Institutional Report for NCATE

III. Evidence

Standard 3: Field Experiences and Clinical Practice

The unit and its school partners design, implement, and evaluate field experiences and clinical practice so that teachers candidates and other school personnel develop and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn.

A Sense of Our Past.  From their arrival in 1857, the Benedictine women and men who founded the monastic communities that would later establish our two colleges took on the ministry of teaching the territory’s newly arriving population of German immigrants.  While the brothers at nearby Saint John’s Abbey advanced their preparatory school, the Sisters of Saint Benedict were called throughout Minnesota to provide instruction in parish schools.  Recognizing the importance of this ministry, these… 

Women religious took seriously their educational role as it affected student learning and the sisters’ own intellectual growth.  From the very beginning of their ministry in Minnesota, sisters endeavored to augment their own education in order to ensure the continued improvement of their teaching in the schools.  As regularly as night follows day, mentoring sessions occurred in the community rooms of convents everywhere in Minnesota.  Between evening recreation and night prayer, the day’s last activity in common, sister-teachers were busy grading students’ papers, preparing or revising lesson plans, or studying material to be used in teaching.  Night after night sisters helped one another to prepare the next day’s lessons and exchanged ideas about the most effective ways of fostering the intellectual development of their students (Raiche and Biermaier, 1994, pp. 36-37).  

When in 1869 Minnesota established licensure of teachers through examination by county school superintendents, Sister Josepha Wictor, OSB, was in 1876 the first of many from the Saint Joseph community who would later be licensed (Raiche and Biermaier, p. 40).  In 1913, when Minnesota required completion of a training program for licensure, the monastery responded to the need for formal instruction in the art and emerging science of teaching by opening a normal school in 1915, two years after they founded the College.  In the years ahead Benedictine sisters from this community would attend colleges and universities in ever greater numbers to sustain their teaching ministry, so many in fact that “by 1968, 457 Sisters of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, had acquired bachelor’s, masters, or doctoral degrees” (p.116).   They made this commitment to strengthen their practice as teachers in Minnesota’s schools.  In doing so, they marked the path we would later follow.

Element 1: Collaboration between Unit and School Partners

During its early years the College of Saint Benedict’s Education Department, the ancestor of today’s jointly sponsored department, maintained a strong, viable yet informal relationship with the neighboring Saint Joseph Laboratory School.  Founded in 1862, this elementary school was for a time a “district” or quasi-public school managed by a lay school board but staffed by religious women.  It became parish school in 1914 with the demise of district schools throughout Minnesota.  The “lab school” served as the primary site providing candidates with field experiences required for licensure.

The unit still enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with its first “partner” in providing candidates with field and clinical experience.  Steady growth in the number of college students seeking licensure and increasing need for field and clinical sites encouraged the formation of more informal relationships with area schools.  While needed sites were secured, the absence of formal agreements limited their role in the preparation of the unit’s candidates.

The unit’s planned development of a strong middle level learner curriculum in response to new licensure requirements increased its need for middle school sites that could provide candidates with meaningful field and clinical experiences.  Collaboration with middle level educators to work out the design of that program further encouraged the development of formal relationships that would be mutually beneficial for both the colleges and participating middle schools.  At the same time other teacher preparation programs sought opportunities for their candidates, increasing the competition for available field and clinical placements.

In response to these changes, the unit invited one of its staff members, Jeanne Cofell, to devise a formal process of partnership patterned on emerging standards for professional development schools offered by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.  Reading widely on the topic to gain a sense of how other small liberal arts colleges might have benefited from such relationships, she also interviewed area educators to learn more about how the unit could share in their mission.  Cofell tempered ideas gleaned from her review of the professional development school movement with her experience negotiating field experience placements with area schools.  The result is an approach to defining and evaluating relationships with K-12 schools that is based in mutually beneficial outcomes reflecting each partner’s respective needs and resources.  The unit’s Partnership Plan will be implemented over a five-year period.

Implementation Phase One is the most comprehensive of three phases.  The unit pursues five goals as it enters this first phase.

Goal 1: Define and describe levels of partnership.  The Education Department has defined a flexible guideline for understanding school/college partnerships. There are three levels: formal, cooperative, and networking. A school-college collaborative effort may change from one level to the next based on the response to either institution’s needs. The formal partnership level describes intentional and mutually beneficial collaborative efforts designed to further the mission of participating institutions. Partner schools are represented on the unit’s Teacher Education Advisory Council.  The cooperative relationship describes more informal, less intensive relationships with schools that seek to work with the Education Department. Networking associations describe the Education Departments’ formal but limited connections with programs in our two colleges or in our community that capitalize on existing resources (Williams, 1997).

Goal 2: Strengthen and build relationships with schools that will insure early, continuous, and increasingly complex and reflective field experiences in community schools by providing pre-teachers with multiple opportunities to teach and to observe children and adolescents in school settings.  Such relationships will thus provide experiences and practice teaching from which to promote critical thinking and reflective decision-making.  The Education Department continues to build on existing relationships and to develop programs that will meet the immediate needs for field experience while looking toward building and maintaining long term, quality field experience programs.  In the experience of Trubowitz and Longo (1997), partnership efforts that pursue Amutually beneficial self-interest form the most enduring basis for a collaborative venture.”  In this on-going effort, the Education Department seeks feedback from its Teacher Education Advisory Council as well as from partner and cooperative schools to insure that all interests are being served.

Goal 3: Increase field experience opportunities in classrooms with diverse populations.  Meaningful multicultural training for pre-teachers must be connected to the real world life setting of the classroom (Powell, Zehm, Garcia, 1996).  The Education Department spent the last year looking at ways to programmatically insure that all candidates will have opportunity to work with diverse student populations.  The unit’s Diversity Plan supports this goal.

Goal 4: Develop a unified field experience program that more effectively integrates courses with potential field sites.  Experience in the field has the power to promote critical analysis and reflection on one=s practice as a teacher (Howey, 1996), but it must be coherently connected to the content and pedagogical knowledge taught in the college classroom. The unit is working with partner schools to connect the content of the course work in a more focused manner to the related field experience.

Goal 5: Collect preliminary data for implementation of Phase II.  Assessment of our partnerships, guided by relevant NCATE professional development school standards, will be used to review partnerships.

Implementation Phase Two of the plan will respond to assessment and feedback of formal partnership schools and cooperative efforts.  It will investigate grant-seeking possibilities to further partnership efforts and enhance K-12 education.  The unit may, for example, find it feasible to form partnerships with schools to jointly sponsor a domestic “study abroad” experience with special populations in urban or rural areas as described in the unit’s diversity plan.  Implementation Phase Three will include continued monitoring of early agreements or understandings with partner institutions to insure that those relationships continue to pursue the needs and programs of our partner schools as they evolve.  The unit’s Partnership Plan offers a detailed analysis of its approach to the formation and management of viable partnerships.

While the unit is only in the first year of this plan, partnership with South Junior High School reveals how such agreements with area schools will likely mediate ways of sharing and integrating resources and expertise to support candidates’ learning through field experiences.  Following the initial contact from that school’s principal seeking a stronger relationship with the unit, the unit’s faculty visited South to learn more about its curriculum.  Grade level team leaders shared their plans and desires for some form of collaboration that might benefit both South and the unit.  On the strength of those early visits, the principal and his team leaders collaborated with the unit’s faculty in design and management of the unit’s middle level learners courses and associated field experiences.  Their work was instrumental in the development of  “Middle Level Literacy and Pedagogy” (Lillestol, EDUC 354) and the series of grades 5-8 pedagogy courses in social studies, language arts, mathematics, and science (Spring, Lillestol, Johnson, and Dickau respectively, EDUC 357).  Once these middle level learners courses and associated field experiences took form, host teachers were invited to share in candidates’ development by observing and assessing their classroom performance.   

The unit, on the other hand, later shared expertise of its faculty in group problem solving and survey research in response to a request from South Junior High’s staff development team for  help with an agenda that would reflect faculty needs for renewal.  Three of the unit’s staff hosted and participated in a daylong retreat that produced such an agenda.  Professor Ed Sass later devised a brief survey for use with South’s faculty.  He then analyzed their responses to suggest areas of greatest need, offering that information in a brief report to guide the school’s staff.

Our historic partnership with the Saint Joseph Laboratory School includes clinical faculty who teach foundation courses (Developing Person, EDUC 200: Huls) and staff sites for prospective candidates to observe and work with children (EDUC 212: Pre-acceptance field experiences: Scipioni).  The unit, through its sponsoring institutions, provides technological support for the Lab School and college students who serve as tutors for its students through the unit’s “study buddy” program.  The unit’s faculty consults on curriculum with the Lab School’s faculty.  Through the efforts of its faculty and candidates’, the unit helps sponsor annual science and art fairs at the Lab School. 

The public elementary school in Saint Joseph is also in partnership with the unit.  Kennedy Elementary offers field experience sites and clinical faculty who mentor candidates working in those sites in exchange for professional development opportunities provided through membership in the Colleges’ Fine Arts / Kennedy Center Program.  The unit encourages its prospective and accepted candidates to serve Kennedy Elementary’s students as tutors in that partner’s “America Reads” and after school “Kids Stop” enrichment programs.

Candidates’ enrolled in some foundation courses (Developing Person, EDUC 200: Lamb) and in the elementary major (Reading, Writing, and Language Growth, EDUC 347: Moore) enjoy opportunities to work with children in selected sites to help them connect theory with classroom practice.  In the coming semester, all prospective candidates will complete a field experience linked to their enrollment in any section of “Introduction To Teaching and Learning” (EDUC 107).

Our cooperating K-12 partners also enrich the unit’s program by providing a range of clinical experiences to enable candidates to complete their sixteen-week student teaching assignments.  As they prepare for those assignments, candidates in the elementary and secondary program participate in seminars offered by faculty from our K-12 companion schools.  In exchange for this contribution from our clinical partners, the unit’s faculty has invested time and talent in developing instruction for some companion schools.  Examples of this level of cooperative exchange include the unit’s “German Day” for Rocori High School, Professor Mullin’s work on a mathematics curriculum and materials for Saint Boniface elementary, and Dr. Evans-Coleman’s district workshop on use of portfolios in performance appraisal for the Anoka-Hennepin district.

The unit profits in other ways from the talents of its clinical faculty.  Experienced K-12 teachers who supervise our clinical candidates’ performance drew upon their experience with our candidates to develop summative performance profiles describing candidates’ teaching.  Our work with prospective teachers is significantly enhanced through the work of Professor Marian Johnson, who draws upon years of teaching mathematics in middle and elementary schools to enrich her work with our candidates.

Placement in clinical sites follows a general pattern that begins with candidates requesting placement in districts where they prefer to complete their clinical experience.  Secondary candidates, who as majors in other departments have not had the opportunities to work with as many of the unit’s faculty, are interviewed by the Director of Secondary Student Teaching to review their request in light of their perceived needs and strengths.  Requests for placement from elementary level candidates, who as majors in the program are known by the unit’s faculty, are informally reviewed as required at the request of the Director of Elementary Student Teaching.

When this review is complete, candidates’ applications are forwarded to school principals or district placement officers.  Principals follow district and school policy in identifying cooperating teachers from their schools’ faculty who meet the unit’s guidelines for clinical faculty and who can meet the needs and strengths revealed in candidates’ applications.  Their nominations for clinical faculty are reviewed and usually approved by the unit’s student teaching directors.  In those few cases where a nominated cooperating teacher might not be an ideal match for a candidate’s needs, further negotiation will result in a new nomination.

Placing candidates seeking elementary level licensure requires at least two sites.  One site will encourage their practice as kindergarten through grade six elementary generalists for an eight-week residency.  The second experience, also eight weeks long, allows candidates to teach their “specialty” with students enrolled in grades five through eight.  Those specialties included in the unit’s program are communication arts and literature, science, mathematics, social studies, or world languages and cultures. 

Placements for candidates preparing for secondary licensure will require an eight-week clinical experience in their major area with students enrolled in grades nine to twelve and a second experience at a different site working in the area of licensure with students in grades five to eight.  Candidates preparing for a K-12 license in music, world language (French, German, or Spanish), and art benefit from placement with students in grades kindergarten though six, five through eight, and nine through twelve.

With needed sites and clinical faculty identified, candidates take their final step by joining the faculty of their host school on the first day of the term and meeting their cooperating teachers.  They follow a process outlined in their respective student teaching handbooks to negotiate their role with their cooperating teacher, thus beginning their clinical experience.  The dimensions of that experience are carefully monitored by the candidate, his or her cooperating teacher, the supervising teacher employed by the unit, and the director of student teaching for either elementary or secondary student teaching.

Element 2: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of Field Experiences and Clinical Practice

All field experiences are designed to involve prospective or accepted candidates for licensure in active observation of classroom settings.  Those experiences included with pedagogy courses add practice in teaching with individual students, small groups, and all who are enrolled.  Those opportunities are structured to encourage application and reflection on content, professional, and pedagogical knowledge.  Candidates are encouraged to reflect on the values inherent in those realms of knowledge as they might appear to influence their own and others behaviors in observed settings.  The pre-acceptance field experience, in particular, helps potential candidates a learn-by-doing as “teacher assistants” who as they learn to serve others further discern the strength of their call to this profession.

Prospective candidates enrolled in “The Developing Person” (EDUC 200: Lamb) work with a student to complete a series of Piagetian tasks, then reflect on their developmental and instructional implications.  Elementary candidates in “Literature for Children and Adolescents” (EDUC 215: Lamb) write their responses to a set of reflection questions following each “read aloud” session with school children.  These questions focus on assumptions candidates made about the child, how those assumptions might have changed after their reading session, and ways in which their perceptions of themselves as teachers might have changed.

Candidates enrolled in “Reading, Writing, and Language Growth” (EDUC 347: Moore) accept field placements at the more diverse sites in our area.  They complete a formal paper demonstrating their knowledge, implementation, and evaluation of the students they taught and their learning.  In similar fashion, candidates who complete field experiences for “Middle Level Literacy and Pedagogy (EDUC 354: Lillestol) apply and reflect on their content, professional, and pedagogical knowledge (see observation forms with syllabus).  The field experiences for “Middle Level Learners” (EDUC 357: language arts, science, social studies, math; EDUC 342: music; EDUC 340: art) provides more extensive opportunities to apply and reflect on their content knowledge as they attempt to teach what they know and value to middle level learners. 

Unit and clinical site faculty are encouraged to model teaching practices that reflect the needs of all learners.  The conceptual framework guides the design and assessment of these field experiences by unit faculty, but clinical faculty often reveal less knowledge of its role or value. Within the limits of conflicting schedules, candidates are expected to participate as fully as possible in the life of the school in which their field experiences occur.

Candidates pursuing clinical experiences find themselves in highly structured residencies with very clear expectations and significant sanctions to help them more fully enjoy the transition from their student to their professional lives.  Most make that transition with reasonable grace.  Elementary level candidates begin their clinical work with structured observations of their clinical setting which will support their critical, written reflection on each of eighteen dimensions over the course of their student teaching that encourage integration of pedagogical, professional, and content knowledge, skills, and values.  Candidates select five detailed lesson plans to place in their portfolios for each of their two clinical settings annotated with guided self-reflection on 13 key questions.  They also complete an analysis of two videotaped teaching episodes.  All assess, record and analyze their students’ learning for their portfolios.

Candidates’ clinical experiences are rotated to provide opportunities to teach both as generalists with elementary students (K-6) and specialists teaching middle level learners (grades 5 through 8) in one subject.  As they gain skill and confidence, elementary candidates will move toward teaching full time for three weeks.  They will spend the second eight weeks of their clinical experience in a middle school setting working within their specialty.  Weekly reviews with their cooperating teachers are aligned with unit and state standards.  A summative performance profile completed by candidates’ supervising teacher is based on these weekly performance reviews and on their portfolio components. 

Secondary and K-12 candidates follow a similar pattern.  Following guidelines included in their student teaching handbooks, both candidates and their cooperating teachers plan the clinical experience to integrate the candidate into the classroom and school.  Lesson plans are required for each teaching day.  Those plans must be submitted for review by a supervising teacher one week prior to their date of intended use. As candidates become more fully integrated into the school and teaching team, the supervising teacher will continue to review lesson plans, but may do so with less intensity.  This practice encourages candidates’ sense of professional autonomy.

Analysis of these plans reveals deficits or growth in content, professional, and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and values.  Three of the eight who completed student teaching in December of 2000 created units and lessons suggesting “distinguished” content knowledge.  One of these candidates’ prepared a unit on China that included a trip to the Minnesota History Center to research ways in which that country and our state are linked.  Another developed an analysis of the civil rights movement, joining students’ discovery of historical events with community members personal experiences of those who lived in that era.  A third used CNN broadcasts and new treatments of economic theory to examine the Russian economy with “at risk” students.

Professional knowledge is acquired and refined during a typical secondary clinical experience.  Where teaching teams are used, candidates become team members.  They typically serve their host schools in a variety of ways outside the boundaries of their classrooms, volunteering as would licensed teachers to monitor sports events, dances, and other extracurricular activities.

The unit’s cherished conceptual model appears to attract little interest among cooperating teachers.  Recent revision of the model may have contributed to this condition.  We foresee the day when it will become a stronger focus in performance reviews shared by the candidate, her or his cooperating teacher, and the supervising teacher.  Linking performance profiles for both elementary and secondary candidates to state and program standards, integrated with our renewed vision of “Teacher as Decision-Maker,” may encourage wider appreciation and use of this powerful expression of effective teaching.

Observation of candidates’ performance and analysis of those observations occurs as often as every day by the cooperating teacher.  Candidates and their clinical faculty meet weekly to review those observations and plan improved performance.  The unit’s supervising teachers observe and reflect on each candidate’s performance at least three times during each “rotation” through an eight-week experience.  Candidates may observe other student teachers when two or more are completing clinical experiences at the same site.

Element 3: Candidates’ Development and Demonstration of Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions to Help All Students Learn         

Candidates’ preparation for student teaching includes verification of having met all unit requirements prior to requesting clinical placement.  Content, foundation, and methodology experiences and their related field experiences provide candidates with opportunities to know, apply, and to be assessed on the knowledge, skills, and values required of them by the unit, state, and professional standards.  Candidates’ failure to maintain minimum expected grade point averages in their majors (2.5) and in their education courses (2.5), failure to complete required remedial work, or failure to perform as expected during field experiences associated with methods courses would encourage denial of their request.  An unresolved faculty concern could also encourage delay or denial of candidates’ acceptance for student teaching.  Informal consultations between Directors of Student Teaching and unit faculty can reveal additional concerns about a candidate’s performance that may hinder acceptance until resolved.

Those standards defining necessary knowledge, skills, and values shape the formative evaluations offered by cooperating and supervising teachers during clinical experiences.  The summative performance profiles that supervising teachers use to organize their summative review of each candidate are aligned with the same standards.  The Unit Assessment System (2001) offers detailed information on the use of these descriptive instruments.  Pilot test results and design information for these performance profiles are described in Assessing Candidate Performance (2001). 

Candidates in elementary clinical settings can expect to be assessed in multiple ways focused on multiple dimensions of their performance aligned with relevant state and institutional standards.  An examination of the units’ Elementary Student Teaching Handbook (2000) will reveal opportunities to offer formative assessment on teaching performance, lesson plans, unit plans, videotaped lessons, and observations by cooperating and supervising teachers.

The supervising teacher’s summative assessment, based on portfolio contents, is drawn from analysis of structured classroom observations, a required family unit, candidates’ use of technology, candidates’ reflections on their use of the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers, five lesson plans with documentation from each of two eight week rotations, bulletin boards, and cooperating teacher’s standards-based assessments of weekly performance.  All assessments are linked to the unit’s conceptual model and aligned with state and unit standards describing the knowledge, skills, and values that novice teachers should reveal through their performance.  Most reflect explicit, performance-based, behaviorally anchored scoring guides.  Judgments are recorded in a standards-based performance profile.

Secondary and K-12 level candidates are also assessed in multiple ways and on multiple performance dimensions during formative review.  A review of their Resident Teacher’s Handbook (2000) suggests that candidates’ performance will be observed by their cooperating teachers on three occasions during each clinical rotation using a formal, rubric-based protocol.  Cooperating teachers may informally observe and review their candidates as often as would prove helpful.  Secondary candidates will also be observed six or more times by the unit’s supervising teacher during each rotation (2 or 3 rotations are required depending on licensure area).  Candidates must complete reflective analyses of their teaching after each observation by their supervising teacher.  Assessment of candidates’ performance also includes analysis of daily lesson plans by their supervising teachers.

Candidates’ school personnel interviews, reflective practice journals, and two self-critiqued videotaped lessons contribute the final elements in a process designed to provide comprehensive review of candidates’ practice. Overall performance for secondary candidates is based on the cooperating teacher’s final survey of the secondary candidate’s overall performance, a standards-based performance profile, supervisor’s review of two videotapes, and a formal interview with the unit’s three member Secondary Program Exit Committee.

Review of the handbooks guiding the development of both the elementary and the secondary clinical experiences affirms that formative performance review is intended to result from candidates’ collaboration with their cooperating teachers.  The secondary handbook for cooperating teachers makes this expectation clear with a statement of expectations and supporting guidance for clinical faculty to consider.  The design of the weekly evaluation form, to be completed by the cooperating teacher and reviewed by the candidate, increases the probability of collaborative performance reviews.  Candidates are encouraged to view each other’s classroom performance when more than one student teacher is assigned to the same site.  The following vignette suggests one way in which candidates’ experience collaborative consultation sustaining professional growth.

I observed a second grade writing lesson that seemed well planned and presented.  The lesson was introduced in a constructivist way; the candidate modeled a webbing exercise to show how ideas for a story might be identified and then related when writing.  The teacher then asked students to write in response to the prompt, “If I had $100.00, I would…”

As I listened to children’s questions after the assignment was given, I suspected that they might not understand what they were to do.  Moving from the “web” to the written story seemed to be too big a jump for even the more advanced students.  One of those advanced kids wrote very little, which was unusual for him as I recalled from my prior observations in this class.

After the lesson ended I talked about it with the student teacher.  I let her tell me what she thought about it.  She was surprised that it did not produce the writing samples she expected.  I asked if she recalled the response of the more advanced child who did little.  She had noticed.  I asked what she might do with this lesson to improve students’ performance.  She thought that she might have done more with the notion of the “web.”  I agreed, suggesting that next time she work on a topic with the class, using the web and then drawing ideas from it to form the story.  She also thought that moving from telling how to write a story to writing it might be too big a step for some children.  I agreed.  She wanted to try the lesson again, working with the class to model the whole process by writing a story with the class before asking children to write alone.

Melisa Dick, Director of Elementary Student Teaching (interview)

Placements for both elementary and secondary candidates consider the opportunities to work with students from diverse backgrounds and exceptionalities.  Given the limited number of such diverse sites, directors of student teaching consider candidates’ needs and strengths as they make  placements.  When available information suggests that such a placement is especially important for a particular candidate,  placements will reflect that need.  Performance profiles do include dimensions related to teaching diverse learners that are used to describe all candidates’ performance on this dimension without regard to the setting in which they complete their residency.  


Assessing candidate performance. (2001). Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Education Department.

Howey, K. (1996). Designing coherent and effective teacher education programs. In J. Sikula, T.J. Buttery, & E. Guyton (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education (2nd ed.), (pp. 143-170). New York: Macmillan.

Education department partnership plan. (2000). Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

Powell, R., Zehm, S., & Garcia, J. (1996). Field experience: Strategies for exploring diversity in schools. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Raiche, A and Biermaier, A. (1994).  They came to teach.  Saint Cloud, MN.: NorthStar Press.

Trubowitz, S. & Longo, P. (1997). How it works: Inside a school-college collaboration. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Williams, B. (1997, Summer). Challenges and opportunities for collaboration in teacher education programs. Action in Teacher Education. 89-96.