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Oklahoma State University

Field Experiences & Clinical Practice: Diversity

OSU Professional Education Unit (PEU) embraces CAEP’s (2013) discussion of diversity:

America’s classrooms are increasingly diverse. Students come to school with differing religious and cultural backgrounds. Increasing numbers of students are classified as having disabilities. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that 48 percent of P-12 public school students are students of color and the U.S. Bureau of the Census reports that 20 percent of the school-age population comes from homes where native languages other than English are spoken.  Given current trends in immigration and birth rates, these numbers will grow. NCES projects that, by 2021, the proportion of students of color will exceed 52 percent of enrollments. From race and ethnicity to poverty, language, disabilities, giftedness, religion, sexual orientation and gender, America is diversity.

The education workforce is far less diverse, with fewer than 20 percent of teachers being teachers of color. Candidates should more closely mirror the diversity of the student body. Candidates must experience education in diverse situations, encounter P-12 students with differing needs and engage students’ families to support learning.

Even geographically bound providers must make use of the diversity available in clinical experiences so that candidates develop generalizable knowledge, skills and dispositions. Moreover, no single candidate preparing for an education position can reflect, from his or her own location and personal experience, all facets of diversity. Regardless of their residence, personal circumstances and preparation experiences, candidates need opportunities to develop professional capabilities that will enable them to adjust and adapt instruction in appropriate ways for the diversity they are likely to encounter in their professional lives.

(Excerpt from “Appendix A: Cross-Cutting Themes in the Commission’s Recommendations”)

The OSU PEU believes that professional educators must be culturally responsive and culturally competent.  Within and across age, gender, race/ethnicity, culture, religion, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, geographic origin and intellectual, physical and language abilities (PEU Conceptual Framework, 2013; CAEP, 2013) 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.

PEU is committed to working toward having highly effective educators who act upon the understanding that all children can learn in every classroom in our state, something PEU faculty and staff view as a basic right for every child.  Finally, as called upon by the standards but more importantly our professional ethics, PEU faculty and staff strive to support each program’s recruitment and retention of a more richly diverse body of professional educators.

PEU’s educator 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 educator 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, as is often the case in our rural and urban partner sites.

Urban placements are defined as those placements which are within 30 miles of a large city (250,000 or greater) that has minority populations of 40% or greater and 50% 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.