Butler Partnerships Open Doors, Renew Practice

Five new videos are available this week in AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series highlighting clinical preparation and partnerships of the Butler University (IN) College of Education. In the latest videos, educators discuss how their partnerships provide growth opportunities for all involved, thanks to a shared vision and sense of ownership supported by intentional communications.


Despite today’s hyper-connected world, the power of collaborating in person remains critical to effective partnerships. For Butler University’s College of Education, extended face time with local education leaders has resulted in a shared vision and mutual investment that is opening doors and cultivating growth for students and educators alike.

Trusting relationships are the foundation of any successful clinical practice model. “Both schools are saying to one another that we trust you with our students,” says Master Practitioner Rick Mitchell, who manages Butler University’s relationship with Indianapolis’ Pike High School. “My number-one goal is to have both schools not be able to imagine not having this partnership,” he says.

Troy Inman, principal of Pike High School, appreciates the care with which the partners designed and continue to refine the current model, addressing participants’ concerns and suggestions. Given the high-stakes accountability expectations teachers face, he notes, many had been reluctant to take on student teachers and entrust them to independently oversee a portion of the class’ learning, but the coteaching model alleviates that problem by keeping the mentor in the classroom the whole time – which works beautifully for both teachers and students. “That classroom teacher is not going to leave that classroom,” he says. “Now you’ve got two teachers in there with 25 kids. Think about the success you’re going to have, rather than just one classroom teacher.”

Securing appropriate mentors, communicating both horizontally and vertically, and being clear and transparent about goals and needs contribute to the thriving renewal of both preservice and in-service teachers. At the heart of this work is what Mitchell describes as “purposeful pairing” – a complex process he uses for matching mentees with mentors based on his observation and inquiries. “Just because you’re a good teacher doesn’t necessarily make you a good mentor,” he says.

The 94% graduation rate at Pike High School and the 100% retention rate of staff at the Butler Lab School are great indicators of their work and dedication, and their leaders attribute this success in no small part to their collaboration with Butler. “Typically we see teachers [from Butler] knocking it out of the park in their first year,” says IPS/Butler Lab School Assistant Principal Nicole Kent of the program graduates hired for full-time positions.

Although the main objective of a clinical partnership might be candidate development, it achieves so much more than that. Butler’s partnerships support teacher and faculty learning – “collectively, we are building knowledge together,” says Assistant Professor Susan Adamson – while also developing a pipeline of local students who are inspired to move into the teaching profession.

“We want to make sure that our preservice teachers see themselves as mentors, and that our K-12 learners see themselves as the next mentors down the road,” explains Shelly Furuness, another Butler professor.

“The opportunity for continued learning for us and for our staff is ever-present,” says Ron Smith, principal of IPS/Butler Lab School, explaining the powerful energy that permeates the school thanks to the presence of preservice teachers. “We’re always working with undergraduates who have great questions,” he says, “and when they ask those questions it causes us to reflect and think more deeply about our work.” In addition, Smith says, he can invite a professor to bring faculty development or engage with a teacher on action research when appropriate. And the university has a unique opportunity to see what it looks like to staff a school completely with Butler graduates!

Pike Principal Inman cites similar benefits to his school from working with Mitchell, who effectively serves as Pike’s on-call instructional coach – working not only with preservice teachers but also with new teachers and any others who may need coaching. “He does it in a non-evaluative way,” Inman says, adding that the entire partnership experience has been “very powerful.”

Principal Shane O’Day of Shortridge High School says the presence of Butler preservice teachers in his building provides a powerful glimpse into what college can be like for their students, most of whom live in poverty and have families with no college-going experience. He also values Butler’s generosity in bringing high school students to campus, where they can experience the ambience of higher education, utilize campus resources, and even conduct research.

Stay tuned for more stories about Butler’s clinical partnerships next week. You can also learn more in last week’s article, and view the full collection of interviews to date on the AACTE Video Wall.

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Shardae Proctor

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