Panelists Tout Promise of Strong Clinical Practice
A Deeper Dive session at the AACTE 70th Annual Meeting emphasized the criticality of incorporating clinical practice in educator preparation, drawing on the recent report of the AACTE Clinical Practice Commission (CPC). Commissioner Michael Alfano of Sacred Heart University (CT) moderated “The Clinical Practice Imperative: A Pivot Toward Clinical Practice, Its Lexicon, and the Renewal of Educator Preparation” where a panel of experts discussed the CPC’s paper and its 10 proclamations for effective clinical preparation, the impact of clinical practice within the profession, and future plans to advance the work.
This session built on the discussion that took place in January during the press event where the CPC first released the report. Panelists spoke to the commission’s history and background, key elements of the work, and ways the report can be used to operationalize clinical practice – and how that will influence the CPC’s next steps.
Rene Roselle of the University of Connecticut discussed the importance of the report’s proclamations and tenets and how they can be used. She said they should spark conversations among administration, faculty, and students in schools and universities about teacher preparation in order to build and maintain clinical partnerships. In addition, the proclamations can be used as a tool to examine the status of existing partnerships, advocate for resources, and influence policy decisions at the state and local level.
Jennifer Robinson of Montclair State University (NJ) reflected upon the rising attention to quality clinical practice in teacher preparation nationwide. Mounting research suggests that the most significant experience that future teachers have is hands-on. Robinson urged educators to question the deeper purposes of educator preparation, reflect on the importance of practical experience, and dare to challenge the status quo. By returning to the fundamental “why” of their work, teacher educators can conceptualize preparation programs from the bottom up and think critically about what to add, subtract, or refine. Robinson also advocated for being mindful of including those institutions and individuals whose voices are not typically heard.
Laurie Henry of the University of Kentucky explored how the CPC’s proclamations might inform state and local policy changes around education preparation. She also recommended that institutions examine their programs for alignment with the report’s framework and bring together educator preparation leaders, district partners, policy makers, undergraduates, novice and veteran teachers, and representatives from state departments and professional standards boards to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table to strategize for preparing teachers in the local context.
Valeisha Ellis of Spelman College (GA) discussed ways that the proclamations and tenets address problems of practice in educator preparation. Oftentimes, she noted, systems are not in place to ensure that partnerships are mutually beneficial. She suggested that institutions use the 10 proclamations as a framework to conduct periodic assessments of their programs’ strengths, weaknesses, and the shift of needs within different partner contexts. Partners should cultivate a strength-based, solution-focused dialogue in order to forestall problems and be proactive and deliberate about supporting students and teachers as they grow.
Christine Slattery, principal of an elementary school in Fairfax County Public Schools (VA) that serves as a professional development school, explained how clinical practice empowers both candidates and mentor teachers by compelling them to reflect deeply and carefully on ways to strengthen their instructional practices. She praised the CPC’s emphasis on the need for strong school-university partnerships as well as mentorship for novice teachers. The clinical model emboldens educators to participate in committees and initiatives, support new teacher induction programs, and help construct their school’s improvement plan in addition to their work in the classroom.
The panelists also briefly discussed future goals for the commission, which they described as emissary work, offering site-visit coaching teams, expanding focus into specific areas of clinical educator preparation (such as through work currently being done by the AACTE Special Education Task Force), bridging clinical practice to the principal pipeline, and establishing a national center for clinical practice. The session closed with a brief Q&A period.
For a closer look at the Annual Meeting panel presentation, view the session recording in the AACTE Learning Center. To download the CPC report and view a recording of the January press conference, visit aacte.org/cpc.