Teacher Education at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) is launching a new partnership approach to the clinical side of teacher preparation. Teachers and prospective teachers will be teamed as “two trained adults collaborating, planning and teaching” with one focus in mind – increased student learning. The project has sparked positive reactions from teachers, prospective teachers and teacher education faculty.
The journey began in the summer of 2011 by holding a series of Task Force (ThinkTank) meetings which included Teacher Education faculty, USAO teacher candidates, public school teachers and administrators, parents, and representatives from the business community. Knowing only that improvements could be made in the clinical portion (the part that places teacher candidates in authentic school settings) of teacher preparation, the Task Force embarked on the project with no preconceived ideas. Teacher education faculty continued to discuss findings from the ThinkTank at their October 2011 Fall Work/Learning Day.
During the summer of 2012, the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation hosted a half-day Clinical Alliance meeting on the USAO campus and faculty were invited to a Clinical Alliance meeting with Oklahoma City Public Schools. After those meetings, along with similar meetings across the state, the Commission invited representatives from St. Cloud University in Minnesota to make a presentation on Co-Teaching as a model for student teaching. Dr. Nancy Hector was able to attend from USAO and found that many of the pieces uncovered by the ThinkTank could come together by adapting this model -- USAO student teachers would become co-teachers and elements of the co-teaching model could begin with early clinical experiences. Evidence from the model as used at St. Cloud University clearly indicates that PK-12 students are academically better off with this co-teaching model. Data reveal this approach is an effective way to train teacher candidates for the diverse classrooms of tomorrow.
The concept of co-teaching as an approach to student teaching was presented to stakeholders from public schools, teacher candidates, and teacher educators. Their reaction confirmed that the concept was worth developing. After further discussion at USAO’s 2012 Fall Work/Learning Day, the Teacher Education Committee voted to proceed with launching the project in the fall of 2013. A critical aspect of the project is the training of classroom teachers, university faculty, and teacher candidates. Thus, spring 2013 was spent in preparation and initial trainings. Training sessions are ongoing. Ultimately every clinical placement will be a trained teacher candidate with a trained teacher thereby enhancing teacher candidate learning and PK-12 student learning.
The journey continues. The road is never ending but the destination of successful children with effective teachers is worth the drive.