A Visitor’s View: Clinical Practice at Colorado State University

If you have been inspired by the previous Research-to-Practice Spotlight videos featuring the robust partnership between Colorado State University (CSU) and the Poudre School District (PSD) in Fort Collins, don’t miss the final mini-installment in the series, in which various teachers at Fort Collins High School share their passion for teaching. Below, Christine DeGregory reflects on what she witnessed during her visit with the partners last spring.

I’m a firm believer in the power of clinical practice—particularly clinical practice supported by a professional development school model. I had heard many wonderful things about the special partnership that Colorado State University (CSU) had nurtured with the Poudre School District (PSD), but having the opportunity to talk to partnership members and see their work in action reaffirmed to me that some common approaches to clinical practice can be successfully reimagined.

During a site visit to CSU last spring, I got to hear from many stakeholders who have been affected by the partnership’s role in providing quality field experiences for teacher candidates. Most notable, I thought, was the widespread understanding and acceptance of the model by educators from both PSD and CSU. They view themselves as part of a collaborative community that educates, supports, and sustains teacher candidates through the use of effective pedagogy, reflective practice, and scaffolded, supported field experiences (over four semesters) to provide the best teachers for their students. Naturally, conflicts still arise, but the shared mission and constant communication have been key ingredients in sustaining the 20-year partnership.

In testimony to the partnership’s effectiveness, one third of the faculty at Fort Collins High School are graduates of CSU’s School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation (STEPP). Staff noted that this unique pipeline arrangement enables them to see teacher candidates grow as they complete field experiences, which has the advantageous effect of a prolonged interview for potential future staff. Additionally, some full-time teachers are also co-instructors of a seminar class for third-semester candidates. Their current experiences as classroom teachers enables them to share with candidates their own daily work, reflect together, and adjust their own practice. The site-based work deftly blends theory and practice with real students, providing valuable development to the next generation of teachers.

CSU STEPP graduates said their experiences with the program were critical to the success they now have working at Fort Collins High School. Their 2-year integrated school experiences helped them to build relationships with both faculty and students and understand their importance, gain experience in different school and classroom settings, develop their understanding of what a teacher’s work really entails, and provide a gradual increase in responsibility that led to confidence when they began their student teaching.

To view the full series of video content from the visit to Fort Collins, visit the Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series online.

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Christine DeGregory

George Mason University - AACTE intern