Videos Explore PDS Approach to Mentoring, Feedback

A new set of brief videos in AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series focuses on implementing clinical practice at the George Mason University (VA) College of Education and Human Development; see this article introducing the series and the first video segment. Today’s article highlights messages from the next two videos, which discuss the team-building approach used by Mason’s education faculty to create strong relationships with partner schools for supporting teacher candidates.

The College of Education and Human Development at Virginia’s George Mason University (GMU) and its professional development school (PDS) partners have established leadership teams to plan robust and personalized training programs for teacher candidates. The teams at the university and school sites work together to engage interns in well-rounded experiences, such as by involving them in local school activities, to help fulfill their individualized professional development plans.

Audra Parker, associate professor of elementary education at GMU, works to forge relationships with partner schools and to facilitate ongoing communications within the mentoring community. “We have advisory boards for the elementary program that consist of teachers, students, school district officials, and faculty members here at George Mason,” said Parker. “We have monthly site facilitator meetings [and] monthly university supervisor meetings where we speak constantly about what’s happening in the school settings.”

At the beginning of each academic year, GMU hosts a school principals’ breakfast to review the PDS partnership and gather feedback and ideas for ways to improve the program.

Linda Ferguson, principal of Westlawn Elementary School, directs the clinical practice partnership with GMU at her school. “We sat down and looked at all of the activities that a teacher would engage in and set the parameters for what we want the interns to engage in. We meet weekly to talk about whether we’re meeting those expectations for the interns,” Ferguson said. “We’ve included the interns in the new teacher induction program […] and are making plans to have them go to conferences, write papers, and do research.”

As part of GMU’s commitment to preparing effective new teachers at partner schools invested in their success, faculty work with school administrators to implement best practices for mentoring the candidates. The university provides courses for school principals and teachers to learn about their mentor role and resources available for supporting the interns. University liaisons also visit local schools to share tips and tools for improving mentoring.

“Audra comes in and gives us ideas around supervision,” said Ferguson. “We’ve been using Edthena [for video recording] so we can have better opportunities for the teachers to look at and reflect on their practice.”

GMU’s PDS model provides broad supports for interns’ learning experience by assigning a university representative, site facilitator, and mentor teacher to each student. The university also maintains contact with a cadre of alumni who previously interned in the partner schools to help guide current student teachers through their practicum.

“What makes it truly authentic is that we’re learning from professors who have been in the classrooms, and they’ve taught at the elementary school level,” said Michelle Pivonka, a master’s education student at GMU and participant in the PDS program. “It’s not just them telling us what the best techniques are out there as far as research goes, but they’ve been in the field, and they bring their experiences to us, so we trust their experiences.”

Hear more from GMU’s faculty, partners, and teacher candidates in this series of videos in the Innovation Exchange: “Embedding Learning in the Professional Community,” “Building a Community of Mentors,” and “Creating a Framework for Critical Feedback.” Stay tuned for more to come!

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Jerrica Thurman

Director of Marketing & Communications, AACTE