D. 2. Growth. Standard 3: Field Experiences and Clinical Practice

D.2.b.    Continuous Improvement

Since the last site visit, the Unit’s faculty members have been systematically working on improving the quality of field experiences. The major trends include:

  • Strengthening school partnerships through renewing formal agreements, structuring collaboration, and implementing clear policies,
  • Expanding ways of assessing and evaluating filed experiences to include all partners, and
  • Streamlining and integrating field assessment instruments with intentional use of information technologies.

Major improvement accomplishments of our field and clinical components were the following:

Growth opportunity

Our Strategy

Concrete achievements

1. With limited number of placements available, ensuring the quality of cooperating teachers Clarify and enforce criteria for selecting quality cooperating teachers Cooperating teacher qualifications policy
2. Local districts expressed concerns about multiple requests for placement Strengthen partnership with districts, listen to their needs and preferences The Universal field placement policy;  Partner School Page
3. Using full time faculty to supervise all field experiences has become expensive Maintain high levels of faculty involvement; select, train, and engage PT faculty STEPCC Compensation Policy Supervisor expectations and resources
4. Need for more transparency and systematic feedback Using the 360 evaluation strategy: allowing candidates, Field Supervisors, and Cooperating Teachers to evaluate each other and the entire program The Final Evaluation form and Exit Survey now include evaluations of cooperating teacher, supervisor, and the program
5. Multiple sets of standards and accreditation requirements lead to creation of multiple and large forms, which are less useful for immediate feedback Revise lesson observation forms Field Experience Form Secondary/K12 Lesson Observation form

The timeline below highlights some of the most significant milestones reported within our NCATE Annual Reports:

2005. The Provost and Unit Head agreed that a new IDLA/PTEP Coordinating Council be responsible with reviewing and revising the program that prepares elementary teachers. A major part of the revision will strengthen the elementary candidates’ field experiences to increase the intentional integration of content and methods courses with well-supervised practicum and student-teaching experiences. The Council is especially focused on ensuring that candidates are immersed in practice for a long enough period of time for them to form collaborations with other school personnel, to experience seeing student growth over time, and to interact with parents and develop skills for communicating with parents.

2006. A Cooperating Teaching Database has been developed to monitor the qualifications of Cooperating Teachers (CT) who supervise field experiences. A Cooperating Teacher Information Questionnaire intended to ascertain information about the qualifications of UNC Cooperating Teachers is mailed to cooperating teachers to be returned with their signed contracts.

2008. The Unit became more focused on collaborations to develop initiatives related to P-20 education. The Unit Head and the Assistant Dean provided leadership on committees with regional institutions and two school districts, Poudre School District in Ft. Collins and Denver Public Schools (DPS) in Denver. The Poudre Front Range Community College-Colorado State University-UNC (PFCU) Partnership Committee has been working since it convened in spring ’06 for the purpose of helping Poudre School District administrators and teachers ensure their high school seniors are post-secondary ready. The Partnership Committee consists of representatives from Poudre School District, Front Range Community College, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado. Three major work groups emerged as the committee continued to meet during 2006-2008: the data collection and analysis group, the curriculum group, and the college/university access group. These groups worked all year to determine the best strategies to make certain that the Poudre School District seniors are post secondary ready.

Our collaborations with Denver Public School (DPS) involved other universities engaged in exploring quality teaching. The Dean’s Council and the University Partnership Team (consisting of faculty from the universities and DPS teachers) discussed possibilities of implementing a district-wide teacher identifier number system that would allow research looking at indicators of teacher quality, examining teachers whose students demonstrate high academic performance. Because of the ethical issues involved in tracking teachers and conducting research that might be used for the purpose of evaluating teachers individually rather than as a group, the discussions were ongoing over the entire year.

The Unit Head was also named to the Governor’s state-wide P-20 Council in spring 2008. The Educator Subcommittee of the Colorado P-20 Council, chaired by the UNC Unit head, examined issues surrounding the licensing of teachers. Having gathered data on best practices and met with new teachers, HR staff and representatives of various routes to teaching, the committee made several recommendations.

2009. The Partner District Task Force consists of ten regional partner district representatives and Unit faculty. The task force meets each semester to work collaboratively in designing, implementing, and evaluating field experiences. The following topics were agenda items during the last year: partnership memorandum of understanding, processes for placement of student teachers across districts, contemporary understandings of professional development schools, conducting focus groups to help evaluate candidate performance, and the quality of the partnership; and overview of grant possibilities through ARRA funding.

As a result of discussions with the Partner District Task Force forty-eight partner teachers and principals participated in eight focus groups across seven school districts in spring 2009 to discuss candidate learning and program quality. See the Focus Group Study Report.

Faculty and administrators found conducting the focus groups to be one of the most valuable and rewarding data collection and analysis activities to date. Personal conversations with teachers and principals in the field affirmed the strengths of our programs and provided insight into some needed changes. The results of the focus groups were shared with the District Task Force in fall 2009. Coordinators documented revisions that have already been made to the areas of challenge and asked districts for additional ideas for assuring our programs are of highest quality.

An extensive opportunity to build further collaborations and partnerships with districts in Colorado was the submission of the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant for $4.5 million.