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Assessing Performance in Pre-Student Teaching Field-Based Experiences.


A critical component of the recently restructured teacher preparation program at Southwest Texas State University (SWT) involves the placement of preservice teachers in actual public school classrooms long before student teaching. Through this early placement, students gain valuable experiences working with children in real-life situations. The course content is integrated. Preservice students actively plan and teach lessons, while being supervised by mentor teachers and the university faculty, who teach the content of their courses in the field.

The expectations for student performance in SWT courses have changed to fit this new program structure. The role of assessment is now viewed as a positive contribution to the growth of our students (i.e., a tool for learning). Evaluation of preservice teachers includes recitation of course content on oral exams, demonstrations of lesson planning, and teaching performances with children.

One important component of assessment in field-based programs is observation. Both the university supervisor and mentor teacher conduct ongoing observation of students' teaching performances, and provide constructive feedback regarding lesson planning, interactions with children, and professionalism issues. Frequent dialogue creates a less threatening review of performance than do more formal discourses that were standard in former programs, thus creating a community of learners. Performance measures (e.g., lesson planning and implementation) are tied to the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), which serve as the core for state curriculum guidelines.

Reflection is a second important component of assessment in our field-based program. Through specific assignments and activities, our students engage in reflecting on their own growth and developing insights as teachers. For example, students write weekly papers in which they reflect on their learning through readings, teaching experiences, and classroom observations. Video-taped lessons provide students with opportunities to prepare a self-evaluative reflection that helps them recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, as they identify ways to improve. Finally, each student prepares a portfolio to demonstrate growth over time.

Rubrics based on university exit outcomes, which are tied to state certification competencies, provide guidelines for professors responsible for assessing performance. Benchmarks address understanding and/or application of critical elements, such as ethics, curriculum design, instructional diversity, classroom management, technology, and communication and collaboration skills.

There are numerous advantages to immersing college students in the public school environment earlier in their program and providing specific and ongoing feedback. Students become keenly aware of the requirements of good teaching and are more prepared to commit to the profession. Frequent interaction with children in classroom situations, curriculum planning, and assessment activities strengthen students' skills. Weaknesses can be identified and corrected earlier in the program. Ongoing dialogue and performance assessment allow students to hone skills under less threatening conditions. The reflection process encourages students to take responsibility for recognizing success and failure, and to learn to be thoughtful in striving for improvement.

--Kathy Fite and Jennifer Battle, Professional Standards/ Teacher Education Committee
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Author:Battle, Jennifer
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2000
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