Two spring-semester professional conferences provided an opportunity for Hope College’s Department of Education to share a new approach to student teaching that it has been developing to better prepare its graduates for careers as outstanding educators.
Faculty members Susan Brondyk and Nancy Cook, along with third-grade teacher Val Capel of the Hamilton Community Schools, presented the new model during the 70th annual national meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education on March 1-3 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this month they told the story a bit closer to home, during the statewide Hope College Accreditation Conference and spring meeting of the Michigan Association of Colleges for Teacher Education on April 4 and 5 at the college’s Haworth Inn and Conference Center.
The new method emphasizes collaboration between those involved and better tailoring the experience to the individual student-teacher. The faculty in Hope’s program have been designing and implementing the approach for the past three years.
It’s been going well. “We have received very positive feedback from our preschool-12 partners and mentors,” said Brondyk, an assistant professor of education, who noted that the approach has also received strong interest from other educator-preparation programs.
In the traditional student-teaching model, teachers-in-training typically observe and work with an in-service teacher during the first half of a semester and then teach on their own during the remainder of the semester. The new model developed at Hope engages the student teacher, the in-service teacher-mentor and the program’s college-faculty supervisor more closely with one another. The student teacher and teacher-mentor co-teach the entire semester, providing more guidance and feedback to the student teacher; the teacher-mentor and college-faculty supervisor work together to determine in an on-going way how to make the experience most beneficial to the student teacher; and the college-faculty mentor also provides feedback and targeted support to the student teacher.
Along with the new methodology itself, the department has developed a new assessment tool for guiding professional growth and evaluating how well the student teachers are performing. That tool has proven so helpful that the department has adapted it for use throughout its program, not only for the capstone student-teaching experience. The department places students in classroom settings in all of its courses, beginning with the first one, Educational Psychology. The broader use of the framework helps students see how they’re progressing across their time in the program.
“Our focus is on their development,” Brondyk said. “We believe that learning to teach is a lifelong endeavor, so this is just a start.”
The college’s Department of Education prepares teacher candidates to teach at the elementary and secondary level. Graduates of Hope’s education program, which is nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), teach in public and private K-12 schools around the country and abroad. Hope education alumni also serve as Peace Corps volunteers, counselors in elementary and secondary schools, curriculum coordinators and supervisors, school administrators and college professors.