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Clinical Model Engages Teacher Candidates, University Faculty as Members of School Community

The author is a member of AACTE’s Clinical Practice Commission, whose report will be released January 17 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

As a member of the AACTE Clinical Practice Commission, I am excited about the release of the commission’s report later this month in Washington, DC. I have been inspired by the work of this team of PK-12 and higher education leaders over the past few years. Our effort aims to support and advance educator preparation by articulating a common understanding of the critical components and value of clinical practice and partnerships.

As director of the Center for Clinical Practice in Education in The Patton College of Education at Ohio University, I know the power of clinical preparation for fully engaging teacher candidates and faculty as members of authentic PK-12 school communities. We employ the professional development school (PDS) model, which welcomes candidates into schools as interns and entrusts them with the responsibility of being part of the educational community.

As I listen to Patton College students talk about their professional preparation in schools across Southeastern Ohio, their language rapidly transitions from “my placement” to “my school.” Our faculty are also part of the school community, interacting closely with candidates and reinforcing the links between theory and practice and the importance of ongoing reflection. Being embedded in schools also gives faculty the opportunity to work closely with PK-12 students, engage in scholarship, seek opportunities for mutually beneficial professional development, and secure grant partnerships.

I recently had a chance to witness how familiar the PK-12 students are with our candidates and faculty. While sitting at a local high school basketball game with a colleague who happens to be a PDS faculty coordinator, I saw a young child catch sight of my colleague and immediately exclaim, “Hey, you are from my school!” as she smiled from ear to ear. (As a former early childhood teacher, I know well how excited students can be to run into a teacher outside of school, when they had previously assumed that teachers literally live in the school building!)

Seeing this child’s excitement when she saw my colleague as a member of her school family, I thought about the countless PDS teacher candidates who have enjoyed similar experiences – and how they also talk about “my school.” It reaffirmed to me the importance of having our future teachers understand what it means to be a member of a school community and to assume ownership in their role of positively impacting students as they prepare for their own classrooms one day. As I watched this exchange, I also thought about the significant relationships behind it, built over time among PK-12 school administrators, mentor teachers, and university faculty working together to improve both student learning and teacher preparation.

The way we approach teacher preparation and clinical practice is forever evolving. The work of AACTE’s Clinical Practice Commission strives to help us better navigate this important effort so that we can work together as PK-12 and university partners to best prepare our future teachers for the classrooms of tomorrow.

Learn more about the commission’s January 17 press briefing and register to view a free webcast here.

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Marcy Keifer Kennedy

Director, Center for Clinical Practice in Education, Patton College of Education, Ohio University