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Coaching for excellence

An Illinois State teacher candidate collaborates with a Thomas Metcalf teacher on a science lesson.

An Illinois State teacher candidate collaborates with a Thomas Metcalf teacher on a science lesson.

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” – John Dewey, Education and Democracy

Illinois State is dedicated to serving as a national leader in the preparation of outstanding educators who are adaptive to the needs of the profession.

True to Dewey’s words, this work is continuous, and each new development in the field presents a new opportunity for introspection and growth.

The state of Illinois’ adoption of new requirements for measuring teacher performance, as well as the phase-in of edTPA—a new pre-service teacher assessment—have impacted the expectations of candidates and practicing teachers alike.

Teacher evaluation has become more rigorous, and candidates must demonstrate a high level of pedagogical competence prior to their entry into the profession.

Illinois State is responsive to these changes. During student teaching, candidates in the School of Teaching and Learning (TCH) are now coached on their practices through the Danielson Framework for Teaching, which serves as the teacher evaluation model for many districts across the state and nation.

The school’s implementation efforts were led by Jill Donnel, director of the student teaching program, and Nancy Latham, associate professor and coordinator of the early childhood education program.

They said the school chose the framework because it possesses a strong research base and supports teachers in their growth and development. And like the edTPA, it reflects the University’s mission of ensuring high expectations for educators so they may serve as assets to schools, communities, and most importantly, their students.

“We value student centered engagement,” Donnel said, “and Danielson is a performance based framework that aligns with our work. That is why we decided to use it.”

When comparing the framework and edTPA, it is important to identify the latter as an assessment tool, and the former as a holistic approach for all aspects of a teacher’s responsibilities. However, both encourage educators to be reflective in their practices and to put student learning first.

“As the semester goes on, candidates become less absorbed in aspects of their personal performance and begin to understand how to plan for student centered learning and differentiated instruction,” Donnel said.

The framework possesses long-term benefits for candidates. It is designed to improve teaching through coaching and mentoring, regardless of whether an educator is just starting out or is a veteran of the profession.  For Donnel and Latham, one of their goals is to familiarize candidates with the model during clinical experiences so they are in a position to succeed when they face evaluation as professional educators.

“We are transitioning the student teaching experience to be more centered on coaching and mentoring, and this has a positive impact on the school as well as the candidate,” Latham said. “The experience is helping to lessen the divide between their identity as a student and their identity as a teacher for when they enter the profession.”

The impact is already being felt in school classrooms. Supervisors and cooperating teachers believe that candidates are talking about their teaching at a deeper level. Likewise, alumni are grateful for their experience with edTPA as they go through the hiring process and begin to set up their own classroom.

“Our new alumni have told us that they drew directly from their work on the assessment to thoughtfully discuss student learning at the district level with hiring administrators,” said Donnel.

That many districts in the state are also using the framework has resulted in mutual benefits. The framework enables candidates, cooperating teachers, and university personnel to use common language and strategies to discuss performance. The result is clear communication of goals and purpose.

“We are all speaking the same best practices,” Latham said, “and it is bringing us together in partnership like never before.”

Successful introduction of new standards for teacher evaluation and assessment in the field is facilitated through effective collaboration between preparation institutions and school districts. Illinois State is committed to strengthening these partnerships in the united mission of preparing educators who serve as leaders and are dedicated to putting the needs of their students first in all efforts.

This work is necessary to accomplish our goals and to safeguard this, the most noble of professions.

 

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