Student Learning for Teacher Candidates
Through a deliberate and developmental process, candidates are expected to demonstrate their ability to systematically assess and analyze student learning, modify their instructional practice based on the analysis, and create learning experiences that meet the needs of all learners. For example, in the elementary education program, key assessments in each of the four blocks focus on assessment of student learning. Lesson plans required in blocks one and two must include assessments of student learning. While candidates do not actually teach these lessons (too early in the program), they are asked to reflect on how the assessments match learning objectives and how the assessments would guide their teaching. In block three, which involves eight weeks of student teaching, candidates are required to create a math unit that includes developing and using assessments to guide their teaching and also requires a discussion of how assessments help determine student learning and guide instructional practice. In block four, where candidates complete their final eight weeks of student teaching, candidates complete a reading assessment assignment that includes the administration and reporting results of an appropriate reading assessment tool. These different opportunities provide candidates valuable practice using student assessment data to drive their teaching decisions. Finally, the summative evaluation completed at the end of student teaching by the cooperating teacher and the university supervisor, includes a rating of impact on student learning as observed in the classroom.
Teacher candidates who are completing their K-12 or secondary education program demonstrate their impact on student learning through a required unit of study they teach during the student teaching experience. One component of the unit is focused on assessment. The teacher candidates create pre-and post assessment tools that assist them in developing the teaching/learning process and document the results of their instructional choices respectively. A rubric is used to evaluateall components of the unit with the assessment component requiring reporting, analyzing, evaluating and reflecting on the results of the pre/post assessments.
The Early Childhood Program uses Teacher Work Sample (TWS) to help candidates make connections between assessment of student learning and effective teaching. Candidates are asked to summarize, interpret, and reflect through the TWS process to make meaning of their teaching as well as the student learning process. During their final year of methods courses and clinical experiences, candidates prepare informed site descriptions, unit rationales and purposeful lesson and assessment plans. During their teaching experience, candidates conduct an extensive analysis of assessment as evidenced by student learning and work to modify their pedagogy based on data collected. The complete Teacher Work Sample process is evaluated by the university supervisor using an analytic-trait scoring guide.
The Special Education Program uses Generalized Outcome Measurement (GOM), also known as Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM), a system of monitoring student academic progress through direct measurement of academic skills. GOM can be used to measure reading, math, spelling, and writing; it can also be used to monitor readiness skills in these areas. When using GOM, teacher candidates give students brief, timed samples, or “probes.” The students’ performance on a GOM probe is scored for fluency and for accuracy. Because GOM probes are quick to administer and easy to score, they can be given repeatedly (for example, two or three times each week). The results are then graphed to give the teacher candidate, student, and parent a visual record of each student’s rate of academic progress. Results are also used to make instructional decisions and guide lesson development. Special Education candidates are required to monitor their students’ progress using GOM techniques during their clinical experience.
Trend data from key assessments of impact on student learning indicate that candidate performance is consistently strong based on feedback from cooperating teachers, employer surveys, performance-based assessments, and self-report instruments.
In October 2003, St. Cloud State University was awarded a Teacher Quality Enhancement (TQE) Partnership grant from the U.S. Department of Education. A primary focus of the TQE initiative was to develop a new approach to the preparation of future educators by implementing co-teaching strategies in student teaching. As a result, extensive data have been collected over the past four years related to the impact of teacher candidates on student learning, especially addressing reading, math, student attendance, and discipline. The data are exceptional and provide direct evidence of the impact of our teacher candidates on student learning. As a result of the research related to co-teaching and the impact on student learning, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) awarded St. Cloud State University the 2008 Best Practice Award for Research on Teacher Education Quality and Accountability. In November 2007, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) awarded SCSU the Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education.
Impact on student learning is important for candidates at the advanced level. For example, in the Curriculum and Instruction Program, key assessments in two core courses provide evidence of candidates’ ability to consider student learning and the educational environment in their teaching strategies. In ED 647 - Curriculum Development and Assessment, candidates are required to develop an interdisciplinary unit focusing on a service-learning project. Within their planning, candidates must include multiple assessment strategies throughout the unit of study that include pre-and post assessment tools and a discussion of how the assessments are used to determine student learning. In ED 654 - Instruction and Assessment, advanced candidates are required to develop three lesson plans, each involving a different teaching and assessment strategy. They are required to teach from one of the plans that involves a “new” strategy and then expected to reflect on the teaching strategy and the assessment as to the impact on student learning. In addition, one of the class projects involves the creation of an assessment tool that can be used while observing teaching. Such tools always include a focus/category related to student learning. Candidates are required to use the tool as they observe a colleague in their school and ask a colleague to observe them using the tool. A discussion of the tool and an individual reflection paper follow these observations. The final projects required for completion of the master’s degree (a thesis, starred paper or portfolio) always include evidence of the candidates’ understanding of their impact on the educational environment. In most cases, the projects include action research conducted by candidates in their classroom/school.
Advanced candidates in the Early Childhood Special Education Program (ECSE) are required to complete a notebook project of practical assignments aligned with the program competencies for ECSE teaching proficiency. Since ECSE teaching proficiency is intended to impact directly young children's learning, many of these practical assignments are directly focused on specific children's learning. Thus, while student teaching, teacher candidates are required to conduct individual child assessments, participate in developing Individual Educational Programs, use children's instructional objectives for developing and implementing lesson plans with child-specific curricular adaptations, and keep ongoing progress monitoring data that demonstrate children's daily learning progress. Ongoing assessment data are reviewed periodically for making necessary instructional changes under the guidance of the teacher candidate's cooperating teacher.
Special education teacher candidates at the advanced level document their impact on student learning in two major ways: portfolio artifacts and cooperating teacher evaluation. In their portfolios, teacher candidates assess student levels of performance and monitor student progress by providing a minimum of seven portfolio artifacts: behavior intervention plan, individualized education plan, assistive technology support plan, evaluation report of formal assessments, generalized outcome measurement report, individualized transition plan, and teacher work samples/curriculum projects specific to each licensure area. In addition to formative evaluations, cooperating teachers complete three comprehensive teacher candidate evaluations, two of which specifically address the candidate’s impact on student learning.
Finally, a review of program data from a variety of measures provide evidence that candidates at the advanced level are able to have a positive impact on student learning.
Summary: Candidates are active in using assessments in instruction to develop authentic and meaningful learning experiences for students based on current levels of ability to enhance learning. Data at both the initial and advanced levels indicate strong performance over time.