Teacher candidates’ clinical experiences and methods of instruction and student engagement are shaped by the PK–12 schools and districts where new graduates teach. Yet, many schools and districts around the country will not place student teachers during the 2020-21 academic school year.
The teaching and modeling of good pedagogy occur in university classrooms but come into practice during field placements. Likewise, PK–12 teachers have a pivotal role in supporting effective field placements for teacher candidates. Field placements are challenging for teacher candidates under normal conditions but are even more challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To understand what’s happening with current clinical placements, we turned to three field experience directors and asked them about clinical experiences with early online field placements, methods courses and student teaching. The directors provided examples of new endeavors for clinical practice as a result of the pandemic and several barriers to online clinical placements.
Early field experiences
Currently all teacher candidates from Nevada State College (NSC) are placed with cooperating teachers in virtual classrooms to satisfy clinical requirements. In early field placements, candidates observe online teaching practices and online classroom management and then meet online once a week with faculty from the college to debrief on their experiences. Principals working with teacher educators from NSC indicated that some teachers were too overwhelmed to become cooperating teachers and denied teacher candidates access to PK–12 online classes.
Observation hours for teacher candidates at National Louis University’s National College of Education are being fulfilled through the application of video-based assignments, including the use of videos from ATLAS and the Teaching Channel. Rather than documenting a specific number of hours spent in the field, assignments focus on deep analysis of teaching practices, student learning outcomes, and classroom environments through the use of videoand other remote learning assignments. The use of videos selected by a faculty member or program do provide greater consistency in lessons, learning environments and school contexts observed by teacher candidates.
As a result of the pandemic and the need to move all coursework online, including field experiences, teacher educators from Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College developed learning labs in which teacher candidates are assigned to faculty members who support teacher candidates in the field and an “edtech champion.” Together, they develop lessons based on their grade level that are recorded in Zoom and live-streamed via YouTube. The lessons are available to any educator through the Sun Devil Learning Labs site.
As expected, field assignments for methods courses have also been altered as a result of the pandemic. There are higher placements of NSC teacher candidates observing math and literacy courses online taught by PK–12 teachers because schools in southern Nevada have placed a greater focus on those two areas of the curriculum and have built math and literacy into the instructional master daily schedule. Securing placements for NSC candidates enrolled in science and TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) methods courses has been more challenging. Many schools do not have science instruction built into the daily schedule. Given the limited amount of instructional time built into online schedules, some teachers are implementing science instruction on a rotating basis with other subjects. Further, many PK–12 online classes have not identified students as English language learners (ELLs), or they do not have ELLs in regular attendance in their online classes. Both of these have presented challenges for identifying high-quality placements for teacher candidates enrolled in TESL methods courses.
Other institutions are utilizing virtual reality training software, such as Mursion to support and, in some cases, in lieu of clinical experiences. Teacher candidates and faculty from Kennesaw State University in Georgia use Mursion to interact with avatars of children and adults, simulating a variety of situations and challenges teachers can encounter. Candidates receive real-time feedback from their peers and instructors as they engage with various grade-level avatars. The student avatars have differing abilities and personalities and will act accordingly, depending on how the teacher is conducting class. For more information, visit https://news.kennesaw.edu/stories/2019/bagwell-avatar-lab.php.
Student teachers from all three of our institutions mirror/shadow their cooperating teacher in remote and/or hybrid learning. In some cases, candidates may be teaching students in both online and remote settings at the same time. In some school districts, online student teachers have encountered access issues where candidates’ college supervisors were not granted access to candidates’ online classes in the learning management system. We learned that one major urban district currently offers only remote student teaching but does not allow college supervisors to attend online lessons due to privacy and legal concerns; thus, supervisor feedback is provided on videotaped lessons conducted by candidates. Further, candidates can only be online with students if a cooperating teacher is present, and in order to record a lesson, candidates must use district-generated forms to get parental permission to videotape.
Guidance from the field
Universities and colleges and schools of education are fundamentally living organisms that are constantly adapting to changes in both external and internal stimuli (Muller, 2020). As confirmed by Lisa Mozer, National College of Education Director of Field Experience & PK–12 Partnerships, “The world has changed. Going forward we must teach all of our candidates to design and implement lessons for and teach in online learning environments.”
With our current context of clinical experiences in mind, new ideas and practices to enrich the online clinical experience for teacher candidates are badly needed. As PK–12 and college educators work together to design and implement these experiences, we will want to keep in mind this guidance from Chris Lehmann, CEO and founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Lehmann believes “the schools that have struggled with tech-immersion are ones that have the technology tail wagging the dog. Many times, teachers just starting to use technology in their classrooms will put the focus on the tools and gadgets (technology tail) rather than the content objectives or solid pedagogy (the dog)” (Nussbaum-Beach, 2000, p.55).
Lehmann believes technology is successful in schools when the school environment views pedagogy as important as the technology. The missing ingredient in preparing teachers to work with technology is not the lack of technology skills from teachers, it is the investment (or lack of it) in developing effective teacher practice. Lehmann contends schools of education should invest in teaching solid pedagogy, both with and without technology (Nussbaum-Beach, 2000).
PK–12 teachers are encouraged to participate in school-university online professional development sessions where teachers and teacher educators can discuss the use of technologies for teaching and learning in virtual clinical settings. Teachers may want to focus on specific technologies to support remote and hybrid learning during school sponsored professional development workshops. Of course teacher educators and candidates may benefit from participating in these workshops too. Co-sponsored school-university workshops should discuss a wider range of topics, including collaborative and authentic learning environments; social-emotional learning; content and strategies related to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and online assessments (Buss, 2020)--as well as emerging technologies and features within an LMS to maximize learning (Gomez, 2016). Most importantly, we need to discuss ways to enhance online practices where pedagogy (the “dog”) is not overlooked or overshadowed by the circumstances or the technology--the tail wagging the dog.
Borthwick, A. C., Foulger, T. S., & Graziano, K. J. (Eds.). (2020). Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educators. Portland, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
Buss, R. (2020). Evaluating technology infusion: Teacher candidate and program outcomes. In A. C. Borthwick, T. S. Foulger, & K. J. Graziano (Eds.), Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educators (pp. 191-234). International Society of Technology in Education.
Gomez, J. (2016). The online course environment: Learning management systems. In S., Bryans-Bongey, & K. J. Graziano (Eds.), Online teaching in K-12: Models, methods, and best practices for teachers and administrators (pp. 3-23). Information Today.
Kolb, L. (2017). Learning first, technology second: The educator's guide to designing authentic lessons. International Society for Technology in Education.
Kolb, L. (2020). Frameworks That Scaffold Learning to Teach with Technology. In A. C. Borthwick, T. S. Foulger, & K. J. Graziano (Eds.), Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educators (pp. 69-94). International Society of Technology in Education.
Muller, R. (2020). Building capacity for technology infusion through systemic change in colleges and schools of education. In A. C. Borthwick, T. S. Foulger, & K. J. Graziano (Eds.), Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educators (pp. 29-48). International Society of Technology in Education.
Nussbaum-Beach, S. (2020). Rethinking teacher preparation: Learning from the PK–12 edtech story. In A. C. Borthwick, T. S. Foulger, & K. J. Graziano (Eds.), Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educators (pp. 49-66). International Society of Technology in Education.
Kevin J. Graziano is a professor of teacher education in the School of Education at Nevada State College. He is the chair of the Consultative Council for the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), the former chair of AACTE’s Committee on Innovation and Technology, and the former co-chair of the SITE’s mobile learning SIG. He is co-author of the Teacher Educator Technology Competencies (TETCs) (2017). He is co-editor of Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educatorspublished by ISTE. Contact him at email@example.com.
Arlene C. Borthwick is professor emeritus, National College of Education, National Louis University in Chicago, where she served as associate dean from 2010-18. She has served as the chair of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education’s Committee on Innovation and Technology, member of the ISTE Board of Directors, and past president of ISTE’s SIG (PLN) for Teacher Educators. She received the ISTE Making IT Happen award in 2008. She is co-editor of Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educatorspublished by ISTE. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teresa S. Foulger is an associate professor of educational technology and program coordinator for educational studies in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Teresa has served as the president of the Teacher Education Network for the International Society for Technology in Education and serves as the co-chair of the TPACK Special Interest Group for the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education. She is co-author of the Teacher Educator Technology Competencies (TETCs) (2017). She is co-editor of Championing technology infusion in teacher preparation: A framework for supporting future educatorspublished by ISTE.Contact her at Teresa.Foulger@asu.edu.