Standard 2: Clinical Partnerships and Practice

Standard 2

The provider ensures that effective partnerships and high-quality clinical practice are central to preparation so that candidates develop the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions necessary to demonstrate positive impact on all P-12 students’ learning and development.

Educator Preparation Program (EPP) within the School of Education and Counseling (SoEC) at Purdue University Northwest (PNW) develops and maintains effective, reciprocal partnerships with diverse P-12 schools for the clinical preparation of our candidates. These partnerships allow the EPP to place candidates in diverse classroom settings with clinical educators who guide and mentor them as they acquire and implement knowledge of pedagogy and content. They also provide an opportunity for students to make theory to practice connections between their course work and real-life situations in a classroom/school setting. Finally, the partnerships provide opportunities for collaboration which is mutually beneficial for teacher candidates and local schools.

Developing Clinical Partnerships
Partnerships are developed in two ways:
1.) The Office of Partnerships and Outreach (OPO) reaches out to the district and requests a meeting or
2.) Districts reach out to the EPP requesting to receive professional development, to host candidates, to coauthor grants, etc.

Annual Memorandum of Agreement (MOAs) provide support that candidates, P-12 schools, and the EPP benefit from a variety of partnerships. The OPO facilitates communication between districts through phone calls and emails as well as face-to-face meetings, and the EPP informs each stakeholder of their shared responsibility. Prior to the MOA’s being written, the Coordinator of the OPO meets with school administrators to determine the reciprocal needs of the site and the EPP. Meanwhile, the university faculty are identifying activities for each course that allow for theory to practice connections to be made. The OPO collaborates with partner schools to ensure that the specific field experiences align with the school’s goals and needs. Additionally, some of the university faculty members serve as supervisors in the field which extends the coursework seamlessly into the classrooms.

Memorandums of Agreement (MOA’s) are distributed to the field placement sites. The OPO sends the MOAs to School Administrators via Docusign (online signature system). The document notes the agreement is for June 1-May 31 (one academic year), so they are sent in late spring. As we gain new partners, they are sent MOAs as soon as we have confirmation of placement in their schools. The MOAs are reviewed/updated each June; however, the partner schools can adjust the terms when needed. The sites revise the MOA’s and resubmit to the EPP. These MOAs are reviewed annually by the Office of Partnerships and Outreach to assure that they represent the current status of partnerships and that they evolve to meet the needs of stakeholders ( PNW – MOA). All MOAs are kept in electronic form on the R drive.

MOAs are yearly; however, the OPO communicates with the clinical partners each semester to determine the terms, structure, field placements, and content of field experiences for candidates.

Forums and Advisory Boards
Two specific opportunities exist for the EPP and clinical partners to collaborate each semester: EPP Forums and Advisory Boards. The EPP forum includes stakeholders from clinical partners: superintendents, assistant superintendents, central office staff, and building administrators and EPP representatives: The Dean of CHESS, the Director of the SOEC, the Associate Director of the SOEC, the Office of Partnerships and Outreach, and Course Instructors. This forum reviews data related to candidates’ field experiences and provides feedback about the program. This collaboration allows the clinical partners an opportunity to give suggestions on improving the candidates’ experience while enhancing their school culture. The EPP shares program data by county as the EPP Forums are organized by county; we currently have partnerships in Lake, Porter and LaPorte County. The EPP Forums are face-to-face meetings, the invitations are sent electronically, and those who cannot attend are invited to share responses with any questions, comments or concerns. The OPO reviews these and follows up with the schools as needed.

Similar to the EPP Forums, the Program Area Advisory Boards meet each semester. The EPP has established Advisory Boards (Agendas and meeting minutes) for the Early Childhood, Elementary Education and Secondary Education Programs to ensure that ongoing collaboration is happening between the EPP, partner schools and community organizations. The Advisory Boards are comprised of the following stakeholders: administrators, teachers, directors, childcare directors/providers, program completers, EPP administrators, EPP faculty and teacher candidates. The advisory board meets each semester to share and review data and to make decisions regarding assessment instruments and overall candidate performance.

In our efforts to create more consistency, the EPP communicates regularly with partners to create field experiences that have common expectations for candidate outcomes regardless of which campus they are on. In fall of 2019 the EPP developed field guides to establish uniformity in language and content among the two campuses and the field site placements. The field guides are reviewed in November and March and revisions are made that are mutually beneficial for schools, clinical educators and candidates. The Office of Partnerships and Outreach meets with clinical educators to determine needs for the field sites and teacher candidates in their field placements. (Field guide template)

Clinical Experiences
Partnerships with school districts and community stakeholders depend on co-planning, continuous feedback, surveys and evaluations to outline shared responsibility for teacher candidate preparation. Co-planning occurs in many forms: between the EPP and partners when choosing field sites and clinical educators, between the school and the OPO when determining placement, between the clinical educators (Instructors, supervisors and cooperating teachers) when reviewing candidate work and mentoring the candidates and in all of the ways discussed above (advisory, forums, MOAs, etc.) A co-teaching model is recommended for clinical faculty and teacher candidates to ensure that P-12 students are getting a highly effective educational experience. The co-teaching model is introduced in the early field courses and recommended throughout the program in field guides. A detailed outline of the co-teaching models is shown to supervisors during their training sessions and to cooperating teachers and candidates in the students teacher orientation. There is also information in the student teaching field guide that illustrates each of the co-teaching models and offers suggestions for the students acquiring and then releasing control of the lessons during their capstone experience.

Surveys and evaluations are distributed to clinical faculty at mid-term and end of the semester to collect data to assess the ongoing partnership. The results of the surveys are shared each semester at Data Dialogue Days (DDD minutes). The surveys are delivered through the use of technology ( a Qulatrics survey) and each candidate is evaluated by their cooperating teacher and supervisor; each supervisor is evaluated by the candidate and cooperating teacher; and each cooperating teacher is evaluated by the supervisor and the candidate. The results of these surveys are evaluated by the OPO in order to determine if candidates are receiving high quality mentoring and field experiences, and to determine if the P-12 schools, cooperating teachers and students are benefiting from the presence of the candidates.

Monitoring Candidates’s Clinical Experiences 
All programs provide teacher candidates with field experiences throughout their programs of study and this culminates with a 16-week clinical experience in the candidate’s final semester. The EPP provides resources (field guides & student teaching handbooks) to support and foster relationships with the districts for clinical placements. The OPO serves in this role. In order to be responsive to our partner school districts, the OPO strategically places candidates in diverse classrooms with experienced and dedicated mentor teachers.

Additionally, there is an electronic tracking system that stores the details of the candidates’ field and clinical experiences: District, school, teacher, grade, type of environment, supervisor, semester and year. This tracking and monitoring system, the Site Tracker of the EPP (STEPP) is maintained by the OPO to ensure that candidates are afforded diverse clinical placements. (STEPP example) While some partnerships have been in existence for several years, the EPP continually seeks new partnerships with districts that may provide candidates opportunities for additional experiences with diverse students or opportunities for candidates to explore innovative practices and technologies. New partnerships are being sought by the OPO, especially after the data of past field experiences was loaded into STEPP and it was evident that candidates were not receiving diverse experiences prior to the 2019-2020 school year. A specific example includes a pilot program with a district who is struggling to find highly qualified teachers. Recent discussions with this partner district resulted in student teaching candidates’ placements in lower SES school environments where they are serving as teachers with supervision from the school principal, the director of the SoEC, the associate director of the SoEC, and a university supervisor. The OPO continually seeks out partnerships with the goal of ensuring candidates receive diverse experiences in rural, urban, and suburban environments.

Preserving high quality field experiences to benefit teacher candidates and stakeholders is constantly evolving. Programs meet with stakeholders throughout the semester at Advisories and Forums to discuss all levels of field experiences. For example, the OPO meets with districts to consider current placement opportunities. The field guides contain specific expectations to partnership districts containing what the student’s placement will need to consist of, and communication between the two entities continues as mentors are selected and teacher candidates are placed in the schools. (Field Guides)

Collaboration with Clinical Partners
The EPP holds regularly scheduled Data Dialogue Days (DDD) each semester that include the OPO, administrators, faculty, clinical faculty, university supervisors and staff to analyze data from the field experiences and student teaching experiences, to reassess evaluation tools and provide feedback for improvement. Training is also a part of these days to ensure that we are all scoring the teacher candidates using the STOT in similar ways (EPP DDD meeting minutes).

The EPP collaborates with diverse P-12 schools to establish partnerships that are mutually beneficial for the schools and the teacher preparation candidates. The EPP and schools and clinical educators collaborate to determine placement for candidates, lesson planning and instructional best practices support and mentoring, and all the opportunities that bridge candidates’ theory to practice connections from the university classroom to the P-12 classroom. This collaboration happens in many forms including some of the following: email exchanges, phone calls, face-to-face meetings with clinical educators and meetings each semester that have been outlined above. Partners co-select, prepare, evaluate, support, and retain high-quality clinical educators who demonstrate a positive impact on candidates’ development and P-12 student learning and development.

Selection of Clinical Educators
In addition to communication between the school districts and the OPO, clinical educators from districts (cooperating teachers/mentors) will be chosen if they meet the following criteria:

  • Have a minimum of three years of classroom experience
  • Earned teacher effectiveness evaluations in the Effective or Highly Effective range
  • Have a desire to mentor and support teacher candidates

Clinical educators (University supervisors) will be chosen if they meet the following criteria:

  • Have a minimum of three years of classroom experience
  • Earned a Master’s degree
  • Have a desire to mentor and support teacher candidates

Surveys will also be administered to candidates, supervisors and cooperating teachers at midterm and end of courses to collect data on the effectiveness of the partnerships, professional development needs, retention of clinical educators and opportunities for improvement (Continuous Improvement of Clinical Experiences).

A learning management system (currently TaskStream and BlackBoard) allows candidates, clinical educators (cooperating teachers and field supervisors) and faculty to share commentary and collaborate in order to provide ongoing support and feedback for the candidates and clinical educators during their Field Experiences and clinical experiences.

Clinical Educators
The Field Placement Coordinator in the OPO is one of the dedicated staff members fostering relationships with districts for clinical placement. The Field Placement Coordinator is the point of contact for the schools. Cooperating teachers are retained if they have received positive evaluations, continue to meet the requirement for effective or highly effective evaluation scores, and if they volunteer to mentor candidates. The cooperating teachers receive Professional Growth Points (PGPs) for their service during field and clinical experiences.

University Supervisors (part of the Clinical Educator group) apply through the PNW Careers website. They are interviewed by the OPO. The required qualifications are stated above. These individuals are seasoned educators who are excellent mentors for our students. Additionally, they are former P-12 educators who also have relationships with our partner schools. Their support for our candidates adds to the diverse group of mentors that candidates encounter during their field and clinical experiences. The supervisors are supported by the Office of Partnerships and Outreach. They receive training throughout the semester, and they are evaluated through the use of technology (a Qualtrics survey – evaluation of clinical educators).

The OPO is responsive to the needs of the districts where candidates are placed, and the districts reciprocate by placing candidates with experienced teachers who are dedicated to mentoring and supporting candidates. The expectations for clinical educators are clearly outlined in the course Field Guides, the SoEC Handbook and Office of Partnerships and Outreach policy manual.

Training and Support for Clinical Educators
The OPO facilitates professional development for clinical educators based on the collective needs of the districts and the clinical educators. The professional development is designed to improve the retention and skills of clinical educators. Training occurs at the orientation meeting, the data dialogue days and additional training is added on an as needed basis. The topics have centered around data use, evaluation tools, mentoring skills and feedback.

Clinical experiences in EPPs are vital in preparing teacher candidates (candidates) as they put theory into practice within diverse classroom settings with children who have differing needs. Collaboration with school and education-based organizations develops strong partnerships to mutually benefit EPP, candidates, and P-12 students. Partnerships evolve over time as the needs of all entities change. Clinical educators must work as a team to best serve the needs of all involved.

Efforts to Improve Clinical Experiences
Time in the Field
At PNW, field experiences occur early, middle, and late in the program, and finally in student teaching, to provide sufficient depth, breadth, and coherence, throughout the duration of the program. During the Fall 2018 semester, time in the field was increased to include observation in early field, half-day experiences in middle field, and full days in the field during late field.

Early courses include a total of forty-five field hours, where candidates have the opportunity to observe in a variety of classrooms, including those that are technology-enhanced, meeting specific course objectives. For example, in the Foundations of Education class, candidates learn about the education system in general, and they begin to examine the jargon associated with the discipline. The Diversity in Education course offers candidates the opportunity to examine schools in a rural, urban and suburban setting and record the same details for each classroom visit. The sixteen hours in the field allows them to observe diverse environments and apply what they have learned about cultural competency and social justice.

During mid-field courses, candidates spend a full day per week in a field placement for thirteen weeks. For example in Literacy Instruction in K-3 Classrooms, candidates learn best practices in K-3 literacy instruction including systematic and explicit phonics instruction.

Late-field courses require candidates to be in a field placement for one full day for 13 weeks. Candidates take two related courses that can be put into practice in one field placement. For example, Teaching Social Studies in the Elementary School is taken concurrently with Literacy Instruction in 4-6 classrooms, and candidates are placed in one 4-6 classroom where they observe and practice interdisciplinary lessons by combining social studies and literacy in teaching individual, small group, and whole- class lessons. Similarly, math and science methods are combined in the following semester in another full-day, 13 week field placement with similar teaching requirements prior to the 16 week student-teaching placement.

Field Site Selection
Field site selection has evolved at PNW following the unification of the two campuses. For example, prior to the Fall 2019 semester, university instructors’ work in the community organically solidified placements. One community school officially partnered with PNW (see attached newspaper photo) supporting university courses offered in the school. For example, Literacy in Grades 4-6 occurred in an open classroom at the school. The university instructor co-created the curriculum with school educators resulting in high-ability book studies led by candidates. Starting in the Fall 2019 semester, selection of field placement sites were completed in a collaborative process conducted by the Interim Associate Director of PNW’s SoEC and the Field Placement Coordinator for each program area (Early Childhood, Elementary, Secondary, Special Education, and Graduate SPED). Sites are selected to provide diverse experiences for candidates throughout the program. Candidates are placed in classrooms with clinical educators having a minimum of three years of experience, and who earn Professional Growth Points (PGPs) as an appreciation for mentoring. The teachers serve as mentors and co-teachers for the candidates, providing feedback and assessment using the Niagara Disposition Form and the Skills of Teaching Observation Tool (STOT). Candidates are assessed on different parts of the STOT depending on where they are in the program. For example, Early Program candidates are assessed on the fewest areas of the STOT, whereas student teachers are assessed on all areas.

Field Guides
Field Guides are provided as a communication tool for course instructors, university field supervisors, school administrators, and classroom teachers. The guides include such items as brief descriptions of course-related field activities, personnel roles, course procedures, and candidate assessment tools and support theory to practice. For instance, candidates write lesson plans (edTPA template) within the course under the direction of the course instructor, then implement the lesson in the field where they are assessed by the teacher and university supervisor. Additionally, candidates prepare pre- and post-assessments in the course for lessons or units, collect student data in the field, and analyze the data to guide future instruction. The first day in the field is considered orientation, attended by the field supervisor, candidates, and school personnel to answer questions about the upcoming field experience and clarify the Field Guide.

Developmental Progression of Field Placements
Ongoing communication occurs as clinical educators (i.e., university supervisors) interact with mentor teachers, school administrators, and candidates; university instructors communicates with candidates; and the Field Placement Coordinator collects survey data from all stakeholders. As evidenced in PNW’s Plan of Study, candidates engage in a developmental progression in field experiences over the course of their programs of study. For example, candidates in the Elementary Education-Reading concentration plan of study complete one day in the field for 13 weeks in their first semester of field work; two, half days in the field for 13 weeks in their second semester’s field work; two, full days in the field for 13 weeks in their third semester; three, full days in the field for 13 weeks in their fourth semester; and their program culminates in student teaching (5 full days for 15 weeks) in the fifth and final semester of their program. Cooperating teachers for student teaching are required to be licensed and qualified to teach in the same area as the student teacher and have three years of teaching experience. University supervisors possess a master’s degree and a minimum of three-years of teaching experience as evidenced (University Supervisor Job Descriptions). To incentivize mentor teachers hosting student teaching candidates, they receive 15 Professional Growth Points (PGP) for their work with early and mid-level field experiences and 30 PGPs for their work with candidates during their student teaching semester.