, and in sharing of responsibilities, resources, and expertise.
Field experience and clinical practice play an integral role in preparing teachers, leaders and other highly skilled educational professionals ready to help all students learn. The UTB Office of Field Experience and Clinical Practice (OFECP) relies on a diverse network of school and community partnerships to support a constellation of purposeful field experiences requiring initial and advanced candidates to observe, assist and participate in service-learning projects; and instruct, assess and conduct research in a variety of settings as part of their coursework throughout their program. Guided by our conceptual framework, strong clinical collaborations between the unit and school partners help us work together to transform P-12 classrooms and other educational settings into intercultural laboratories for democracy, where candidates are fully immersed in relevant learning communities and have an opportunity to put their knowledge, skills and dispositions—chief among them the belief that all students can learn—into action improving student outcomes.
The undergraduate initial teacher preparation program includes extensive field and clinical experiences culminating in fourteen weeks of clinical teaching in an accredited EC-12 program. Pre-service candidates are placed in any of fifteen partnership districts to complete required field experiences outlined in the Teacher Candidate Handbook. Likewise, field experiences in advanced programs include coursework that require candidates to participate in a variety of capacities, often in their own classrooms or schools. Clinical experiences for leaders and other school professionals engage advanced candidate in closely supervised, sustained practicums and internships that allow candidates to assume the professional role for which they are preparing.
Instructors of courses that include field observations and field experience request assistance from the OFECP to obtain placements. Each campus has a designated contact person with whom our unit works closely to assure the most appropriate classroom placements, including placements for other educational professionals. Unit faculty and campus administrators have a strong history of working together effectively to provide initial candidates with a variety of experiences that help them develop competence necessary to begin careers as teachers. Such collaborations provide candidates in advanced programs opportunities to deepen their understanding of education, hone professional skills and broaden their ability to apply these skills assessing and improving student-learning outcomes. These partnerships also help support doctoral candidates design and conduct research in real-world settings. Additionally, clinical faculty work closely with school-based faculty and administrators to jointly supervise initial and advanced field and clinical experiences. The OFECP works to sustain long-standing partnerships while cultivating new ones. As indicated above, the CoE has a long tradition of collaborating with school districts across the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In order to deepen these partnerships through a codified set of shared expectations, we have developed MOUs with fifteen partner districts.
Please see exhibit 3.3.a for a listing of our partners and sample MOUs. These MOUs work to clarify the roles and responsibilities of UTB candidates, clinical faculty and mentor teachers, while helping foster shared expectations and outcomes. For example, these MOUs outline the qualifications necessary to serve as a mentor teacher. Using this document as a guide, the director of Field Experiences and Clinical Practice, our associate dean/certification officer and advanced program faculty (where applicable) work with school district partners to identify mentor teachers and other professionals who will provide the best possible field experiences for teacher candidates, as well as for candidates from programs for other educational professionals.
In addition to these school-based partnerships, our unit collaborates with colleagues from other colleges across our institution and broader communities of practice through the Teacher Advisory Council (TEC) and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Teacher Education Advisory Council. These collaborative groups provide valuable input regarding the design, implantation and evaluation of our professional programs and field and clinical experiences. They also help identify shared professional development needs and opportunities. The TEC, meeting a minimum of four times a year, evaluates and recommends curriculum changes, and formulates and establishes policies and procedures related to program design and initial placement of teacher candidates in clinical and field experience. The TEC also oversees CoE admission processes, considers and recommends curricular changes, and reviews our teacher preparation program’s TEA accreditation status.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley Teacher Education Advisory Board helps to identify the knowledge and dispositions most desired in a novice teacher to meet the needs of our diverse population of students, and lends assistance with recommendations for modifying and improving the teacher education program. Using TEA data about the performance of teachers in their first three years of employment, along with data collected from clinical faculty and mentor teachers, the LRGV Teacher Education Advisory Council and the TEC explore ways to modify our programs and field and clinical experiences so that they better prepare teachers, leaders and other educational professionals to excel in a variety of capacities. The unit and these groups also work together to identify and prioritize local educational challenges and find ways to leverage our combined strengths and resources to meet these challenges in innovative and effective ways.
3.1.b Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of Field Experiences and Clinical Practices Summarize the design, implementation, and evaluation of field experiences and clinical practices; expectations for mentors and supervisors; and outcomes of candidates in meeting proficiencies outlined in the unit's conceptual framework, state standards, and professional standards during their field and clinical experiences.
Guided by our conceptual framework, unit field and clinical experiences allow initial and advanced candidates to apply and reflect upon content, pedagogical and professional knowledge in a variety of capacities in a diversity of fruitful settings. Expectations for candidates, university supervisors (clinical faculty) and mentor teachers (school-based faculty) are aligned with professional and state standards; developed and evaluated in collaboration with our local communities of practice; and clearly articulated and updated regularly in policy handbooks and reinforced through professional development. These expectations are rigorous, relevant and geared to our candidates’ positive impact on P-12 outcomes.
In initial programs, field experience begins as soon as teacher candidates are accepted into the CoE. All candidates complete rigorous field observations, field experience and field-based courses. Three courses early in the PPR sequence require students to conduct a minimum of ten hours of observation in a classroom setting. Upper-level field experience courses require a minimum of fifteen hours per course in a classroom setting. These experiences provide candidates a multiplicity of opportunities to apply and reflect on their content, professional and pedagogical knowledge through a scaffolded set of activities, including observation, assisting with classroom tasks, tutoring, test preparation, service-learning activities and micro-teaching and action research. During the field experiences prior to the clinical teaching, candidates are observed and evaluated by instructors at least once per course. More observations are conducted if the candidate does not approach standards. Also, each candidate completes an abbreviated TWS in which they provide evidence of their ability to plan, implement, differentiate and assess their own instruction and analyze its impact on student learning.
The use of technology is a fundamental requirement in these pedagogy courses. Based on individual program requirements, candidates receive training in EDUCU 2303, which provides them with experiences in the use of computer applications to improve student learning. Hardware such as laptops, clickers, projectors and Smart Boards and relevant software are available to be used during field experiences for lesson preparation and implementation.
This sequence of scaffolded field experiences culminates in clinical teaching, which consists of 560 hours teaching in a TEA-accredited district, charter or private school. Details regarding the entrance and exit requirements for clinical teaching can be found in Exhibit 3.3.g and in the Teacher Candidate Handbook. Candidates collaborate with, and are evaluated by, mentor teachers throughout clinical teaching. Mentor teachers must hold a Texas Teaching Certificate in the content area they are teaching, be recommended by the principal and approved by the director of Field Experience and Clinical Practice. Additional qualifications for school-based faculty include:
- Minimum of three years classroom teaching experience
- Recognition as a masterful teacher
- Record of positive impact on student achievement
- Willingness to work with student teacher
- Completion of district and UTB mentor training
The unit provides mentor training and other mentor-specific information on the Office of Field Experience and Clinical Practice Mentor Page.
In addition to teachers, candidates are supervised by a clinical faculty supervisor with a minimum of a master’s degree, with Texas State certification in teaching and a minimum of three years of classroom teaching experience in a P-12 setting. Field-based specialists and university supervisors are educators with advanced degrees and teaching experience. The university-level clinical faculty members (student teacher supervisors) are accomplished school professionals with doctoral or master’s degrees. Adjunct student teacher supervisors are certified teachers and must have a master’s degree.
Candidates receive formative and summative evaluations of their clinical work throughout the program. During clinical teaching, candidates are observed a total of eight times by supervisors and mentor teachers. Observers provide timely feedback to candidates through joint, reflective conferences. Mid term, formative and summative conferences are held with the candidate, the field supervisor and mentor teacher. These are documented in the Teacher Candidate Supervisor/Mentor Observation Documentation, the Mentor/Intern Conference Record, and in the Supervisor and Mentor Final Report forms. Candidates rate supervisors’ ability to provide useful feedback for continuous improvement.
Field and clinical experiences in advanced programs participate in field experiences that require them to connect theory to practice through critical reflection on their own practice and evaluation of the educational practice of others with whom they collaborate and conduct research. Clinical practice at the advanced level requires candidates to design, implement and evaluate projects related to the professional roles for which they are preparing. Master’s candidates in counseling perform twenty hours of clinical practice at a school, twenty hours at the university’s Community Counseling Clinic and sixty additional counseling hours. This is conducted during the required practicum course and two required internship courses.
The master’s in Educational Leadership culminates with clinical practice in the form of an internship as an assistant principal or curriculum specialist in a school district, charter or private school. This practicum requires 160 graduate hours in the field, closely supervised by full-time school personnel and a university supervisor. The internship includes three-way conferences, reflections and graded assignments, similar to those of the student teaching practicum but with the higher expectations regarding critical analysis and research. A related program is the Superintendency Certificate, offered to degree candidates in Educational Leadership upon completion of five additional courses, including an additional internship in a superintendent setting.
The Special Education master’s programs also require clinical practice. Candidates can choose to either volunteer or work in an educational setting or agency that supports students with exceptionalities. The professor provides extensive supervision during systematic data collection. Candidates “conduct field-based functional behavior analysis and provide recommendations for interventions” to improve behavioral outcomes. Candidates are required to discuss and assess their own work in light of research. Site supervisors for advanced counseling and guidance candidates must hold a master’s degree and a school counselor certification, and have a minimum of two years professional experience. School-based supervisors for advanced candidates in Special Education are certified with a minimum of two years of classroom experience. In advanced leadership programs, mentors for principal interns are practicing principals with Texas teaching and principal certification. Mentors for the superintendentcy hold Texas superintendent certification and are superintendents in the districts where the candidates intern.
Other advanced programs, such as the master's in C&I, the master's in Ed. Tech, and the master's in Bilingual Ed. embed field experiences, often including action research, in discipline-specific courses coordinated by individual faculty. With direct supervision from dissertation advisors, Ed.D. candidates conduct field-based research that explores real-world problems and solutions related to teaching and learning in intercultural contexts.
3.1.c Candidates’ Development and Demonstration of Knowledge, Skills, and Professional Dispositions to Help All Students Learn Summarize proficiency expectations and processes for development during field experiences and clinical practices; and outcomes based on demonstration of knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions to help all students learn.
Candidates in field and clinical experiences demonstrate mastery of the content, pedagogical and professional knowledge and skills they need to help promote learning among all students. Per our conceptual framework, learner diversity and interculturalism is a focus of programs at initial and advance levels.
Enrollment data for the last four semesters indicate that the CoE has an average of ninety-seven teacher candidates per semester with 97 percent completing their clinical placements. In terms of advanced programs, master’s candidates engage in clinical practice during their final semester as dictated by their respective programs of study. Enrollment data for the last three semesters indicate that the CoE has an average of forty-six advanced students engaged in clinical practice. Data include only advanced programs related to certification areas. Data from SPA reports in AIMS (master’s in Ed. Tech) and in the master's of C & I, Bilingual Education and Ed.D program reviews included in Exhibit 1. 3a indicate that more advanced candidates actually engage in course-based field experiences coordinated by individual faculty. Among the forty-six advanced clinical participants, there is a 100 percent completion rate in the courses identified for clinical practice, i.e., practicum and internships.
Teacher candidates enrolled in the initial teacher-education courses are required to demonstrate knowledge, skills and professional dispositions through a variety of data sources designed to assist students by completing a variety of field experience activities, including the planning and delivering of lessons while completing assignments in the field. This includes observations and field placements designed to provide opportunities for the students to work in a variety of classroom situations, such as working with students one on one and small/large group instruction. Instruction/practice for developing a TWS is outlined and presented in the PPR classes (EDCI 3355 (U-Teach); EDCI 4327 (elementary); and EDSC 4328 (secondary) prior to enrolling in Clinical Teaching. In addition, evidence of knowledge and skills linked to field experiences can be found in the TExES Standards Alignment Matrices for Initial Teacher Certification Programs.
Formative and summative assessments of initial candidates enrolled in student teaching are accomplished using the Teacher Candidate Supervisor/Mentor Observation Report. Four main clusters are assessed for each candidate: (1) Planning and Preparation for Instruction, (2) The Classroom Environment, (3)) Instruction, and (4) Professional Responsibilities. A measure of content/pedagogical knowledge and the effect on student learning is assessed through the use of the Teacher Work Sample. Teacher candidates complete a performance assessment (Teacher Work Sample) that provides a reliable and valid measure of candidates’ impact on student learning The Teacher Work Sample contains seven teaching processes identified by research and best practice as integral to improving student learning. Professional dispositions are assessed at different transition points in the program.
Reflection and feedback is encouraged throughout initial and advanced clinical experiences. Candidates are encouraged to be reflective learners. Students evaluate their own performance and are evaluated by their mentor and university supervisor. Initial candidates are required to self-reflect four times during clinical teaching using the Teacher Candidate Supervisor/Mentor Observation Documentation form. University supervisors, mentor teachers and candidates reflect jointly twice during the clinical teaching experience via required three-way conferences that occur at midway and at the end of the semester. Students also participate in mandatory workshops, TWS training sessions, licensure review exams and school district trainings.
Reflection is emphasized at the advanced level as well. Principal/superintendent: Interns are asked to reflect and receive feedback in a weekly log that is submitted to the campus/district and university supervisor. Additionally, interns complete the Principal/Superintendent Internship Plan with campus internship/university supervisors. Principals complete a Building Level Licensure Internship Evaluation Form. Counseling and Guidance candidates complete a total of 700 field hours over the course of three semesters of practicum and internships: COUN 6365, COUN 6369, and COUN 6372. Candidates complete activity logs, self-assessments and bi-weekly journal reflections, and participate in weekly 90-minute group supervision and hour-long individual/triadic supervision meetings during clinical practice. At these meetings, candidates receive peer and clinical faculty feedback and reflect on their progress as related to expected clinical practice competencies. Continuous feedback is also provided by a skills assessment and a mid and final evaluation of students completed by university faculty.
Field experiences with diverse populations such as refugee, immigrant, religious minority, gay and lesbian, bilingual, second language learner and low socioeconomic children and families offer our students the opportunity to develop proficiencies that support the learning of all students. Various assignments require candidates to respond to the diversity in these P-12 classrooms and demonstrate proficiencies related to adapting instruction to help all students learn. Feedback from field supervisors and evaluations incorporate understandings of diversity.
3.2 Moving Toward Target or Continuous Improvement
The collaboration between the unit and school partners is strong. School partners welcome our clinical practicing students as well as students fulfilling the required field experience hours. Mentor teachers assigned to our clinical-teaching students provide guidance and support in helping our students to strengthen their professional skills. Although on target, we are working on refining our placement procedures, working closely with school site principals and the human resource departments in each of our partner districts.
In fall 2012, the CoE implemented the requirement that students seeking admission into the teaching practicum (student teaching) had to have passed their state required exams. This initially caused the number of applicants to drop a bit, but with each semester the numbers are steadily increasing. The increase in quality of the teacher candidates is noticeable, which affirms that the decision that was made was the right choice. Students demonstrate a higher level of professionalism and a greater sense of self efficacy. School site administrators, mentor teachers, and the unit supervisors have all commented on the changes they have witnessed. The implementation of the Teacher Work Sample (TWS) in spring 2012 is another activity that has helped to strengthen the skills of our students. Each semester the delivery of information and the results of each students work show continuous growth.
In response to unit operation data, and in order to enhance unit performance and candidate outcomes related to field experiences and clinical practice, we have restructured our field experience office. The former charge of the Office of Student Teaching and Field Experiences included coordinating field experiences and clinical practice; implementing and monitoring teacher-education admission and advising processes; and receiving, reviewing and validating certification eligibility, including that of advanced candidates. This office has also been responsible for reporting duties such as Title II, TEA and Texas Legislative Budget Board Reporting. Current best practices relevant to the preparation of teachers, leaders and other education professionals clearly demonstrate the centrality that well-coordinated, purposeful and plentiful field experience and clinical practice play in educator effectiveness. Through our self-study process, analysis of unit operations data indicated that this office was already too disproportionally engaged in processes central to teacher preparation and certification to effectively expand and enhance the depth of existing practice related to field and clinical experiences to the degree the unit is striving for. As a result, in summer 2013 faculty from the NCATE Executive Council (NEC) made the recommendation that the Office of Field Experience and Clinical Practice be restructured as a stand-alone office. This proposed restructuring was accepted by the institution. The new office dedicated to enhancing field and clinical practice across programs at the initial and advance levels is being established fall 2013.
We are also actively working to redesign existing collaborative professional development efforts into a more systematic approach that leverages the expertise as well as meets the needs of the school partners with whom we work through field and clinical experiences. Our CoE technology committee is actively engaged in identifying ways in which technology can help us build a more agile network of shared professional development.
Starting in fall 2013, plans to initiate contact with each of our participating school district's superintendents and key human resource personnel, in order to explore and identify refinement strategies in our placement procedures for both clinical teaching and field experience students, will be our primary focus. We plan to begin setting up these meetings during fall 2013.Our timeline shows that by fall 2014 our placement procedures will be showing a positive change, reflecting a deeper level of collaboration. We will also discuss the selection of high-quality mentor teachers. School-site administration will have earlier access to information of our CoE placement needs well in advance, so that they have the time to identify, select and confirm the mentors for teacher candidates one semester prior to official placements. Our unit will conduct mentor training, and with this in place we will be able to see a higher quality of mentoring taking place for our teacher candidates. The undergraduate curriculum committee will be working on the revision of our documents, which include the observation forms for teacher candidates and interns. Handbooks for teacher candidates, mentor teachers, supervisors and interns are another task for the committee to address. It is anticipated that by fall 2014 the above documents should have been updated.
Our timeline is as follows: