II. Provide and Maintain Clinical Experiences in Classrooms with Diverse Populations

Prepared by Lynn Schnettler 

          During clinical experience, candidates observe in classrooms, assist teachers with instructional preparation, help with record-keeping, keep developmental journals, read to and with students, do remedial work with individual students or small groups of students, give tests and quizzes, arrange bulletin boards, etc. Some candidates who show a readiness to do so may also provide small group and whole class instruction in consultation with the host teacher.

          In the first few years of the EEBlock, the exposure that elementary candidates had with diverse students at the local level (30 hours) was constrained by the largely white (94%) population of Central Minnesota. (The urban immersion has been consistently highly diverse).The local school demographics have changed drastically over the last 5 years. Thus, for candidates in the EEBlock it has been possible in recent years to ensure that they have exposure to diverse urban student populations and diverse local populations that more adequately prepare them for current classroom teaching or for classrooms of the future.

          Secondary education candidates, pursuing full majors in their content areas, have fewer clinical experiences than elementary education candidates do because they have fewer methods courses. Secondary Education students take EDUC 213 Clinical Experience 5-8/K-12 Diversity Immersion, a one-week clinical classroom experience that allows them to observe in classrooms, assist teachers with instructional preparation, help with record-keeping, keep developmental journals, read to and with students, do remedial work with individual students or small groups of students, give tests and quizzes, arrange bulletin boards, etc.

          As mentioned earlier, EDUC 213 was approved by the institution to meet the Intercultural Designation.  This institutional designation is "designed to help all students develop a greater understanding of diversity while recognizing that individual values are shaped by one's unique background" (Common Curriculum, 2011).  Secondary students also study the Hmong culture.

          The following table describes the range of diversity among students enrolled in partner schools hosting our elementary Block candidates during the 2009-1010 school year:

Table 2: Diversity in sample partner schools, 2009-2010

Local Schools Free and Reduced Lunch American Indian Hispanic Black Asian White
Talahi 78% 2% 8% 44% 4% 42%
Lincoln 72 0 7 19 3 71
Madison 61 0 3 25 5 66
Kennedy 34 0 2 3 1 93
South Jr. High St. Cloud 37% 0 3 15 3 79
Metro Schools
EXPO 40% 1% 10% 21% 14% 55%
Risen Christ 62 0 60 30 0 0
San Miguel 95 - 98 - - -
Park Center Brooklyn Heights 56 1 6 33 30 30
Cooper H.S., New Hope 50 2 9 35 11 44
Roosevelt H.S., Mpls. 86 3 36 45 8 9
Richfield High School 54 1 22 26 8 42
De La Salle High School 53% receive need-based financial aid 35% students of color (not categorized) - - - 65
Brooklyn Park Junior High 56 1 8 35 27 29

    

          Our candidates also enjoy additional experiences working with diverse learners in a variety of educational settings. Institutional partnerships providing these opportunities are listed at http://www.csbsju.edu/IDC/Useful-Links.htm.  Several of our prospective teachers apply to work at the Saint Paul summer school program, "Breakthrough Collaborative."  This urban program "launches motivated middle-school students on the path to college and prepares older students for careers in education" (Breakthrough Collaborative, n.d.).

           Methods course practica and student teaching also provide opportunities for experiences with diverse populations. All practica and field experiences require candidates to seek out opportunities to identify and design appropriate instruction for diverse learners. Candidates must know how and where to access services and resources to meet needs and use information about students' experience (culture, family, community) as a basis for connecting instruction to learners. Candidates are also expected to recognize and deal with discrimination, prejudices and instructional or personal racism and sexism.

          Furthermore, many of our candidates complete one or more study abroad experiences during their preparation for licensure.  Sixty-five percent of our elementary majors and 48 percent of our K-12/5-12 education minors reported participating in a study abroad program during the 2006-2007 academic year for a 16-week semester, a 4-week May Term, or both. Our study abroad programs include study and service opportunities in local schools in selected countries within South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia.

          Since 2000 we have met several goals set for previous diversity plans for our licensure programs. We developed a systematic plan whereby the department program courses ensure exposure to varied clinical experiences and diverse student populations. This objective is accomplished through the "EEBlock," the urban immersion experiences and other clinical experiences, including experiences with the rapidly-changing student population of Central Minnesota, where candidates enjoy opportunities to work with racially and culturally diverse students as well as children from low-income families and those having exceptional needs.

          While elementary candidates have several clinical experiences associated with methods courses that place them in diverse settings, we strive to provide all candidates with opportunities to observe, tutor, and teach a broad range of students. Although secondary education candidates pursuing licensure for grades 5-9 and those seeking K-12 licenses in music, art, and foreign languages have fewer clinical experiences than their K-6 peers to accommodate their content majors, we expanded their opportunities for clinical experiences with diverse populations by integrating them with education program requirements.

          We implemented a streamlined process for documenting clinical experiences using a revised online Education Department "Diversity Transcript."  Candidates use their transcripts to record experiences with diverse learners or opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills relevant for meeting the needs of such learners. Entries typically include descriptions of their service learning work, clinical experiences, or alternative service projects during vacations.

          While we are finding ways to help our candidates gather meaningful experiences with diverse learners in a variety of educational settings as they perform in a variety of instructional roles during their four years of preparation for licensure, we continue to pursue improvements in the range and frequency of diverse clinical experiences they encounter.   

Goal 1: We have developed pilot sites in Germany and Belize which for our International Teaching Externship (ITE).  These externships offer candidates who have completed preparation for licensure to enrich their teaching experience by teaching in overseas schools for five weeks.  During this post-student teaching intercultural experience our teacher candidates work with host country educators as volunteer teacher aides, teaching assistants, team-teachers, or research assistants in K-12 classrooms.  These five week externships begin soon after the successful completion of student teaching in early May.  Since this is not a student teaching experience, externship students experience a more natural, relaxed educational environment while engaging in a new culture and educational system.  Please see Attachment D for additional information on the ITE program as approved by the colleges' joint Curriculum Committee.

Goal 2: In the years ahead we hope to expand opportunities for our candidates with existing campus programs and sites through collaboration with the Service Learning Office and those faculty and staff who organize varied Alternative Break Programs.  These experiences are hosted by a variety of organizations serving diverse populations of school-age youth, including Boys and Girls Clubs, Minnesota Reading Corps, Saturday Success School, the LaCruz Community, Somali After-School Tutoring (SASSO), Casa Guadalupe in Cold Spring, Minnesota, and our College Bound program. 

Goal 3: Identify additional urban schools with diverse populations that could host our urban immersion programs for elementary candidates during their "Block" experience.  We also hope to expand the number of schools available for our candidates' 30-hour diversity experience.