TEAM Model Clinical Styles Inventory: The Critical Mentor-Resident Relationship
This article is the last in a series of three showcasing the transformation of preservice field experiences at Louisiana Tech University. Read the first article here and the second here. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
In a traditional student teaching experience, the school and mentor agree to host a teacher candidate in the classroom for 10-15 weeks, which can be viewed as a short-term accommodation that is not integral to the school community. In a full-year clinical residency, however, the importance of the mentor-resident placement is essential to the success of the school year for all involved. Therefore, the TEAM (Teacher Educators and Mentors) Model Clinical Residency Center at Louisiana Tech University has made the design of a quality placement procedure a priority.
In the TEAM Model timeline, residents and mentors apply in April/May to participate in the full-year clinical residency. Upon university, school, and district approval of the participants, an electronic clinical styles inventory is distributed to all participants in late May/June, and all placements are finalized in July. On the online inventory, mentors and residents rate their own traits around personality, planning, teaching, professionalism, and other areas in order to better identify their clinical style.
In previous pilot studies, mentors and residents with opposite attributes were assigned to collaborate in the hopes of learning from each other, but lessons were learned in the clinical field that dissuaded this practice. The most successful mentor-resident pairs since 2014 have been those that began the school year with the most similar traits. Following that premise, all residency placements for the 2016-17 academic year used the clinical styles inventory to make purposeful matches. On a small scale, interviews of all mentors and residents can suffice to make such pairings, but many bigger programs, like our TEAM Model, benefit from tools to help create quality placements on a larger scale.
At one elementary school in fall 2016, two mentors discovered that they had more than teaching styles in common with their residents; they even preferred the same lunches! At another school site, a district leader noticed that a mentor and her resident looked like twins. While the inventory cannot take credit for such similarities, there is a strong justification for a refinement of this instrument to be used in the current year as the TEAM Model continues to grow with more school districts, mentors, and residents in the future. Research will be conducted in the 2017-18 academic year to validate the instrument.
A key support system for the mentor-resident relationships is regular clinical liaison meetings on site during the school day. Liaisons are trained to observe any stress between the partners to address immediately. This system provides constant encouragement for both parties, making a difference in the experiences of teachers, residents, and ultimately the students in each TEAM classroom.
Studies have already begun examining the impact the TEAM Model residency classrooms will have on student achievement. We already know from our participants that it has a positive impact on the mentors and residents – especially when they are well matched to one another. Having two strong, similar teachers in the classroom makes for a great TEAM!