Clinical Practice in the Local Context: It’s How We “Do School”

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

Editor’s Note: The authors of this blog will be featured presenters during an upcoming NCCPEP webinar on November 1, 2019: “Developing Processes for Mentor Teacher Selection & Recruitment Through Clinical Partnerships”. They will also be joined by Mr. Chris Tholl, a teacher at Fort Collins High School, who serves as a school-based educator in the PDS clinical partnership noted in this blog. To learn more about the webinar, and to register. visit:

By Donna Cooner, Derek Decker, and Jennifer Roth

It's How We Do School

Fort Collins High School, Poudre School District (CO)

It’s the first day of school at Fort Collins High. Among the excited and eager faces of students and teachers, you can see another group of individuals who are an essential part of the teaching and learning that takes place every day within this school- the revered teacher candidates who will soon become the newest educators in our building. These new educators are the beneficiaries of a mature, vibrant clinical partnership between Colorado State University and surrounding school districts in northern Colorado.

Trained through the Professional Development School (PDS) model, the teacher candidates, along with the partnership’s school-based and university-based educators, are part of the dynamic culture within our building – a culture that expands the scope of learning to PK-20. They are such a presence in our school, that they are part of how we “do school” in our community.

Achieving Effective Clinical Practice through Mutually Beneficial Partnerships and Simultaneous Renewal

Effective teaching requires highly complex skill-sets and a refined base of knowledge created over time. As such, the key to effective clinical educator preparation lies within rigorous clinical partnerships and immersive clinical experiences as they are defined by school-based and university-based clinical educators, as well as teacher candidates, with consideration to mutual benefit and local context. This type of rich partnership results in the creation of teacher preparation programs that offer meaningful practice opportunities for candidates and ongoing, reciprocal professional development opportunities for school and university-based clinical educators.

The core of effective clinical partnerships is described within the concept of simultaneous renewal, as established by John Goodlad. Simultaneous renewal is defined by the idea that teacher education requires the availability of schools that are in the process of “renewing” to contribute a professional context for the training and apprenticeship of teachers, while at the same time, teacher preparation programs contribute to the renewal of schools by offering professional resources and support.

Clinical partnerships, therefore, are central to the process of simultaneous renewal and serve as the conduit to achieve mutual benefit for all those who are actively engaged within the partnership. To leverage clinical partnerships and practice for improved teacher education, it takes an intentional and coordinated effort between university preparation programs and PK-12 school partners to achieve the type synergistic practices and arrangements necessary for the goals of the partnership to be realized.

Clinical Partnerships as the Fulcrum for Improved Teacher Preparation

Effective teaching is a complex process, and meeting the needs of all children is a massive undertaking that requires a well-trained corps of competent, caring, professional educators. Educational Preparation Programs (EPP’s) have often struggled with defining the specific skills and knowledge teacher candidates need to know and demonstrate.

When teacher preparation is fully embedded in the PK-12 classroom, clinical practice provides a model for preparing high-quality teachers with articulated benefits for every stakeholder in the partnership. Therefore, clinical educators in schools and universities must collaborate to plan, deliver, and regularly review the content of teacher education classes, the structure of practice placements, and the constructs of the mentor relationships that are central to clinical practice.

In the presence of these conditions for partnership, simultaneous renewal is demonstrated through the collaborative policies and practices within a clinical partnership that create opportunities for teacher candidates, educators, and students to engage in mutually beneficial and essential theory-to-practice educational experiences. Therefore, clinical partnerships are not only structured to provide authentic practice for teacher candidates but are also designed to simultaneously renew the practice of university faculty and PK-12 teachers.

NCCPEP’s Commitment to Supporting and Advancing Mutually Beneficial Clinical Partnerships

Clinical partnerships, such as the one that has been cultivated between the Center for Education Preparation Partners at Colorado State University and Fort Collins High School, allow preparation programs to best develop, describe, and research the skills, high-leverage practices, dispositions and educator knowledge that all teacher candidates need to demonstrate prior to taking over their own classrooms. Even with all the complexities associated with educator preparation, and effectively preparing teacher candidates, clinical partnerships highlight the stance that preparing teachers and educating youth are not separate endeavors, but in fact, are aspects of the same mission.

Clinical practice is central to the National Center for Clinical Practice in Educator Preparation (NCCPEP)’s vision and purpose to support to advance high-quality clinical educator preparation through capacity-building, partnership development, and by bringing research to practice within local contexts. To that end, we are excited to be serving as presenters for an upcoming NCCPEP webinar, Developing Processes for Mentor Teacher Selection & Recruitment Through Clinical Partnerships”, which will take place on November 1, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EDT.

As school-based clinical educators, mentor teachers are central to the success of clinical practice and simultaneous renewal, and we are excited to be able to lead this important conversation about mentor teacher section and recruitment during the second installment of this webinar series. We be joined by our own PDS school partner from Fort Collins High School, Mr. Chris Tholl, who will serve as a presenter from the PK-12 perspective about this important topic. Click here to learn more about the webinar and to register.

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