Field Experience and Clinical Practice

3.1 Field Experiences and Clinical Practice

How does the unit work with the school partners to deliver field experiences and clinical practice to enable candidates to develop the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions to help all students learn?

 

Clinical practice has always been at the core of all unit programs. Together with our school partners, we are committed to shared decision-making and oversight on candidate selection and success. Candidate success is based on evidence of candidates’ effective performance and on P-12 student learning. All partnerships support the development of clinical practice knowledge, skills, and dispositions, student achievement, and inquiry for continuous improvement.

 

Since our initial NCATE visit, two significant changes have shaped clinical practices. First, in 2008-2009 the Multiple Subject and Single Subject Programs implemented a state-mandated teacher performance assessment (Performance Assessment for California Teachers –PACT) that occurs during the candidates’ final semester of field experience. Our school partners are essential members of the PACT implementation and evaluation team. Second, we began a co-teaching residency/MA program in 2011-2012, jointly designed with our school partners. As a result, the unit is now preparing to launch co-teaching pilots across all initial programs to further strengthen clinical partnerships and improve student outcomes.

 

Unit placements are jointly determined and purposely selected to provide opportunities for candidates to work with students with exceptionalities and those from diverse ethnic/racial, linguistic, gender, and socioeconomic groups. Centralized placement data on qualified school site partners and contracts with schools facilitates communication with partners and informs strategic placement decisions (3.4.a.2, 3, and 4). Candidate placement demographics are updated regularly to ensure that placements are diverse and appropriate (3.4.b). Placements in 116 schools are geographically far-reaching and diverse in nature, relative to the region, which spans 50 districts in 20 counties. Feedback from candidates on the quality of their placements each semester informs subsequent selection processes (3.4.d.3 and 4). New placements at exemplary schools are identified through tools such as edresults.org and data quest.

 

Current placement data on all initial and advanced candidates is centrally maintained. Initial candidates have at least one placement in a school with over 10% English learners and at least one placement in a school in which over 50% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged as defined by the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch.  Advanced EDAD candidates engage in two experiences at schools with diverse populations (other than their own schools) and work with a university supervisor and site mentor to develop a comprehensive, standards-aligned, individualized field experience plan. CMSD maintains over 70 internship sites in local and extended areas that include our CSU Chico Center for Communication Disorders, private and public school sites, private practice, acute care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation facilities where all students acquire experience in at least three settings, including working with clients of significant diversity.

 

P-12 clinical partners who serve as mentors or cooperating teachers are highly qualified individuals who share their expertise to support candidate learning (3.4.c.1 and 2). Although selection of clinical partners is a collaborative process between schools and the university, prospective partners must meet minimum requirements to be considered. Information brochures for all initial programs include qualifications, responsibilities, and partnership opportunities for prospective partners and are used in recruitment efforts (3.4.c.3 through 9). Similarly, clinical faculty who serve as university supervisors are selected, interviewed, and hired based upon their expertise (3.4.c.10 and 11). Policies and practices assure clinical faculty meet unit expectations (5.4.c.1). University supervisors are evaluated each semester by cooperating teachers and candidates (5.4.c.2). Professional development, workshops, and trainings throughout the year provide support for clinical faculty across programs and are jointly developed and designed.

 

Partnerships are maintained and improved through ongoing communication with site and district administrators, frequent school visits, regular advisory board meetings, and evaluation and satisfaction surveys. Rich examples of collaborate activities between the programs in the unit and its P-12 partner schools are ongoing (3.4.a.1). Technology allows us to share best practices across partnerships and facilitate on-going professional development, such as the new web-based data management system in CMSD.

Carefully structured field components allow candidates to apply and reflect on their understandings in a variety of settings, as described in Program Assessment Report Summaries (I.5.a.3 through 13). Each program handbook includes sections on practicum expectations, policies and information, and evaluation criteria, including all field forms required for supervision of candidates in field placements (3.4.d.1). Candidates meet all admission requirements prior to clinical practice. Learning activities in courses and field-based experiences provide for transfer of theory to practice as candidates apply effective instructional strategies and practices.

Unit programs feature carefully designed sequences of coursework focusing on learners, school contexts, and effective pedagogical practices that incorporate multi-media technologies. The infusion model, in which topics are introduced explicitly in specific courses then addressed in greater detail and related to teaching and learning in subsequent courses and practica, ensures that candidates’ understanding of teaching and learning is continually interrelated and reinforced. Initial candidates’ developing understandings and skills are applied in three field experiences: Early Field Experience and Teaching Practicum or Teaching Residency I and II, at least one of which is in a linguistically diverse classroom. Candidates pursuing a bilingual authorization apply their understandings to field experiences in appropriate bilingual immersion and English Learner settings. Education Specialist candidates complete two student-teaching experiences in special education settings, either mild/moderate or moderate/severe. Candidates seeking a preliminary general education credential with a mild/moderate credential through the concurrent pathway spend one semester in a general education setting and one semester in a mild/moderate special education setting. In the RTR program, candidates have one, yearlong co-teaching residency placement at a district serving a high-need student population.

Candidates are observed and supported daily by their cooperating teachers/mentors and are observed a minimum of eight times a year by their university supervisors. During teaching practica, formal three-way conferences are held among the candidate, cooperating teacher/mentor and university supervisor to discuss candidate progress, identify challenges and plan for improvement.  The team reviews candidate effectiveness in applying teaching strategies in relation to California content standards, curriculum frameworks, and student needs, interests and accomplishments. Candidates self-evaluate at the end of each practicum. Additionally, cooperating teachers/mentors and university supervisors evaluate candidates’ performance using the unit proficiencies aligned to standards. To encourage sufficiently extensive experiences, candidates are required to observe in a variety of school settings and other agencies, participate in education-related community events, keep reflective journals, and participate in school-based professional experiences such as attending IEP meetings and department/staff meetings. 

 

Similarly, programs for advanced candidates and other school professionals are designed with multiple opportunities for candidates to make connections between what they are learning in their courses and apply these understandings at their schools. For example, field-embedded assignments are featured throughout the EDAD program. CMSD coursework is supplemented by practica that give students first-hand experiences in dealing with speech and hearing disorders and problems that necessitate the use of oral, manual, augmentative, and alternative communication techniques and technologies. The PPS Program provides practice in a variety of skills that enable school psychologists to serve all children, to work proactively to prevent problems and provide coping skills to children, and to provide consultation to teachers.

Candidates in MA in Ed programs not leading to licensure complete key field-based assessments aligned to proficiencies, such as the Equity Study and Action Research.

 

Field experiences and clinical practice reflect the unit’s conceptual framework, proficiencies, and professional dispositions across the unit (1.4.d.1, 1.4.e.1). As part of the Continuous Improvement System, candidates’ progress in their field experiences is monitored through the program and beyond (2.4.a.2) using a variety of measures (1.4.c.2 through 6). Initial and advanced program candidates demonstrate mastery of knowledge, skills, and dispositions before and upon exiting their clinical practice (3.4.g.1). Data from field experiences from initial and advanced programs shows that candidates highly value their supervised teaching experiences and the guidance they receive (3.4.g.2). Together with school site partners, decisions are made at these critical transition points using data from multiple measures to assess candidates’ progress and performance. If additional support is needed, an improvement plan is jointly developed. The plan outlines specific areas of concern about competencies and/or dispositions, aligned to standards. All candidates have extensive opportunities to demonstrate their ability to meet unit proficiencies and state competencies through successive teaching observations, key assessments and on PACT or a culminating activity.