A better way to student teach?
Two Iowa colleges have been chosen to collaborate with the Iowa Department of Education on a pilot project designed to explore whether there are better ways to deliver the educational experience to student teachers.
The University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and Dordt College in Sioux Center will share in a $1 million allocation from the Iowa Legislature to pilot an expansion of the student teaching program to a yearlong experience. Student teachers in Iowa currently train for 14 consecutive weeks.
“Iowa produces very good teachers,” said Iowa Department of Education’s Larry Bice, an administrative consultant for educator preparation. “This pilot is an examination of ways that could make them even better.”
There are several defining characteristics involved in the pilot project.
“The pilot does several things,” Bice said. “It puts student teachers in the classroom for longer periods and gives them more extensive experience, as well as access to more feedback from teachers and university supervisors. The main thing is that it is more experience.”
Similar programs have been launched in other states -- most notably in Arizona -- which were designed to give teachers a better and more effective first-time experience in the classroom and, ultimately, improve quality.
The pilot is not meant to add workloads or coursework to aspiring teachers, but to give them more practical experience before they launch their careers.
“We don’t specify that the schools need to develop a model program around any particular formula,” Bice said. “For instance, you could be student teaching for four days and one day you’re taking classes, or you could student teach in the morning and take classes in the afternoon. We look forward to the colleges being creative.”
The pilot project will be conducted in the 2014-2015 school year. Though a one-year study is a pretty tight schedule, Bice said that will be enough to garner plenty of information.
“Each college will write a report on the project,” he said. “We can certainly learn from it. Whether we decide to make yearlong student teaching mandatory or not, we will still learn about student teaching itself, and that’s information that can be applied across the state.”