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Teacher Educators Discuss School-Community Partnerships on ‘Education Talk Radio’

Education Talk Radio, an online radio show airing PK-12 and higher education discussions for education professionals, hosted AACTE members last week for the first of several monthly segments that will highlight aspects of members’ teacher preparation work.

Diane Fogarty from Loyola Marymount University (CA), John Henning from Monmouth University (NJ), John Jacobson from Ball State University (IN), and AACTE’s Rod Lucero joined Larry Jacobs, host of Education Talk Radio, for the April 17 show.

The discussion centered on clinical practice models employed by these three institutions to provide teacher candidates not only strong classroom experience but also an understanding of the context of students’ local communities.

Loyola Marymount University (LMU) collaborates with 14 schools around Los Angeles to find mutually beneficial ways to improve education in the region through service, research in the schools conducted by LMU faculty, and professional development for experienced as well as prospective teachers. This LMU Family of Schools program, focused on student success and educational equity, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

“The mission for the Family of Schools really focuses on school culture and climate, on improving academic achievement, and college and career readiness,” said Fogarty, who is director of clinical partnerships and practices at LMU. She said teacher candidates love applying what they are learning in college to the PK-12 classroom and connecting with the community to understand the students and families they will serve after graduation.

Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, offers extensive clinical experience to teacher candidates through a set of professional development schools and dozens of other established partnerships. Henning, who is dean of Monmouth’s School of Education, outlined the four primary objectives of these partnerships: to increase PK-12 student learning, provide great teacher preparation, provide experienced teachers with the professional development they need to work effectively with candidates, and pursue innovation in teacher preparation.

“The longer [candidates] are out there in the school, the more valuable they become,” said Henning. Candidates focus on learning about the particular needs of the local school, the students in that school, and what type of environment the students need in order to succeed. Over time, candidates gain fluency with the local context and are able to make increasingly nuanced contributions as members of the community. Henning also noted the benefits candidates are realizing from clinical practices such as coteaching, where the mentors collaboratively plan and teach lessons with candidates and are able to learn from one another.

Ball State University’s award-winning, 8-year-old “Schools Within the Context of Community” program focuses on integrated course work that exposes teacher candidates to the diverse community in Muncie, Indiana. Jacobson, dean of the Ball State Teachers College, said the program gives his students a first-hand, immersive experience in neighborhoods that most of them have never visited. Teacher candidates are paired with community elders, families, pastors, and members of the neighborhood council to learn by engaging authentically in the community.

Jacobson explained that teachers “must understand and appreciate the context of children’s lives.” Through their program and the close and caring relationships they develop, teacher candidates develop a shared understanding of students’ neighborhood context, which leads to a deep commitment to social justice and to closing inequality gaps. Jacobson noted that this work with the community has turned an F-rated school to an A-rated school thanks to the collaborative work of candidates, teachers, and community mentors. It has also successfully broken down silos between the university and the community.

Lucero praised the programs for their focus on collaboration, continuous renewal, and pedagogy. “The power around coming together between higher ed programs and PK-12 programs is to the benefit of students,” he said. “[Teacher educators] are not seeing their work as situated in the ivory tower,” he noted. “Pedagogy is our science, and that becomes the place where we mobilize.”

Listen to the whole broadcast here, and tune in for AACTE’s next segment on Education Talk Radio, May 17 at noon EDT.

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