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In Event: Crossing Boundaries and Increasing Impact: Lessons From Successful Research-Practice Partnerships
Teachers regularly cite their student teaching experiences as being a formative part of their training as educators. Yet, little is known about what constitutes a high quality student teaching experiences and how districts can leverage the student teaching process to better prepare new teachers and improve hiring decisions. This is a lost opportunity - both school districts and teacher education programs (TEPs) stand to benefit from a better understanding of the student teaching process and the entry of new teachers into the workforce.
Historically, the student teaching process within Spokane Public Schools (SPS) has been ad-hoc, with placements of student teachers driven by personal relationships between teachers, administrators, and TEPs. No framework existed to guide the training and evaluation of student teachers. This researcher-practitioner partnership project, funded by the Spencer Foundation, creates structure around the student teaching process by identifying and recruiting effective teachers to serve as mentors, centralizing the student teacher placement process and improving the data infrastructure around the student teaching process by collecting information about student teachers (including evaluations performed by mentor teachers) and making that information available during the hiring process. And for research purposes, we randomize the placement of student teachers to mentor teachers to avoid bias driven by non-random sorting (for instance, strong student teachers may tend to select strong mentor teachers). The project is designed to assess how creating structure around the student teaching process affects the composition of the district’s mentor teacher cohort, the relationship between mentor teacher characteristics and student teacher outcomes (e.g., the propensity to apply for a position), and the relationship between student teacher evaluation scores and student teacher outcomes.
SPS introduced new student teacher placement procedures in the March 2016 and the first cohort of student teachers will join the district in Fall 2016. Our presentation will focus on the process of moving from the ad-hoc student teaching process to a centralized, structured process. We will describe the identification and recruitment of highly qualified mentor teachers, the process of matching student teachers with mentor teachers, the design of a student teacher evaluation rubric, and the collection and management student teacher evaluation data.
A challenge in implementing any educational intervention is that it is disruptive to existing practices, and we will describe challenges encountered by SPS in bringing its teachers and administrators into a new system. Interventions around student teaching face the additional challenge of being disruptive not only to the members of the district, but to TEPs, each of which has its own processes and objectives around student teaching (SPS consistently hosts more than 20 student teachers from each of three local TEPs, as well as smaller numbers of students from other TEPs in the region). We will discuss the process of bringing local TEPs on board with SPS’s new student teaching process.