Education is a practice profession and preparation for careers in education must create nurturing opportunities for aspiring candidates to develop, practice, and demonstrate the content and pedagogical knowledge and skills that promote learning for all students. These developmental opportunities/ experiences take place particularly in school-based situations, but may be augmented by community-based and virtual situations. The 2010 NCATE panel report, Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice,[i] identified important dimensions of clinical practice and the Commission drew from the Panel’s recommendations to structure the three components of this standard.
Educator preparation providers (EPPs) seeking accreditation should have strong collaborative partnerships with school districts and individual school partners, as well as other community stakeholders, in order to pursue mutually beneficial and agreed upon goals for the preparation of education professionals. These collaborative partnerships are a shared endeavor meant to focus dually on the improvement of student learning and development and on the preparation of teachers for this goal. The partners shall work together to determine not only the values and expectations of program development, implementation, assessment, and continuous improvement, but also the division of responsibilities among the various partnership stakeholders. At a minimum, the district and/or school leadership and the EPP should be a part of the partnership; other partners might include business and community members.
Characteristics of effective partnerships include: mutual trust and respect; sufficient time to develop and strengthen relationships at all levels; shared responsibility and accountability among partners, and periodic formative evaluation of activities among partners.[ii] Darling-Hammond and Baratz-Snowden[iii] call for strong relationships between universities and schools to share standards of good teaching that are consistent across courses and clinical work. This relationship could apply, as well, to all providers. The 2010 NCATE panel proposed partnerships that are strategic in meeting partners’ needs by defining common work, shared responsibility, authority, and accountability.
Clinical educators are all EPP and P-12 school-based individuals, including classroom teachers, who assess, support and develop a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions at some state in the clinical experiences. Literature indicates the importance of the quality of clinical educators, both school- and provider-based, to ensure the learning of candidates and P-12 students.[iv] Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice described high-quality clinical experiences as ones in which both providers and their partners require candidate supervision and mentoring by certified clinical educators—drawn from discipline-specific, pedagogical, and P-12 professionals—who are trained to work with and provide feedback to candidates. Clinical educators should be accountable for the performance of the candidates they supervise, as well as that of the students they teach.[v]
High-quality clinical experiences are early, ongoing and take place in a variety of school- and community-based settings, as well as through simulations and other virtual opportunities (for example, online chats with students). Candidates observe, assist, tutor, instruct and may conduct research. They may be student-teachers or interns.[vi] These experiences integrate applications of theory from pedagogical courses or modules in P-12 or community settings and are aligned with the school-based curriculum (e.g., Next Generation Science Standards, college- and career-ready standards, Common Core State Standards). They offer multiple opportunities for candidates to develop, practice, demonstrate, and reflect upon clinical and academic components of preparation, as well as opportunities to develop, practice, and demonstrate evidence-based, pedagogical practices that improve student learning and development, as described in Standard 1.
The members of the 2010 Panel on clinical preparation and partnerships consulted both research resources and professional consensus reports in shaping their conclusions and recommendations, including proposed design principles for clinical experiences.[vii] Among these are: (1) a student learning and development focus, (2) clinical practice that is integrated throughout every facet of preparation in a dynamic way, (3) continuous monitoring and judging of candidate progress on the basis of data, (4) a curriculum and experiences that permit candidates to integrate content and a broad range of effective teaching practices and to become innovators and problem solvers, and (5) an “interactive professional community” with opportunities for collaboration and peer feedback. Howey[viii] also suggests several principles, including tightly woven education theory and classroom practice, as well as placement of candidates in cohorts. An ETS report proposed clinical preparation experiences that offer opportunities for “Actual hands-on ability and skill to use . . . types of knowledge to engage students successfully in learning and mastery.” [ix] The report of the National Research Council (2010) concluded that clinical experiences were critically important to teacher preparation but that the research, to date, does not tell us what specific experiences or sequence of experiences are most likely to result in more effective beginning teachers.[x]
Until the research base for clinical practices and partnerships is more definitive, “wisdom of practice” dictates that the profession move more forcefully into deepening partnerships; into clarifying and, where necessary, improving the quality of clinical educators who prepare the field’s new practitioners and into delivering field and clinical experiences that contribute to the development of effective educators.
[i] National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education [NCATE]. (2010). Transforming teacher education through clinical practice: A national strategy to prepare effective teachers. Washington, D. C.: Author.
[ii] Houck, J. W., Cohn, K. C., & Cohn, C. A. (2004). Partnering to lead educational renewal: High-quality teachers, high-quality schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
[iii] Darling-Hammond, L., & Baratz-Snowden, J. (Eds.). (2005). A good teacher in every classroom: Preparing the highly qualified teachers our children deserve, pp. 38-39. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
[iv] Grossman, P. (2010). Learning to practice: The design of clinical experience in teacher preparation. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
Ronfeldt, M. (2012). Where should student teachers learn to teach? Effects of field placement school characteristics on teacher retention and effectiveness. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34:1, 3-26.
[v] NCATE (2010).
[vi] National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education [NCATE]. (2008) Professional standards for the accreditation of teacher preparation institutions. Washington, D. C.: Author.
[vii] NCATE (2010). pp. 5, 6.
[viii] Howey, K. R. (2007). A review of urban teacher residencies (UTRs) in the context of urban teacher preparation, alternative routes to certification, and a changing teacher workforce. Washington, D.C.: NCATE.
[ix] Educational Testing Service [ETS]. (2004) Where we stand on teacher quality: An issue paper from ETS, p. 3. Princeton , NJ: Author. Retrieved on August 4, 2012, at http://www.ets.org/Media/Education_Topics/pdf/teacherquality.pdf
[x] NRC (2010).