Clinical Rounds Innovations
A central goal of Clinical Rounds has been to increase the opportunities for preservice and in-service teachers to be more actively engaged in the work of teacher education. To that end, we have changed the typical phrase of “cooperating teacher” to “attending teacher” (AT) as a way of emphasizing the expert-novice relationship and to signal to both in-service teachers and the interns themselves that the role of the AT is to teach them. This may include sharing classroom organization and management techniques, modeling instruction, demonstrating how to design a robust assessment and how to engage in both formative and summative assessment practices, debriefing after an instructional experience, or intervening when they are working with adolescent students to show interns a better way to enact a particular practice.
We refer to our preservice teachers as “pre-interns” (semester 1), “interns” (semester 2), and “student teaching residents” (semester 3) to signal that they should see their role in the class as analogous to that of a medical intern; their role in the field should be to prepare themselves for their future profession. This move highlights professional obligations and responsibilities of working with children and youth, while reminding interns that they are engaged in an apprenticeship experience.
These are simple changes to the discourse, but they signal radical changes in our approach and, we hope, in the way people will begin to think about the work of educating teachers.
The teaching of disciplinary literacy processes and practices is embedded in the teaching of disciplinary teaching methods via a subject-matter literacy course that interns take in their first semester, EDUC 402. Prior to this project, all content majors (i.e., history, social science, science, math, English language arts, physical education, music) enrolled together in the same classes. We reformed this structure, and now interns enroll in a content area-specific section of EDUC 402. This allows them to develop deeper understandings of the role of literacy practices with texts in their specific disciplines. We have found that this innovation enables tighter connections between the first- and second-semester methods instructors and their courses and between interns’ university coursework and their field experiences.
We focused our efforts on increasing curricular coherence across courses and semesters and between the university and the field. The centerpiece of this work involved developing explicit connections between two core courses in the program: EDUC 402: Literacy in Content Area (History/Social Science cohort), a first semester course, and EDUC 432: Teaching and Learning in Secondary History/Social Science, a second semester course. Both courses were tied to fieldwork, with interns in secondary classrooms for six hours per week for 13 weeks each semester. There had been, at best, tacit coordination among university courses while the sheer number of field classrooms and teachers made university and field coordination exceedingly difficult. Even when faculty designed curriculum to spiral across semesters, interns often didn’t see the connections. To remedy this, we shared the central concepts and assignments of our respective courses, using them to plan across the entire range of courses and field experiences in the program. Further, we explicitly referred to each other’s assignments so the students might see connections across semesters. We attended each other’s courses to enable us to understand and refer to what our students had or would learn.
Such collaboration was instrumental in developing a spiraling set of experiences for our students that would foreshadow subsequent concepts while making it more likely that students would use and extend discipline-specific approaches across their learning experiences and into the field. Further, we re-developed course assignments, re-purposed readings, and even combined course websites. Working across semesters and working with the data from the assessments enabled us to construct coherent through-lines to develop interns’ skill in designing and enacting instruction.
Developing strong, ongoing relationships with practicing teachers and with area schools is a challenge for schools of education across the country. Simply finding field placements often takes precedence over the quality of the placement. These challenges led us to begin experimenting with “teaching rounds,” modeled on the medical rounds of physicians in training. Groups of interns rotate across multiple field sites, working with attending teachers who have been carefully selected to model particular aspects of the practice of teaching that are most aligned with our programmatic goals, including selecting and using texts with students, learning about and using knowledge of students in teaching, and establishing instructional routines and practices that enable students to learn the practices of the disciplines. Interns then complete assignments as modules, with the modules focused on key features of teaching.
In addition to carefully selecting attending teachers, we also pay close attention to the school and community contexts in which those attending teachers work. We then intentionally vary these sites, so that interns move across public and independent urban, exurban, suburban, and rural school settings, having the chance to work with, for example, English language learners in subject matter courses. Sites are also systematically varied so that interns work in both middle and high school settings. This system of rotations enables us to focus on both context-specific features of quality instruction and those that cross socio-economic contexts.
Creating a faculty-led study group for graduate student instructors to develop instructional capacity
We attend equally to the education of future teacher educators and education researchers (our graduate students), classroom teachers, and public school administrators. Thus we expanded the focus of our innovation well beyond undergraduate students to include work with graduate student instructors and attending teachers in area schools. To develop our capacity to sustain such work across semesters, courses, and sites of learning, we organized weekly meetings with instructors (graduate student instructors, lecturers, and clinical faculty) who teach courses across our three-semester program. These meetings enable all of us to consider and understand programmatic trajectory, sequence, and progressions while collaboratively working on our curriculum and problems of professional practice. These experiences also support graduate students as they learn to do the work of teacher education.
We hold regular Grand Rounds sessions that bring together pre-interns, interns, student teaching residents, attending teachers, field instructors, and methods instructors from all content areas to learn from one another. We also invite administrators from neighboring school districts and others who might be interested from the School of Education. In a recent Grand Rounds, three social studies student teaching residents presented a video case of their own teaching practice from their first semester in the program. They led the whole group in a critical examination of their developing instructional routines and demonstrated professionalism, while also highlighting the exemplary coaching practices of their attending teacher.
We have developed an assessment tool, The Learning to Teach Growth Chart, that documents interns’ learning over the course of the program. Inspired by the holistic approach to assessing professional learning designed by our medical education colleagues at Oakwood Hospital, Dr. Jonathan Zimmerman and Dr. Ruaa Elteriefi, we have created a narrative rubric that describes the professional growth we expect individuals to make across the three semesters of our program. The assessment tool includes four competencies: understanding students, teaching with texts, developing and using instructional routines to teach disciplinary practices, and professionalism.
This assessment is grounded in research on teaching and learning in the disciplines. It is also the result of years of work studying interns in our program using an attitudinal and dispositions inventory, performance assessments, videos of intern teaching, and in-depth interviews with interns, which, together, allow us to “see” interns’ facility with disciplinary literacy instruction at various points in our program. We are very excited about what these new data will enable us to learn about intern development and ways to make our program even stronger!