Windows into Teaching and Learning: Uncovering the Potential for Meaningful Remote Field Experiences in Distance Teacher Education

Windows into Teaching and Learning: Uncovering the Potential for Meaningful Remote Field Experiences in Distance Teacher Education

Tina L. Heafner, Michelle Plaisance
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1906-7.ch024
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Windows into Teaching and Learning (WiTL), a project conceived and actualized by authors situated in a large urban university in the southeastern region of the United States, captures the nuisance of online learning as a method for transforming school-based clinical experiences in teacher preparation programs. This chapter introduces and describes the theoretical context in which the project was developed in hopes to convey the potential for uncomplicated and intuitive innovations in teacher education to recalibrate current practices to the demands of the 21st Century classroom. An overview of the challenges facing colleges of education in providing meaningful and relevant clinical experiences to pre-service teachers enrolled in online distance education courses is discussed and serves as the impetus of WiTL. In the chapter, the authors explain the methods and technology used by the researchers to demonstrate the project’s practical duplicability in almost any course with clinical requirements. Furthermore, the authors provide a glimpse into the potential impact of WiTL as a means of facilitating meaningful field experiences in distance education and traditional coursework, as well as corollary benefits realized for student participants and mentor teachers.
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In teacher education, field experiences in clinical settings (e.g. observations in PK-12 schools) are considered essential licensure requirements for preparing preservice and lateral entry teachers. These classroom experiences bridge theoretically-based university coursework in content and pedagogy with practical applications of teaching and learning with PK-12 learners. The importance of these authentic experiences is affirmed by the national accrediting body, NCATE (National Council for Accreditation in Teacher Education), who identifies field experiences and clinical practices as one of six Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Teacher Preparation Institutions. In the words of NCATE (2007), field experiences allow teacher candidates to observe and reflect on content, professional, and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions in a variety of settings with diverse students and teachers. Both field experiences and clinical practice extend the institutional goals into PK-12 setting through modeling by practicing teachers, systematic reflective analysis, and well-designed opportunities to learn about methods and content applications (p. 29-30). Thus, the need for university managed clinical experiences poses a unique opportunity for remote distance education teacher licensure programs.

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