By Christopher Jochum, PhD., NCCPEP Director and Chair of the Department of Teacher Education, Fort Hays State University (KS)
The Center-NCCPEP and Fort Hays State University Forge a New Partnership
In July 2019, the Department of Teacher Education at Fort Hays State University (KS) and the National Center for Clinical Practice in Educator Preparation (NCCPEP) began a robust partnership, focused on ensuring that all teacher candidates have access to high-quality clinical practice, with a special emphasis on candidates in rural settings.
Located in Western Kansas, Fort Hays State University’s (FHSU) teacher preparation program consists of approximately 1300 students enrolled in both virtual and on-campus programs. FHSU was founded in 1902 as a teachers’ college and continues to serve the needs of Kansas, much of which is rural, in order to provide school districts highly-qualified teachers. In addition, due to the teacher preparation program’s online presence, candidates are placed into clinical practices experiences in all school settings throughout the United States, thus providing a unique opportunity to truly implement quality clinical practice and partnerships on a national scale.
The Clinical Practice Retreat
With the goal of conducting an on-site summer retreat, my faculty and I prepared by hosting educator luncheons during the spring of 2019 with a focus on building more collaborative relationships with our PK-12 partners. During this time, we went into local schools and provided teachers a free, catered lunch and asked for their opinions on how to improve the clinical practice experiences for our candidates. These luncheons proved extremely valuable as we were given an inside view of the day-to-day operation of our local schools. Most importantly, these luncheons gave us the chance to visit with our mentor teachers who have worked with our candidates for a number of years.
On July 15, Dr. Rodrick Lucero, NCCPEP President and CEO, conducted an on-site training session during the retreat that focused on advancing clinical partnership development between the FHSU Teacher Education program and our PK-12 partners. The Center’s mission to “establish, sustain, and advance clinical practice in educator preparation through school, university and community partnerships” was evident throughout the session and clearly established a course and vision that will have a positive effect on teacher candidates and their students.
“The Center's work with our review of current clinical practices at FHSU was exceptional,” said Andrew Dempewolf, Principal at Bickerdyke Elementary School in Russell, KS. “Under Dr. Lucero's guidance, our group identified the true purpose of clinical practices, where we could improve, and the next steps forward. As a school administrator, I left knowing that FHSU is on the right path of continuing to develop high-quality teacher candidates who have meaningful pre-service experiences for our classrooms and schools.”
New Goals and Pathways for Clinical Partnership Emerge
Under the facilitation of Dr. Lucero, and informed by the collective input of FHSU faculty and clinical partners, the result of the clinical practice retreat was that we were able to develop goals and a clear path moving forward. Among the short-term goals that will be implemented immediately are:
(1) “More and Before”. Candidates always benefit from more time in the field starting at the beginning of their teacher preparation program. Therefore, FHSU and its clinical practice partners are already working to make these accommodations both within the teacher preparation curriculum and within the local school districts.
(2) “Grand Rounds”. Candidates must complete a series of one-time tasks such as visiting non-core or electives teachers, interviewing a building principal, observing recess, visiting with support staff and taking part in an IEP meeting, starting and ending a school day, attending a team curriculum planning meeting, and attending or watching a board of education meeting, to name a few.
(3) “Look Fors”. Candidates will be provided a series of observational protocols or “look fors” which will enable them, at all times, to look for and reflect upon tenets of quality instruction. These “look fors” will be related to both content pedagogy as well as effective practices such as classroom management and assessment. In addition, this practice will provide candidates with a template to use when engaging in professional conversations with their mentor teachers and other professionals in the building.
The Center’s involvement with the teacher preparation program at FHSU has already proven to be invaluable. We have worked to implement the initial goals from the retreat in July and will continue to meet throughout the school year to further enhance the quality of clinical practice among our candidates.
NCCPEP is truly leading the charge to ensure that high-quality clinical practice experiences are at the core of all teacher preparation programs in the country. In a short time, we have already seen the benefits of this work and will undoubtedly continue to enhance our program and partnerships in the future. Most importantly, this partnership will benefit our teacher candidates and their students. Moving forward, we will work to address the unique needs of supporting clinical practice among virtual students who are placed throughout the U.S. and beyond.