Marian University’s Fred S. Klipsch Educators College undergraduate elementary teacher preparation program has been named among the top in the country by theNational Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research and policy organization, for strong commitment to quality clinical practice experiences aimed at preparing aspiring teachers for the realities of the classroom.
This month NCTQ released its 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Clinical Practice and Classroom Management, which finds little national progress in the adoption of quality control metrics of clinical experiences (including student teaching and residencies), particularly in the process for selecting mentor teachers which is managed not only by teacher prep programs but also their partner school districts.
The Klipsch College elementary teacher preparation program at Marian University stands out as among only 33 traditional elementary programs that earn an A (of more than 1,100 evaluated) due to strong clinical experience requirements and serves as a model of excellence for others. These top-performing programs are recognized for:
- Requiring candidates to spend ten or more weeks in an experienced teacher’s classroom, including at least four days per week or the equivalent in the classroom each week.
- Screening mentor teachers for mentorship skill and/or instructional effectiveness as measured by student learning, among other skills.
- Requiring program supervisors to give student teachers written feedback based on observations at least four times during the clinical practice experience.
The evidence for the importance of high-quality clinical experience is undeniable. A National Research Council report said that clinical practice experience is one of three “aspects of preparation that have the highest potential for effects on outcomes for students,” and recent research has found that having a high-quality clinical practice experience can mean a first-year teacher starts out as effective as a typical teacher in her third year.
“Marian University has always been known as a top-tier teacher prep program," said LaTonya Turner, Ph.D., dean of the Klipsch College. “In 2016, we reimagined the Marian University education program, realizing it would be critical to focus on developing partnerships with local school districts and embed our students into clinical experiences, leading to fifth-year residencies. While many deserve the credit, our program has become exceptional because of the rigor and guidelines developed by our dedicated Klipsch College faculty and staff. There’s no question our students are arguably some of the most highly sought-after teachers in Indiana and throughout the country.”
Of the three indicators NCTQ examines, almost all traditional elementary programs dedicate sufficient time for clinical practice to occur, with 99 percent of programs (not including alternative programs that put teachers directly into their own classrooms) requiring practice of at least 10 weeks, and over two thirds of programs (70 percent) making sure that their elementary teacher candidates are observed frequently. However, despite significant research on the outsized impact of the mentor teacher, only three percent require the classroom mentor teacher to be both effective (in terms of student learning) and have the skills to mentor another adult. A major obstacle to teacher preparation programs adopting more rigorous screening of mentor teachers appears to be that they traditionally defer to school districts in the selection of mentors. (Teacher residency programs proved to be a notable exception to this practice, with 88 percent of these programs playing a more active role in the selection of classroom mentors for aspiring teachers.)
“These top programs are to be commended,” observed Kate Walsh, President of NCTQ. “Too many teacher prep programs struggle to make clinical practice a meaningful learning experience for aspiring teachers—especially when it comes to selecting effective mentor teachers, often due to lack of quality control by their partner school districts. The effort that these top programs have made to ensure alignment with their local districts so they can offer strong clinical experiences will have lasting positive impacts on their teacher candidates, and more importantly, their candidates’ future students.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has, at least for this year, reshaped much of what happens in schools, including clinical practice experiences for aspiring teachers. Many states and teacher preparation programs have moved their clinical practice experiences online or abbreviated them. However, the basic principles of quality clinical practice still stand in spite of COVID-19 and are still critical to the success of aspiring teachers in their future careers.
Now in its fourth edition, the Teacher Prep Review assigns a team of experts to evaluate teacher preparation programs on three elements of clinical practice: 1. the length of the experience, 2. the frequency of observation and feedback from a program supervisor, and 3. that the program requires that mentor teachers are effective and have the skills needed to mentor another adult.
Read the full NCTQ summary of findings, see all top-performing programs, and dig deeper into the methodology at www.nctq.org/2020TPRPractice