In our last GSE newsletter, we featured a story on a new kind of internship experience, the triad model. Two schools and a cohort group of students report in this issue on their findings.
Try to imagine your first day as a brand-new teacher. You’re fully prepared, you have lots of great ideas, and you’re scared stiff. The Graduate Teacher Education Program final student teaching experience is intended to help familiarize students with the day-to-day classroom environment, but a system can always use improvement. So how can we better support new teacher candidates in their transition to the classroom?
In the standard model, student teachers are placed singly and a supervising teacher from outside the school visits the classroom for observations three times during the term. This brief interaction offers little time for support of or constructive feedback with the student teacher.
GSE professors Nicole Rigelman, Barb Ruben, and Karen Noordhoff created a new program based on the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model. The PLC is a strengths-based, collaborative model that helps student teachers become active participants in their own learning. To achieve this for student teaching, they put together a triad model that places two student teachers with a cooperating teacher in each classroom.
With the triad model, candidates support each other and provide feedback continuously throughout their student teaching experience. With two student teachers in the classroom, they are able to develop a collaborative relationship and contribute ideas to support learning and better understand how their class is progressing. This changes the dynamic of their experience by taking the student teacher out of the role of apprentice-as-imitator and putting him or her into a position of active inquiry and participation. The student teachers are engaged with and supported by each other in every activity.
“One thing that the interns in this cohort have that other interns do not is each other. I know that setting up the writers workshop in my classroom in such a short amount of time would not have been as successful if I didn’t have the extra help.”
In the triad model, student teachers attend school building meetings, meet weekly with their cohort group, and have more interaction with supervising teachers. The larger cohort also sets up a wiki that provides the student teachers with a place where they can work collaboratively on projects, share lesson plans and experiences, and discuss theories and their implementation.
Many times during the day, the student teachers work out a lesson together and give feedback about how it turned out and what they can improve. Some projects start small, but through collaboration they grow into much larger, more comprehensive lessons.
Two schools partner with the GSE
Fourteen student teachers participated in the program at two schools, Winterhaven in southeast Portland and Vestal in northeast. The schools are in the Portland Public School District and are comprised of significantly different student populations.
At Winterhaven School, after initial concerns about adding to the workload of current teaching staff, the program went smoothly. Principal Rudy Rudolph (now retired) is still an enthusiastic advocate. “I would rate this program so much higher than anything else,” she says. “At the end of each day, the interns would sit down and review their day. What I like about this model is that as an intern you get two different perspectives in terms of what happened. There’s so much to be gained by having both.”
Cohort leaders pleased with the results
Not only is the triad model more beneficial for the student teacher, there are also advantages for the classroom. One student teacher comments that “setting up the writers workshop in my classroom in such a short amount of time would not have been as successful if I didn’t have the extra help.”
Dr. Rigelman point out that having the additional adults in the classroom also provides the opportunity for connections with children who may need additional positive adult interaction. “Not everyone clicks with every student,” she says.
GTEP graduate Christine Campanella participated in the triad model and is anxious to land her first teaching job. She says, “I know I’m a better teacher because of the collaboration we did. Every lesson got better because of the opportunity for feedback.”
GTEP graduate Martha Rodriguez has just been hired for her first job. She is grateful for the support the triad model offers. “It made it easier to have somebody go along in the process with you,” she says. “One little project would grow to a huge, amazing result.”
Student teachers who experienced the model say they had a very rich experience. By doubling up in the classroom, the pace of learning increased—student teachers were able to learn twice as much in the same amount of time.
The triad model is not unique to PSU. Since the program’s inception this year, cohort leaders have found a few other examples of triad groups in the education industry. Initial reviews of the data collected confirm powerful results for this new approach. This is due in part to intentional moves Dr. Rigelman and Ms. Ruben have made as cohort leaders. Dr. Rigelman, with co-leader Olivia Murray, will continue to employ and study this collaborative model with her cohort GTEP group this year as well.