How Can Teacher Ed Programs Build Stronger School District Partnerships?

Aspiring teachers first learn the methods of teaching in a university-style class and then practice those new skills as part of their student-teaching experience. The physical distance between the college campus and the placement or residency-model classroom can create a barrier for feedback.

At the University of Michigan School of Educationthey integrate the use of video to collaborate and support teacher candidates (interns) to find more success in their practice. And there’s another benefit they’ve discovered… stronger collaborative district partnerships.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a window into schools where I don’t physically, in person, spend a lot of time,” said Meghan Shaughnessy, then a course instructor at the University of Michigan. (Meghan recently started a new assistant professor role at Boston University!)

Meghan presented with Meri Tenney Muirhead, Managing Director of the Elementary Teacher Education programs, about how the use of video can initiate and advance clinical partnerships for a teacher preparation program. They discuss how they implement video to strengthen partner relationships and align goals and visions around the program.

During the presentation, Meghan and Meri also addressed how video supports interns to learn from video models and to further promote their own self-reflective habits. 

Establishing shared goals and visions through the use of video with district partners

Interns in the teacher preparation program at the University of Michigan engage in field experiences with PK-12 clinical partners each semester that they are enrolled in the program. In their fieldwork, interns document their practices with video.  University of Michigan Logo representing the school district partnerships

As the team of field instructors, course instructors, and mentor teachers support interns through their journey, Meghan and Meri recognize the importance of developing a shared vision to ensure goals are aligned across the teacher preparation program.  

“We’re really thinking about, talking about, and looking at a particular instance of teaching and developing a shared vision and a set of language around how we talk about and think about assessing interns as they move through the program,” said Meri. 

Using video to support a shared vision within district partnerships promotes an understanding and alignment of the expectations around observing, giving feedback, and assessing program interns.

“We can really co-develop feedback practices together in lots of different ways using the platform as a method to share the ways in which [we] talk about teaching, the ways in which a university field instructor talks about teaching, the course instructor, and then it becomes a shared experience for a mentor teacher,” Meri said. 

Oftentimes, everyone cannot be physically present in a room to participate in authentic collaboration around intern practices. Edthena presents a unique opportunity for interactive collaboration to occur asynchronously. 

“[Video] creates shared experiences with teaching and learning across the partnership,” said Meghan. 

Video modeling richly supports interns and clinical partnerships in the teacher preparation program

 “When we find amazing examples, those examples are golden. Having a way to share them and use them over time is so crucial for us,” said Meghan. 

The ability to provide real-life teaching models to interns allows them to see how practices are implemented in the classroom. Alternatively, recording video intern field experiences gives interns, mentor teachers, and instructors an essential vantage to reflect and drive collaboration. 

“Videos can do amazing things when we are able to use them in flexible ways like interacting and gathering data from video,” Meghan stated. 

Watching video and decomposing practices into its working parts has provided significant learning opportunities for University of Michigan’s Teacher Preparation Program. Instructors can guide interns through analyzing parts of practices such as discussions and small groups to understand how each piece works together to be effectively used in the classroom. 

Meri also mentioned the benefit of field instructors being able to model intern feedback for program partners through the Edthena platform. Instructors can show different approaches to feedback that address the main requirements of the work. 

Video is an ideal medium for supporting learning within district partnerships  

Lastly, Meri emphasized the importance of using video documentation to measure an intern’s progression and the ability to identify and share strengths and weaknesses to cultivate growth for interns. 

“We would love it if field instructors could [observe interns] all the time, but [we] can’t. With the use of the video, we’re able to be there pretty much all the time as long as the video is being taken,” said Meri. 

Not only can video help to measure successful implementation of teaching practices, but the University of Michigan also encourages mentor teachers to use the Edthena video platform as a tool to note and share growth points and remarkable moments as they occur in the classroom. 

Through the use of video, interns, instructors, and partners are learning together across the teacher preparation program to reach a common goal. 

The medium has allowed us to have these connections that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” Meghan said. 

While the University of Michigan has discovered some challenges incorporating video into partnerships such as access to technology and differing knowledge about the context and content of practices, they have fully integrated the use of video throughout their program.

Among the many benefits of adopting video tools to support clinical partnerships, The University of Michigan discovered that an outlet for asynchronous participation, the creation of shared experiences, and opportunities for nurturing shared sensemaking about teaching and learning strengthen the relationships which form the basis of a healthy district partnership. 

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