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Shared Vision Advances Teaching, Learning for District-University Partners

Three new videos are available this week in AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series highlighting clinical preparation and partnerships of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) College of Education. The latest videos focus on creative approaches to addressing teacher shortages, the importance of a shared strategic vision, and the simultaneous renewal that benefits all parties in the clinical partnership.

A shared vision is the cornerstone of the multifaceted partnership between the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), and the neighboring Clark County School District. Thanks to the strength and clarity of this vision, the partners have been able to take risks and innovate in ways that advance the work of all involved.

Mike Barton, the district’s chief academic officer, explained the thrill of collaborating on an “outside-the box idea where some of the cutting-edge practices can be looked at and analyzed from a real setting for teachers and preservice teachers.” Arriving at this point took a lot of time and negotiation among the different parties, he said, but the effort positioned them well to direct future energy toward a common goal.

That shared vision is to operate a clinical partnership that not only boosts the pipeline of profession-ready teachers but prepares the best new teachers in the field. The partners also aim to identify solutions and research findings for educator preparation, policy, and practice that are appropriate for present and future classrooms.

UNLV also partners with the on-campus CSUN Preschool in a similarly robust arrangement that supports a variety of purposes. Director Claire Tredwell says the clinically embedded preparation provides valuable mentoring and research opportunities, and being open to visitors from many places is an important part of the school’s mission. The clinical settings where UNLV candidates and faculty are active now span students from birth through high school, providing a rich education continuum in which to learn and conduct research.

The university-based teacher educators are enthusiastic about the opportunities presented by these partnerships, which have spurred them to think differently about educator preparation and research. The partner schools provide a potent reality check for faculty who come to test theories and interventions in a real-world setting. “I have to twist and change what I’m doing to be responsive to what’s going to happen in real life,” said Joseph Morgan, assistant professor of special education. Just as candidates are guided through applying learned theories in classrooms, graduate students are encouraged to test their research in real schools.

Dean Kim Metcalf said the district’s severe shortage of teachers has driven his college to try new strategies to fill more classrooms with prepared educators. Under normal circumstances, he says, many teacher educators would argue against an intensive, “boot camp” program of preservice preparation, but in Clark County, hundreds of classrooms had no teacher at all. “That forces us to think, well, how can we do what we do in different ways?”

The answer includes at least 10 alternative routes now operating at UNLV, incorporating new recruitment channels, rigorous clinical preparation, and strategic supports for program completers to continue their development on the job. Metcalf describes the work as developing “next generation” practices rather than “best” practices – innovating to meet emerging needs.

To view the video interviews of UNLV faculty and partners, visit AACTE’s Video Wall.


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Sarah Verneret

AACTE Intern

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