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Teacher education in the 21st century is encountering increased scrutiny, added pressure, and escalating external regulations but does not have practical and immediate solutions for improving programs. While reforms in teacher education call for additional and improved clinical practice for candidates, through strengthened partnerships with local schools, the relationship between higher education and P-12 institutions often remains complicated and weak. Further, the current economic climate, coupled with increased pressures on local school administrators, continue to make secured placements for clinical practice extremely difficult to find and works against the intent to meet state and national requirements for teacher education programs to improve relationships with neighboring schools. With accrediting organizations and regulations that direct teacher education programs to expand relationships with the schools in which candidates are placed, teacher educators find themselves caught between the long-term work of developing formalized university-school partnerships and the immediate objective of improving the clinical practice experience for candidates.

Personnel in placement offices endeavor to secure assignments for clinical practice and, due to a shortage of placements, candidates often accept any placement offered. While all teacher educators would prefer excellent cooperating teachers, and many are exemplary, candidates may end up under the tutelage of in-service teachers who do not model strong teaching methods. While teacher educators are acutely aware of this, just as they are aware that not all candidates have optimal preparation to begin clinical practice, a shortage of placements means that not all candidates will learn under the best conditions. An excellent clinical experience depends on several factors beyond the cooperating teacher’s professional skills, including the dispositions of the cooperating teacher and the attitude and preparation of the candidate as well as compatibility of personalities. Ensuring quality learning of teacher candidates within the clinical practice becomes a challenge for professors, university supervisors, and cooperating teachers if one of the many factors falls short in expectations. Additionally, in cases where strong relationships do not develop between the candidate and cooperating teacher due to factors such as personality incompatibility, the absence of meaningful teamwork deprives the candidate of an opportunity to develop a critical 21st century skill: collaboration.

In response to the difficulty of finding clinical practice placements, and in an attempt to improve the clinical practice experience for candidates, the researcher paired teacher candidates during their first clinical placement. The goal was to analyze how a collaborative approach affected learning and the candidates’ perceptions of the support that they received during the practicum experience. The candidates, all adult students in an MAT program, received clinical assignments through the placement office, based on authorization level, and were placed with any cooperative teacher in the field who agreed to take two student teachers at one time for a part-time placement. The primary purpose of the study was to develop an alternative model of clinical practice that would result in increased candidate learning and support. Pairing teacher candidates (dyad) in one placement allowed them to learn from each other and to receive support through feedback and encouragement.


Originally published in Issues in Teacher Education, 21(13), 124-163. Caddo Gap Press holds the copyright to this material and while it is available for reading here, the article is not to be copied, distributed, or sold without specific permission of Caddo Gap Press.

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