Pre-Practicum & Practicum Research Paper Starter

Pre-Practicum & Practicum

(Research Starters)

This article presents an overview of pre-practicums and practicums related to preservice teacher preparation. Key points include the role they play in initial teacher education, how they are designed, and the goals they are intended to accomplish. The article also discusses the key design component of both pre-practicums and practicums and the authentic contexts they provide. It stresses that one of the primary purpose is to afford teacher candidates supervised and structured opportunities to work in learning environments, schools, and child care centers relevant to the teaching certifications they are seeking

Keywords Certification; Clinical Experiences; Collaboration; Cooperating Teacher; Dispositions; Field Experiences; Initial Teacher Preparation; Internship; Interstate New Teachers' Assessment & Support Consortium (INTASC); Licensure; Mentoring; Practicum; Pre-Practicum; Pre-Service Teacher; Reflection; Student Teaching; University Supervisor

Teacher Education: Pre-Practicum


The Purpose

As the root word common to the terms pre-practicum and practicum suggests, their purpose is to be practical. In the context of P-12 preservice teacher preparation programs, pre-practicums and practicums are typically designed to provide teacher candidates with opportunities to apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that they acquire throughout their preparation programs. In 2001, Munby, Russell, and Martin concluded that research results overwhelmingly indicate that teaching knowledge is acquired and developed by actually teaching.

Smith and Lev-Ari (2005) emphasize that knowledge of teaching and knowledge about teaching are two different things. They point out that knowledge about teaching can be learned through didactic courses that focus on theory, but knowledge of teaching only can be learned by actively engaging in teaching.

In addition to serving as a bridge between theory and practice, the practicum serves as the context in which teacher candidates develop their personal teaching competence. "The more tacit components of knowledge of teaching, such as handling spontaneous problems, decision making, developing a professional vision, classroom management, are best acquired during the practicum when student teachers are engaged in active learning, learning by doing" (Smith & Lev-Ari, 2005, p. 298).

Alternately called novice teaching, field experiences, and teacher assisting, teacher candidates participate in pre-practicums at various points throughout their programs of study. Often these experiences are designed to be completed in conjunction with specific courses, such as concurrent enrollment in a teaching of reading course and a literacy-focused field experience. Less frequently, they function as stand-alone courses that feature observation and/or practice opportunities in school settings.

Practicum' typically takes place at the conclusion of a program of study. Known alternately as student teaching, internships, or practice teaching, they generally are structured to provide extensive and intensive opportunities for teacher candidates to apply their knowledge and skills and to demonstrate that they have met the appropriate program outcomes and professional standards. A key design component of both pre-practicums and practicums is the authentic contexts they provide. A primary purpose is to afford teacher candidates supervised and structured opportunities to work in learning environments, schools, and child care centers relevant to the teaching certifications they are seeking.

Some alternative initial teacher preparation programs do not require much by way of preservice clinical experiences. These programs are based upon recommendations reported by the U.S. Department of Education, which suggest that, when teacher candidates possess high degrees of verbal ability and a depth of content knowledge, education degrees and knowledge about how to teach do not have significant impacts on student achievement (Jensen & Kiley, 2005). However, Darling-Hammond (2003) suggests that teachers with inadequate initial preparation are more likely to leave the profession, as are teachers prepared through alternate preparation routes (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003; Fowler, 2002; Raymond, Fletcher, & Luque, 2001).

A 2005 study conducted by Oh, Ankers, Llamas, and Tomyoy supports the crucial role that pedagogy has to play in initial teacher preparation. Results of their study reveal that new teachers who completed a student teaching experience reported significantly higher levels of job satisfaction than those who did not.

Applications - Key Design Variables


Although each state has its own teacher certification or licensure requirements, many states' beginning teacher standards are based on those developed by the Interstate New Teachers' Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC, 1992). Consequently, the INTASC Standards serve as the overarching goals of many initial teacher preparation programs and are reflected in the learner outcomes for the clinical experiences embedded in those programs. The main elements of the INTASC Standards are profiled here, accompanied by examples of ways in which interns and prepracticum participants may demonstrate their competency with regard to each standard.

Standard #1: Knowledge of Subject Matter

The teacher understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structure of the discipline(s) he or she teaches and can create learning experiences that make these aspects of the subject matter meaningful for students.

An important outcome of initial teacher preparation programs is that teacher candidates are well-versed in the subject matter they intend to teach. Because different types of knowledge are learned in different ways, it is also critical for beginning teachers to know, understand, and apply instructional strategies that are appropriate for different learning outcomes. For example, although teacher-centered presentations may be appropriate for providing learners with content knowledge specific to the Amazon Rain Forest, presentations in and of themselves typically are not the most efficient and effective means of helping learners acquire procedural knowledge, such as how to perform long division.

Sample Activities

• Develop instructional plans and units of study that focus on content and skills appropriate to the learners for whom they are designed.

• Demonstrate the ability to help learners make meaningful connections between what they know and the content and skills they are expected to learn.

Standard #2: Knowledge of Human Development

The teacher understands how children learn and develop and can provide learning opportunities that support their intellectual, social, and personal development.

As implied in the preceding section, teachers must know how to teach, as well as what to teach. Understanding the developmental needs of learners of different ages is a key component of planning and providing appropriate instruction. Beginning teachers must plan in ways that acknowledge that very young learners do not typically have the same fine motor skills, social experiences, or knowledge base as middle school learners or high school learners.

Sample Activities

• Design and implement instructional activities that are developmentally appropriate for learners.

• Apply knowledge of learning theories to plan and implement instruction that is responsive to the learners' developmental levels.

• Plan and implement instruction that acknowledges that learning is social and that language has an important role to play in learning.

Standard #3: Adapting Instruction for Individual Needs

The teacher understands how students differ in their approaches to learning and creates instructional opportunities that are adapted to diverse learners.

Understanding the developmental needs of learners of different abilities is another key component of planning and providing appropriate instruction. No two ten-year-olds possess exactly the same life experiences, strengths, and skill levels. Consequently, no two ten-year-olds possess exactly the same needs with regard to instructional strategies or the same preferences with regard to learning styles.

Sample Activities

• Create a learning community where learners and their contributions are valued and individual differences are respected.

• Develop & implement learning activities that are designed to operate at multiple levels in order to meet a variety of developmental & individual needs.

Standard #4: Multiple Instructional Strategies

The teacher understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies to encourage students' development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills.

Because different types of knowledge are learned via different approaches and because different types of learners respond best to different learning styles and methods, teachers must acquire, possess, and apply a repertoire of instructional strategies. In addition, most students require multiple opportunities to learn a particular concept or skill. Consequently, if teachers develop the habit of over reliance on one or two instructional tools or strategies, they quickly run out of options when learners don't "get it" the first time or when a specific strategy does not resonate with a particular learner.

Sample Activities

• Provide multiple ways for learners to learn and multiple ways for them to show what they know and can do.

• Create and implement interdisciplinary learning experiences that offer opportunities for learners to integrate knowledge and skills across content areas and to use methods of inquiry from different subject areas.

Standard #5: Classroom Motivation and Management Skills

The teacher uses an understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interactions, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation.

There is much more to creating a positive and productive learning environment than most people realize. Effective teachers understand the variables of organizational culture and acknowledge the responsibilities they have to serve as instructional leaders who set learners up for success. An...

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