By: John Henning, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Education, Monmouth University

A great many initiatives are underway to lengthen and strengthen clinical experiences. One of those initiatives is the work of the CAEP Clinical Experience Design Team, a national partnership of teacher educators dedicated to supporting the design and implementation of clinically based teacher education.

The CAEP Clinical Experience Design Team was one of three design teams formed through the CAEP State Alliance. Their collective purpose was to develop the means for implementing the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel Report. The premise for this unified effort was simple: more could be accomplished by working together than alone.

Clinically based teacher preparation increases the emphasis on learning to teach during clinical experiences in P-12 school settings. Thus, a clinically based program should specify how teacher candidates develop through clinical experiences, provide the support needed by clinical educators to foster that development, and link practice with theory through rigorous coursework. These issues were addressed by the Clinical Experience Design Team through three projects.

The first was the creation of a Developmental Continuum of clinical experiences. The purpose of the continuum was to articulate a developmental sequence of teaching experiences during a candidate’s program. This description of experiences should move from the most simple experiences, such as learning names, recording grades, and taking the lunch count, to the most complex, such as differentiating instruction, developing assessments, and designing and implementing unit plans. All these experiences are organized according to the InTASC teaching standards at three levels of complexity: Initial, Intermediate, and Profession Ready. 

Three features of the design make it especially helpful for communication with partners. First, the continuum is not organized around courses; instead, courses are organized around the experiences outlined in the continuum. Thus, the continuum is a concise, explicit statement of the experiences necessary to promote candidate learning in clinical settings. Teachers, school administrators, clinical faculty, and other EPP faculty can refer to one document that utilizes commonly recognized practitioner language to summarize the development of teacher candidates across the program. 

The Design Team’s second project was the development of performance rubrics for early clinical experiences. These rubrics are aligned with the activities on the developmental curriculum and organized around related teaching tasks such as leading a small group, teaching a repeated activity, assessing higher level thinking skills, leading a discussion, preparing a professional video, and communicating with a parent. These teaching tasks are aligned with high leverage teaching practices and the InTASC standards. 

The performance rubrics are best used as formative assessments that provide mentor teachers with the insight and language needed to provide highly effective feedback. The rubric descriptions are much more detailed in their descriptions of teacher candidate performance than the Developmental Continuum. The teacher candidate’s performance is assessed by the mentor teacher at four levels: Does Not Meet Expectations, Approaching Expectations, Meets Expectations, and Exceeds Expectations. 

The third project is the development of an end-of-program interview to investigate how, when, and where teacher candidates learned to teach in their programs. Teacher candidates are interviewed near the end of their program on four critical issues to teacher preparation: mentoring, assessment, management, and differentiated instruction. The collection of data from numerous institutions and multiple states is intended to facilitate rapid improvement in teacher education. 

As Design Team members interviewed teacher candidates from their respective programs, they learned there is still a great deal of variation in teacher preparation within and across programs, as illustrated by the following preliminary findings. 
• Mentor teachers range from absolutely wonderful to not very helpful; 
• learning is often not well coordinated between classroom and clinical settings; and 
• a systematic approach to learning in clinical settings is often lacking. 
Most importantly, Design Team members found the interviews offer a means for revealing theory-practice gaps in teacher preparation programs. 

You can find the latest versions of the Clinical Experience Design Team work here:
• Developmental Continuum (first project)
• Performance-based Rubrics (second project) 
• Interview Questions (third project)

The Clinical Experience Design Team invites you to use our materials as a resource for engaging colleagues in a discussion of how teacher candidates grow in their teaching abilities during their clinical experiences. We assert that any program that aspires to the label of “clinically based teacher preparation” should have a complete description of teacher candidate development in clinical settings from the beginning to the end of the program   although we acknowledge that teacher educators might disagree on the nuances of such documents. Should you create a better version of this work, please share it with your colleagues and me.

If you have any questions about this work, you can contact me at jhenning@monmouth.edu