Member Voices: Advice on Building Clinical Practice Partnerships

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 newest installment in the series, in which school and university officials share advice on how to implement a successful clinical practice model.

Utilizing a professional development school approach, CSU and PSD have created an intentional, collaborative endeavor to achieve their shared mission of preparing highly qualified and effective teachers.

Their program consists of four phases in which CSU teacher candidates are immersed in schools for three semesters before they begin their student teaching phase. Each of the four phases includes field placements coupled with on-site seminar classes. Frequently these seminars are cotaught by practicing teachers from the school site along with a CSU faculty member.

The results of teacher candidates’ prolonged exposure and opportunities to work with students and practicing teachers have been undeniable: Program completers enjoy well-established relationships and a familiarity with PSD schools, staff, and students and are used to collaborating, receiving feedback, and reflecting on their practice. These novice teachers are ready to continue learning and prepared to take on the challenges of teaching because their preparation has given them a rich awareness of professional demands.

Hitting on models that work takes persistence, though, and participants from both the university and the school district advise others planning new partnerships to begin with a willingness to see them through to the end, despite the inevitable stumbles along the way. The clinical practice partnership in Fort Collins has thrived thanks to the long-term commitment of all parties. Implement the model’s extended pedagogy components, for example, requires flexibility on the part of both partners; CSU faculty have to rework their syllabi to accommodate the various phases and logistics of field work, while school officials must be attuned to the unique qualities of student teachers and be willing to assign their very best teachers as mentors.

Overall, the most important advice offered by these experienced partners is that communication is key. As you develop your plans (and throughout the collaboration), talk with your own faculty and with your partner school or district about your unique and overlapping missions, values, and what you each want students and faculty to get out of the partnership. Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of your common goals – and then roll up your sleeves and get to work!

Want to hear more advice on building successful partnerships for clinical practice? Watch the Research-to-Practice Spotlight video here.

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Christine DeGregory

George Mason University - AACTE intern