3.1 How does the unit work with the school partners to deliver field experiences and clinical practice to enable candidates to develop the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions to help all students learn?
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s main campus enjoys a strong history of collaboration for field experiences and clinical practice with the Hamilton County schools. Evidence for this collaboration with the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) as a Pre K-12 school partner can be found in the affiliation agreement. UTC collaborates with HCDE in designing and delivering field experiences for candidates in our initial licensure and advanced programs. In addition to HCDE, UTC collaborates with other school districts within a close geographical area with the intent of providing students with as much diversity as possible. The Counseling and School Psychology programs in the UTC School of Education (SOE) also work closely with these same counties to secure appropriate placements for their candidates. Fieldwork for programs in the unit provides a continuum of opportunities for observation, tutoring, service learning, contact with families and community, and association with Pre K-12 faculty and other school professionals prior to clinical practice.
Field experiences and clinical practice opportunities in school settings allow University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Education candidates to apply their knowledge of teaching and learning and develop the skills associated with effective practice. Continuous program evaluation and technology implementation efforts have resulted in designing optimal field experiences. Advanced practicum experiences such as student teaching provide the final step in the preparation process needed to lead students toward the best clinical and teaching practices.
Opportunities to participate in field experiences are afforded to all education, school psychology, and school counseling majors in the UTC College of Health, Education and Professional Studies. Practicum work is included in the syllabi for specific courses where it has been established that hands-on instructional work with students and practice teaching is an integral part of the course curriculum.
Students have multiple opportunities to reflect on field experiences and to receive feedback from university faculty during their early coursework. Courses requiring field experiences require a reflective paper which is directly aligned with the fieldwork that has been completed.
School partner participation and input are considered vital to the growth and preparation of our students. The UTC School of Education relies on outstanding school-based practitioners and administrators to serve not only as mentors, but also as informants and instructors. Given the enormous pool of information that pre-service teachers need in order to advance their practical skills to the highest levels, these mentors are regularly called upon to share their knowledge and resources.
The UTC School of Education also collaborates with two early childhood laboratory schools housed at HCDE’s Battle Academy and Brown Academy. Administrators and school staff participate actively in the design, delivery, and evaluation of field and clinical experiences in these environments. Similar collaborative efforts are conducted for students majoring in Exceptional Education. These candidates participate in field-based preparation at the Orange Grove Center and East Ridge elementary school in Hamilton County.
Perhaps the most comprehensive of all field work is the Professional Development School program. Four partnering schools are used in the PDS I experience, and each site works through an on-site coordinator (HCDE-employed and certified teacher) and an advisory council to monitor and evaluate the field experience component of this program. The Professional Development School program provides a unique field experience for the student. Completed prior to student teaching, it is an interactive approach to pedagogy that combines classroom instruction by faculty with hands-on experience on-site in selected elementary and secondary schools. The first Professional Development School was organized in 1994 to provide students with an early and broad field experience so they might better understand the culture and organization of schools and determine if their choice of programs is a good fit. Students are assigned full-time for a full semester to a PDS I school, and tenure-track professors from the unit deliver courses on-site through a team-teaching approach. Activities related to coursework are practiced by students in their respective classrooms. While not required of all candidates, approximately 65% of undergraduate candidates for teacher licensure elect to complete PDS I.
The unit utilizes multiple assessment structures across all programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels for collaboration with partners in the delivery and evaluation of field experiences in the areas of knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions in alignment with professional, state, and institutional standards.
For field experiences leading to licensure in the field of education the UTC Field Placement Coordinator provides resources and facilitates placements with schools and community programs. Unit faculty members in other programs (UTeaChattanooga, Counseling, School Psychology, and Educational Leadership) coordinate internships and observations with mentors in local education agencies.
Prior to student teaching, candidates for this practicum experience complete admission requirements per university and state guidelines. Student teachers spend approximately 15 weeks in full day classroom teaching experiences in at least two classrooms, as prescribed by the state and the university. Cooperating teachers are the primary mentors for student teachers. Partners in Pre K through 12 contribute to assessment of candidates. Student teaching mentors meet state, county, and university criteria for service as cooperating teachers.
UTC coordinates student teaching placements for all pre-service teachers in Hamilton, Marion, and Sequatchie counties in Tennessee, as well as the neighboring Georgia counties of Catoosa, Walker, and Dade. More than 75% of student teaching placements are situated in Hamilton County which is the primary partner for fieldwork. The UTC Field Placement Coordinator secures these placements for all undergraduate and graduate initial licensure students. This is a collaborative effort between UTC and the administration of each participating school district. The unit consistently maintains a rate in excess of 90% as related to ensuring diversity in clinical (student teaching) experiences.
Arranging specific student teaching and field placements is a joint effort between the UTC Field Placement Coordinator and the assigned HCDE fieldwork liaison. After conferring with school principals, the HCDE liaison provides an availability list of placements that are open to fill. Other factors contributing to placement decisions are:
- diversity of placements based on geographic location (e.g., urban, suburban, rural)
- diversity of placements based on grade level within the licensure range
- prior field experience placements
- each school‘s history of support for pre-service teachers
The UTC School of Education provides cooperating teachers with an orientation and partner’s handbook which is aligned with the UTC Student Teaching Handbook. In addition, the UTC Field placement coordinator provides training each semester for university supervisors, who, in turn, assist the cooperating teachers in carrying out the necessary mentoring functions. In spring 2013, an Apprentice Teaching Handbook will be used by UTeaCH candidates completing this final portion of their degree.
School-based personnel who serve as cooperating teachers must be evaluated as highly competent through local assessment and state evaluation procedures and must be both able and willing to assume the multiple roles expected of a cooperating teacher. Their qualifications are verified by their respective school systems. In addition, all teachers (and student teachers) are required to undergo and produce a clear fingerprint-based background check. Evaluations of cooperating teachers are conducted each semester as part of the PDS II (i.e., student teaching) questionnaire completed by the student teacher, as well as regular input from the university supervisor. The university supervisor, candidate, and cooperating teachers meet regularly (an average of once weekly at minimum) to review the student’s performance and progress, continually assessing the quality of the candidate‘s experience.
Cooperating teachers and university supervisors jointly plan the student teaching experience. Together, they resolve problems and approve students’ units and lesson plans. The university supervisor serves as a resource for the cooperating teacher in understanding and meeting both parties’ needs. Cooperating teachers determine the duration of time for solo and shared teaching. They guide the student teacher in the areas of teaching, classroom management, and assessment.
Direct and comprehensive feedback for teacher candidates is obtained through a series of observations, individualized performance improvement plans, progress reports, and the final evaluations completed on each student teacher by the evaluation team. The evaluation team consists of the student teacher, cooperating teacher, university supervisor, other observers, and the school principal or assistant principal. Clinical adjunct UTC faculty observe in classrooms and confer with cooperating teachers to ensure joint evaluation of student performance.
The UTC School of Education also collaborates with HCDE and the state of Tennessee in alternate teacher preparation activities. The state of Tennessee has provisions for some candidates to begin as teachers of record if they are deemed eligible by the university and meet the state requirements for alternative (transitional) licensure. These candidates must hold an undergraduate degree and need to have completed sufficient coursework in their subject concentration area. They are permitted to be employed by a school district on a transitional license and may be required to teach as many as three years prior to earning the apprentice license. In these cases, the candidates must also be supervised for two consecutive semesters by a university-assigned supervising faculty member, who collaborates with the school district about the student’s teaching performance. However, the ultimate determination of apprentice licensure eligibility and recommendation rests with the school district.