Culture of Continuous Improvement Supports Candidates at UNLV

Two 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 the culture of continuous improvement and the program elements that set graduates up for success in the field.

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The educator preparation programs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), set candidates up for success through a variety of supports and forward-looking practices.

In partnership with the Clark County School District (CCSD), for example, UNLV offers candidates multiple and diverse placements for clinical preparation. One of the nation’s largest school districts, CCSD includes settings from urban to rural as well as many alternative and charter schools.

Assistant Professor Norma Marrun notes that candidates often want to teach where they went to school themselves. When these feeder schools are experiencing high teacher turnover and staffing shortages, it’s especially worth the effort to grant this wish for candidates—both to help ease their transition into the profession and to provide the schools with teachers who understand the context already.

Marrun also says cohorts are an important part of UNLV’s support for candidates from underrepresented groups. The cohorts go through courses together, grouping students from similar backgrounds, and the College of Education offers provisions such as dedicated space for cohorts to meet and monthly check-in meetings.

Students benefit from supports that span from preservice through induction in schools. CCSD Chief Academic Officer Mike Barton says the UNLV educational leadership program has been a strong collaborator with the district to dovetail induction offerings from both organizations for new principals. For teachers, he is particularly excited about the potential of the new UNLV partnership with Paradise Elementary School, which he sees as a game-changer for preservice preparation, pairing candidates with the best master teachers in the district.

Claire Tredwell, director of the CSUN Preschool on the UNLV campus, notes that candidates who have clinical placements at the preschool enter the field well prepared on many fronts. They have hands-on experience with special-needs students, collaborative feedback from experienced teachers, and “we even help prep them for their interview process.”

Assistant Professor Joseph Morgan acknowledges that the large enrollment of teacher candidates at UNLV means they can’t possibly all teach at an innovative clinical site like Paradise Elementary, but he says the work there will serve as a great model to inform practice elsewhere. This flexibility is central to teacher preparation, he says, to be able to recognize and address the unique needs of each setting; faculty not only teach candidates professional skills but also how to apply them nimbly to meet local needs.

Dean Kim Metcalf echoes this message, noting that the diversity of contexts in schools means there can never be one definitive model for “how to do” education. Even a single setting changes constantly, and teaching practice must evolve with it. Metcalf says it’s important never to be complacent. His approach is to get faculty “continually thinking about ‘What would be better than right now?’ and then systematically testing that and being honest about results.” He advocates for incremental improvements that can contribute to the overall body of professional practice, which practitioners can draw from to serve a particular context.

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

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Kristin McCabe

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