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Teacher Candidates in Online Programs Are Well Positioned To Teach Virtually During COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many teachers, students, and parents rushed to navigate online learning. Some schools may reopen with social distancing guidelines in place, while others may incorporate a virtual component. To limit COVID-19 exposure while maintaining the quality of education for students, educators will need to embrace online instruction.

Navigating new technology can be a big hurdle for veteran teachers. As many school districts are announcing plans to incorporate virtual learning for the upcoming school year, there will be little time for teachers to prepare. Seasoned educators will need a lot of training to master remote instruction and help their students succeed.

Teacher candidates enrolled in online programs can help bridge the gap. These candidates have developed technology skills and experienced asynchronous learning, which puts them in a great position to pivot to remote teaching. With 50 years of experience in distance education and online learning, Walden University faculty are prepared to provide teacher candidates with the knowledge and experience needed for online instruction in PreK-12 schools. Walden even helps teacher candidates develop and practice their skills for the classroom through virtual reality training simulations.

Cancel Field Experiences and Student Teaching in the Fall (and Possibly Spring)

The following article is Part 2 of an article by AACTE member Alex Cuenca in which he highlights the tensions involved in continuing student teaching in the fall and shares a guidepost for educator preparation programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read Part 1.

In my previous post, I explored how the belief that “experience” is the most authentic route for teacher learning creates an overreliance on field experiences and student teaching in teacher education programs. With wildly different state, local, and institutional responses to the COVID-19 crisis, teacher education programs are now left to navigate public policy on their own. Given the pedagogical power yielded to “experience” in teacher education, some programs (if allowed) will be tempted to continue with placements in fall during a health crisis because preparation without field experiences seems inconceivable. To be clear, the overriding concern ought to be for the health and wellbeing of our prospective teachers. Wondering whether we should place human bodies in a potentially dangerous situation during a global pandemic should not be a wondering at all. Yet, even if we suspend the recognition that schools are potentially perilous sites for the health of our teacher candidates, “experience” still fails as a sound rationale.

An additional layer of regulations based on the fear of spreading a virus in schools will create unnatural permutations to the already idiosyncratic nature of teaching and learning. The new questions raised by teaching in a pandemic are not just a logical variant of the typical uncertainties, but instead a novel unpredictability. Masks, social distancing, and prohibiting sharing will become new rules to enforce and police. Teaching and learning, which is dependent on social interaction will be socially distant. Teachers will have to divide their curricular and pedagogical planning and teaching between remote and face-to-face populations. And, whatever norms teachers construct in this uncertain environment will have to be immediately adjusted when schools intermittently close because of a positive COVID result. The uncertainty of schooling during a pandemic is perhaps best captured by Sarah Mulhern Gross, a New Jersey English teacher who has compiled over 350 questions that teachers have about teaching in the fall. Among this list are a series of questions pertinent to teacher education:

  • If a preservice teacher is exposed to COVID-19 while teaching will they be able to get tested through the district or will they have to find their own means to do so?
  • How will preservice teachers complete sections of the edTPA that require student collaboration?
  • How will preservice and coopeting teachers maintain social distancing while working with each other?
  • If a preservice teacher is forced into quarantine due to exposure could it delay the completion of their program?
  • Will preservice teachers be encouraged to take sick days? Historically they risk losing credit if they have absences.

If experience is paramount, is an experience in a milieu of prodigious uncertainty what teacher education programs want to deliver in the fall?

Developing Teachers as Critical Thinkers and Learners

Since AACTE and Mursion launched the Education Roundtable series, we have had the pleasure of showcasing the work of educators, who have integrated teacher training via virtual reality (VR) simulation into their respective programs or are studying the various aspects of this modality.

In an upcoming three-part mini-series, Carrie Straub, executive director of education programs and research at Mursion, will host a team from Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) who have generously offered to share the magic behind their work. They will upack and discuss the following:

  • Recruiting and training simulation specialists
  • The development of simulations including how participants are oriented into Mursion experiences, models for simulation designs, and post simulation activities aimed at transferring skills
  • The development of four simulations developed through the Reach Every Reader grant which HGSE designed to develop teachers as critical thinkers and learners in the classroom alongside their students

Cancel Field Experiences and Student Teaching in the Fall (and possibly Spring)

The following article is Part 1 of an article by AACTE member Alexander Cuenca in which he highlights the tensions involved in continuing student teaching in the fall and shares a guidepost for educator preparation programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this post, I explore how the unexamined inertia of “experience” in teacher education contributes to the hesitation of teacher education decision-makers to cancel field experiences and student teaching in the fall. Canceling field experiences and student teaching in the fall is the most responsible decision. Primarily, because even a basic understanding of the germ theory of disease during a pandemic should be enough of a rationale. However, because higher education is ensconced in the same neoliberal rationales that led to the premature opening of private and public enterprise over the last few months, teacher education programs must navigate public policy on their own. Of course, with all of the uncertainty that has been created by the response in the United States to COVID-19, I don’t pretend to know what is best for every single teacher education program. Field experiences are entangled in state licensure and certification regulations, institutional scheduling issues, and school and university partnership agreements. However, operating from the position that COVID-19 continues to pose a substantial risk to the health and well-being of students, teachers, school staff, and student teachers, I hope to provide pause for those who believe that field experiences and the student teaching experience must go on.

Virtual Simulations to Support Practice-Based Opportunities

Mursion Virtual Classroom

In March, when news of the coronavirus began to spread, one of our first tasks was to decide what to do with the hundreds of candidates who were in schools completing clinical experiences. This was new territory for everyone and no procedures for this type of situation had ever been developed. The decision was made to continue full-time internships, but all other field-based work was halted to allow P-12 teachers to focus on their own instruction and students. Through the strong partnerships we have with our school districts, we were able to navigate the situation and successfully graduate over 400 interns Spring 2020.

As we plan for the fall semester, while we now have some experience and advanced knowledge of the situation, the P-12 landscape will be even more varied—both within and across school districts. It has quickly become apparent that we will need to supplement our field-based work in other ways. We are assembling a range of options, including organizing a video repository, creating data-rich case studies from previous assignments, and building a tutoring network to offer virtual tutoring services to children in our local communities while simultaneously allowing candidates the opportunity to plan, implement, and evaluate their instruction. Another important option we will be utilizing to provide practice opportunities to candidates is SIMTeach@TU, our Mursion simulation system.

A Guided Walkthrough of AACTE State Policy Map Now Available

AACTE State Policy Tracking MapAACTE is excited to introduce its short tutorial video on how to navigate the new State Policy Tracking Map recently added to the AACTE COVID-19 Resource Hub. The easy to use map provides an analysis of state-issued guidance impacting standards and practice, new teacher induction, clinical practice and licensure. The tutorial offers a walkthrough of how to access and use the information provided in three formats: short bullet points, short-form distillations, and links to the original source material. 

AACTE is among the first education associations to track and publish this information, which was collected from multiple sources: news reports, state press releases, executive orders issued by state governors and statements issued by state departments of education. AACTE also included information from state chapter leaders who participated in the shaping of EPP guidance in their state. As state legislatures begin to convene and engage on this issue, we will update the map to reflect their work. 

The AACTE National Office has begun to analyze the information collected for the map and is compiling its findings in a soon-to-be released report. Teaching in the Time of COVID: State Recommendations for Preparation and New Teachers will summarize changes by EPPs in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, seek opportunities for improvement, and propose recommendations to manage the pandemic successfully. 

In the meantime, AACTE encourages you to visit the State Policy Tracking Map and invites you to share any questions, concerns, or updates you may have regarding the information presented on the map. 

Noticing and Wondering in Mixed Reality: How to Enrich Classroom Conversations Webinar

Noticing and Wondering in Mixed Reality: How to Enrich Classroom Conversations Webinar

Are you curious to find out more about what it’s like to incorporate Mursion into your program, including how to recruit and train your own simulation specialist? Come hear AACTE member institution Southern Methodist University (SMU) share their experiences as a licensee of the Mursion simulation platform during the Education Roundtable on Tuesday, June 23, at 1:00 p.m. ET. Register to attend (or to receive the link to the recording of the event).

The webinar will feature SMU’s Jillian Conry, research and evaluation coordinator, and Paige Ware, associate dean and professor of education. They will share how Mursion can be used in a number of flexible ways: as a tool for practicing skills and receiving feedback, as a way to evaluate specific teaching competencies, and as a way to create shared experiences that enrich classroom conversations.

COVID-19: Creating a new education reality

Child participating in an online class

This article originally appeared in eCampus News.

With the onset of coronavirus (COVID-19), school districts, institutions of higher education, and educators are finding themselves in uncharted territory. COVID-19 hit hard and fast. And with that, so did the shift from in-school instruction to online learning, which brought to light very complicated issues and inequities.

The onset of remote learning has magnified the disparity between students who have access to computers and internet and those who do not. The digital divide in our communities, particularly among children from underrepresented and low socioeconomic communities, raises questions that need to be answered.

What technologically based tools make a difference? What context is critical for successful introduction and integration of such tools? What scale of implementation might be possible?

College of Education’s US PREP Adds Nine New University-School Partnerships

This article originally appeared in the Texas Tech Today and is reprinted with permission.

The University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation National Center (US PREP) was launched in December 2015 with the intention of creating partnerships that would focus on teacher preparation and student success. The center, part of Texas Tech University‘s College of Education, started with just six partnerships in a handful of states and has grown over the years to include partners from coast to coast.

Now, US PREP is expanding again, with the addition of a third cohort of nine university-school partners. The addition brings the total number of partnerships to 21, including higher education institutions and school districts in Texas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York and Oregon. The center also has ramped up its virtual training and resources—already a part of what it provides to institutions and teacher candidates—to help partners navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shift to virtual learning for teacher candidates and the students they will eventually lead in their own classrooms.

UCF Consortium hosts Virtual Professional Learning Community sessions in response to COVID 19

Consortium for Future Educators @ UCF

The past several months have gone by in a blur for the world as rushed plans were created in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. There were many questions that surrounded education. How would we transition to an online learning platform? How would we ensure all students had equal access to devices and the internet? How would we reach students’ social-emotional needs?

Another challenge facing school districts was how to best support teachers. The short turnaround time that brick and mortar districts had to transition into online schools was a daunting task! How would professional development be facilitated? How would the delivery be and when/how would they require teachers to complete the training?

Student Teachers Learned Intense Lessons Under COVID-19

 This article originally appeared in The Free Press and is reprinted with permission.

Jean Harr

While the pandemic has brought disruption to daily lives, it has reminded us of the important role teachers play in their students’ lives. Teachers are hardworking, dedicated and effective. Recently, the irreplaceable nature of their work has been reaffirmed by millions of students and their parents.

Teachers not only promote learning, help students make connections and nurture their confidence, they also selflessly contribute to preparing the next generation of educators.

Minnesota State University has been preparing teachers for over 150 years and has had a long history of collaboration with its PK-12 partnership school districts. The university and the partnering school districts blend in-depth preparation with relevant practices and authentic experiences to ensure teacher candidates are prepared to meet the learning needs of all students.

During COVID-19 and Beyond: Utilizing Video to Support Teacher Candidates

Bryan CarterIn the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, teacher preparation programs are faced with the difficulty of how to support and evaluate candidates in the field. Here in Washington state, we already face a shortage of willing mentors to host our candidates. A recent study by Western Washington University and my colleagues at the University of Washington estimated that only 3-4% of teachers serve as mentors any given year.[1] According to the findings of a state workgroup in which I participated, this trend is even more pronounced among rural and remote school districts.[2] As a result, programs throughout our state are looking for effective ways to further support our candidates in the field, particularly in rural and remote areas.

One solution that is effective and can support efforts to maintain teacher certifications, including during the pandemic, is the use of online observations. We began using Edthena in 2015, and over the last 5 years, we have witnessed tremendous success and accessibility, especially for candidates in rural and remote school districts. We utilize Edthena’s platform as part of multiple measures to assess candidates in field placements. Field supervisors can use the online video tool in conjunction with traditional in-person observations, providing a nice mixture of evidence for our program to assess our candidates’ readiness towards licensure. Here are some of the highlights of our experience using online video observations.

Updates to AACTE’s COVID-19 Educator Preparation Policy Tracker Map

AACTE Responds to COVID-19

AACTE State Policy Tracking MapAs part of its continued efforts to inform members about the latest developments regarding educator preparation programs (EPPs) in light of COVID-19, AACTE has updated its Policy Tracker Map to reflect recent changes in EPP-specific state guidance and recommendations. These changes include guidance analysis of 12 new states, specifically Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming. We have also updated data for New Jersey, which recently issued new guidance waiving edTPA.

In the coming weeks and months, as agency guidance is supplemented by the supporting instructions and recommendations of other state entities, such as the legislature and regulatory bodies, the information and features of this interactive map will grow to accommodate those developments.

Teacher Prep, Interrupted: Licensing Educators During Coronavirus

Experts discuss emergency waivers and their potential impact

This article originally appeared on the Education Writers Association website and is reprinted with permission.

Teacher candidates engaging in online licensing program

Each year, hundreds of thousands of new teachers are licensed in the United States. With the shuttering of schools and colleges due to the coronavirus pandemic, states are using emergency waivers to certify teacher candidates who are unable to complete preparation requirements such as coursework, student teaching, and certification exams.

Along with these swift changes come new questions about the teacher workforce and what will happen to the educator pipeline in the midst of a public health emergency and economic recession.

Join AACTE and Mursion for a Roundtable Discussion and Live Virtual Classroom Simulation: May 19

AACTE Responds to COVID-19

Virtual Classrooms Roundtable Series

As part of our Education Roundtable Series, Mursion will host three leaders for a conversation on the current state of upheaval that is bringing about a transformation in teacher preparation. Join hundreds of your colleagues tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19, 1:00 p.m. ET to engage in conversation with amazing, pioneering women in education. Plus see a simulation of a virtual classroom between a teacher and avatar students. Register to attend (or to receive the link to the recording of the event). Here’s the agenda for the hour:

Jacqueline Rodriguez, assistant vice president for programs and professional learning at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), will speak about the following:

AACTE Tools

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