Field Experiences/Clinical Practice and Diversity in Teacher Preparation
Professional Education Unit faculty and staff are committed to working toward having highly effective educators who act upon the understanding that every child can learn; an education full of rich, relevant and meaningful learning for each child is a basic human right. We strive to support each program’s recruitment and retention of a more richly diverse body of professional educators. Research has long demonstrated that children of color benefit from a more diverse educator workforce; more recent work, however, has shown us that all children benefit (Sebastian Cherng & Halpin, 2016), a predictable finding when we consider Banks’ (2008) call for inclusive curricula and the richness it offers every one of us. Teachers’ identities and experiences are certainly part of the lived curriculum (Van Manen, 2007) in our schools.
We believe that professional educators must practice culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings, 2014) and anti-racist (Kendi, 2019) pedagogies. Educators must similarly work toward equity across all forms of diversity: race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, geographic origin and intellectual, physical and language abilities. Candidates should both exhibit and foster respect, teach inclusively (carefully considering the overt, hidden and null curricula*) and continue to learn and grow, examining their own biases to further develop cultural competence and positive dispositions related to diversity, equity and social justice in and beyond their school communities. Educators must work to advance equity, not only within the walls of their own classrooms but also practicing collaborative advocacy to work to address the systemic inequities in our schools and other social structures to foster a more just world for children and families.
Our teacher preparation programs will ensure that candidates experience diverse field experiences and clinical practice through increased opportunities for collaboration with school communities in ways that disrupt traditional, artificial academic/practitioner boundaries. This mutually beneficial approach to partnership “involves an equal and more dialectical relationship between academic and practitioner knowledge in support of student teacher learning” (Zeichner, 2009, p. 92). Educator preparation programs will ensure that candidates:
- Experience readings and dialogue that provides the vital opportunities for reflection on teaching diverse learners so that field experiences and clinical practice “expand rather than restrict novices’ notions of what is possible in teaching diverse learners” (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005).
- Have the opportunity to work with experienced educators who are able to model culturally inclusive pedagogies (Rodriguez & Sjostrom as cited in Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005), avoiding the disconnect between theory and practice that mismatched clinical work and course work can bring, dubbed by Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann (as cited in Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005) as the “two-worlds pitfall” (p. 414).
- Work in a wide variety of clinical settings alongside effective, enthusiastic, experienced educators who act upon the dually essential import of research-based pedagogy and reflexive professional practice to continually adapt to serve all learners. In each of these settings, candidates should have opportunities to carry out a variety of teaching tasks to apply knowledge and skills to be build efficacy in their ability to adapt pedagogies for any of the widely varied school environments Oklahoma has to offer.
To meet each of these three considerations for field/clinical experience, Oklahoma State University’s teacher preparation programs endeavor to ensure the opportunity to interact with diverse populations by considering not only school site demographics as we build and maintain partnerships, but also geographic settings. With this in mind, we work to provide each candidate rural, urban and suburban placements, as well as other kinds of experiences depending upon the program’s needs/goals. As a land-grant institution, however, we have a particular investment in preparing candidates to serve in high need settings.
- Urban placements are defined as those placements which are within 30 miles of a large city (250,000 or greater) with 40 percent or more students of color and/or Hispanic/Latinx students and at least 50 percent or more of students qualifying for free/reduced lunch services.
- Rural placements are typically those cities/communities smaller than 25,000 and not immediately adjacent to an urban environment.
- Suburban placements are those cities/communities larger than 25,000 and smaller than 250,000, typically adjacent to an urban environment. Because they are neither rural nor urban, PEU also subsumes micropolitan communities into this category as well. Such communities are not adjacent to an urban center but are too small to be considered urban and too large to be considered rural.
Whether examining the implications of white flight, redlining and the funding gaps that followed in our urban centers to create what Ladson-Billings (2006) calls not an “achievement gap” but rather an “education debt,” or examining the challenges rural communities have faced with nearly one in four children living in poverty as of a 2018 report, it’s important for our candidates to understand these systemic inequities. However, it is not enough to know histories and statistics. Candidates must have experiences in these settings working alongside mentors to enact asset-based pedagogies, collaborating with students and families to build on students’ funds of knowledge (López, 2010).
By building a more diverse community of educators and by ensuring that our comprehensively prepared teachers are ready to serve each student’s learning needs (social and emotional needs included), we can “enlarge the space of the possible” (Leland & Harste, 2000) with children and communities.
*The overt curriculum is the content and values that are expressly taught. The hidden curriculum (Brown, 2005; Horn, 2003; Slattery, 2006; Sleeter, 2005), sometimes called the implicit curriculum, is what we teach through our behavior and our choices: our print and multi-media texts we include, our policies and practices, and more. The null curriculum (Giroux & Purpel, 1983) is that which we altogether omit; this too teaches a great deal.
For related teacher education accreditation policies, see the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (CAEP) Consolidated Handbook for Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs).