Professing Education

 

Teachers (for) Elementary and Middle Schools (TEAMS)

Catherine Fallona, Carol Lynn Davis, and Barbara Bales

The Teachers for Elementary and Middle Schools Program (TEAMS) was designed to fill the void in teacher preparation that had been created in 1989 when the USM education faculty voted to disband its undergraduate program in favor of the graduate level Extended Teacher Education Program. Built on the principles and practices of ETEP, it offers undergraduates the same rich array of coursework and practical experience as ETEP over a period of four and one half years.

Currently completing its seventh year of implementation, TEAMS is based on the same guiding principles and uses the same standards and assessments as ETEP.

The program is intended for undergraduates who identify a strong interest in teaching at the elementary and/or middles school level. It is a cohort-based program that is designed to ensure that students have a strong background in both the liberal arts and professional education. As such, it leads to a degree in a liberal arts field and certification as an elementary teacher, K-8, in Maine. Like ETEP, the program combines coursework and field experiences. Upon completion, it confers on students a bachelor's degree in a liberal arts area, K-8 teacher certification, and 33 earned credit hours toward a Masters of Science degree in education with a concentration in teaching and learning.

A unique feature of the TEAMS Program is that it prepares students to teach science and mathematics, areas where there is currently a shortage of teachers in the elementary and middle schools of the state. This strong foundation in science and mathematics is achieved through coursework that exceeds university and state requirements: students are required to successfully complete three mathematics content courses as well as three science content courses with laboratory experiences. Courses have been specifically developed which integrate the study of the disciplines of mathematics and the sciences with courses in education that enhance the understanding in those disciplines. Computer-based technology is also incorporated throughout the program to help teacher education students develop understanding and facility with technology as an important tool for learning and teaching.

The Mission of TEAMS

The mission of the TEAMS Program is based on key concepts as articulated by the National Network for Educational Renewal Agenda (Goodlad, 1994). The following is a description of the key concepts that act as guiding principles for the TEAMS Program and how they relate the program's mission:

- University Collaboration with Partner Schools: For the effective delivery of the TEAMS Program, a partnership has been established with five schools (3 elementary schools and 2 middle schools) across three school districts in the Southern Maine area. These schools are used for field placements and internship sited for TEAMS students. The faculty in these schools work with university faculty and share the responsibility for preparing the next generation of teachers.

- Stewardship: Teachers are stewards for the healthy development of students, and they must consistently model those virtues advocated for compassionate and active citizens. The TEAMS Program aims to foster preservice teachers' sense of stewardship by educating them about their role in preparing the next generation for citizenship in a democratic society.

- Simultaneous Renewal: The TEAMS Program and its partner schools are engaged in an effort to continuously improve what they do. The TEAMS Program and its partner schools aim to work together and share their talents so that the students served by each educational setting reap benefits. Each organization is simultaneously renewed as they work together to improve what they do.

- Nurturing Pedagogy: TEAMS Program faculty members teach in ways that both enrich and encourage students. The way they engage learners, the activities they plan and conduct, and the feedback they give students are all designed to help students attain high expectations and to encourage them toward continued learning.

- Equal Access to Equitable Educational Opportunities: The TEAMS Program faculty believes that all children deserve a schooling experience that helps them reach their potential and welcomes them into full participation in a democratic society by providing the knowledge and skills needed for successful citizenship.

In addition to these foundational principles, an important feature of the program is that students participate as members of a learning community. Beginning with the first year and continuing throughout the program, students participate in educational coursework and field experiences as a cohort group. The learning community culture serves to support students in understanding the

aims, principles, and practices of education as a discipline and teaching as a professional activity. In this endeavor, cohort members also act as important resources for one another during their process of learning to teach and teaching to learn.

The Three Phases of TEAMS: Combining Courses and Fieldwork

The TEAMS Program has three distinct phases through which the students progress. The three levels are pre-candidacy, candidacy, and internship.

Pre-candidacy begins upon admission to the program. For students who enter as freshman, this phase is six semesters in length. Students complete USM Core Curriculum requirements, courses in their selected major in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the undergraduate level education courses and field experiences that the TEAMS Program requires. Students focus on developing basic competencies in the liberal arts and in math and science. In addition, they complete work in an academic major and take one education course each semester. With the exception of a social foundation course, all of the education courses have a weekly seminar and a 24-hour a semester field experience.

During the second semester of the program, students have their first field experience as a part of a Children's Literature course. The seminar and field experience for children's literature provides students with the opportunity to learn about and work with children on literacy development.

The third semester course in the TEAMS Program focuses on the relationship between culture, community and schooling. Here field placements occur in the greater Portland area and include Head Start, Before and After School programs, community programs for adolescents, and local resource programs for individuals with low income status. Students have ample opportunities to analyze and reflect on the understanding of their own culture as it relates to the understanding of others' cultures. This course supports TEAMS students in reflecting upon related field experiences as they explore and develop culturally responsive teaching practices.

In the fourth semester, academic and fieldwork are combined in a course in Middle School Community that addresses issues of culture and community in a specific middle level context.

Students are assigned to a host teacher at one of the middle school partner schools in order to gain classroom experience with middle school students. The fieldwork combines participant observation with classroom teacher responsibilities. Additionally, seminars on-site at middle schools that include tours of the school and presentations by students, teachers, and administrators, provide an opportunity for students to learn more about the context of different middle schools as well as middle level learners.

In the fifth semester, students take the course, Theoretical Foundations of Learning, which examines theories of learning and their application to teaching and learning practices. This course includes a field experience that includes participant observation as well as opportunities for developing and teaching learning activities.

In the sixth and final semester of the program, students take Portfolio Development, a course that prepares students for their Candidacy Review. Through Candidacy Review, all TEAMS students demonstrate readiness for and commitment to the demands of teaching as a career. Through the development and presentation of his/her portfolio, the TEAMS student must show evidence that their knowledge and disposition is developing satisfactorily according to the College of Education and Human Development Teaching Standard. The Candidacy Review is both a formative and summative process that leads to a judgment about a candidate's progress in the program. The review is designed to assure TEAMS students and other constituents that candidates have demonstrated the prerequisite knowledge and dispositions before progressing to the second phase of the program. The Review is designed as a positive and constructive learning experience where each student has the opportunity to present, synthesize, answer questions, utilize technology, integrate, prepare materials, reflect, make connections, and receive feedback from university and partner school faculty. Through the Review, students provide evidence that they are making satisfactory progress toward completing the liberal arts and science major and they are eligible to progress to the internship.

More specifically, they present evidence that they are progressing toward meeting the first six of Teaching Standards (See Shank, Canniff, & Ross above). These are:

1. Knowledge of Child/Adolescent Development and Principles of Learning:

The teacher demonstrates respect, concern for children, and an understanding of how they continue to develop and learn. S/he uses this knowledge to plan and guide instruction and to create a challenging, supportive learning environment.

2. Knowledge of Subject Matter and Inquiry: The teacher understands the framework of the subject matter(s) s/he teaches and makes accessible to students the discipline's tools of inquiry, central concepts, internal structure, and connections to other domains of knowledge, in a manner that promotes the learner's independent inquiry.

3. Technology: The teacher demonstrates an understanding of technology operations; enhances his/her productivity and professional practice using technology; understands the social, legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of technology; plans and designs effective learning environments supported by technology; implements curriculum plans that include methods and strategies for applying technology to enhance student learning; and applies technology to facilitate a variety of effective assessment and evaluation strategies. (NETS)

4. Diversity and Cultural Responsiveness: The teacher models respect for cultural and individual differences among students and coworkers including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, learning style, age, religion, socioeconomic status and ability/disability. S/he selects instructional materials from a variety of cultural perspectives and plans and creates learning opportunities and assessments that attend to issues of diversity and cultural responsiveness and ensure access and equity for all students.

5. Beliefs About Teaching and Learning: The teacher clearly communicates his/her beliefs about learning, teaching, assessment, and the role of education in society, and demonstrates practices that support those beliefs.

6. Collaboration and Professionalism: The teacher demonstrates professional responsibility to school and community. S/he works collaboratively with colleagues, parents, and community members to improve the conditions of learning for all students and adults.

Candidacy is the shortest phase of the program and lasts for one semester. Students are eligible for internship placement upon completion of candidacy. In this phase, students complete the academic major and a course in Exceptionality. The Exceptionality course builds upon students' experiences and knowledge about the diversity of learners and ways to promote a positive learning environment for all students. In the 24-hour field experience students work with students identified with special needs.

The Full Year Graduate Internship earns TEAMS students 33 credit hours toward their master's degree in Education: Teaching and Learning. As a part of the graduate level internship, students complete two semester long placements in TEAMS partner schools. Since their certification is K-8, one placement is at the elementary level and the other is at the middle level. As the culminating year of the program, TEAMS students have the greatest responsibility for teaching, with full-time teaching in a partner school expected across much of the year. Throughout the internship year, TEAMS students focus on learning to balance classroom teacher responsibilities of creating a caring classroom environment conducive to learning with teaching multiple disciplines.

Concurrent to their internship placements, they complete professional coursework in math, science, literacy, and social studies. The mathematics methods course is based on the standards of the National Council on the Teaching of Mathematics and involves students in developing their abilities in learning and teaching mathematics. The course emphasizes a problem-solving approach, an orientation to disciplinary inquiry in mathematics, and the use of technology as a learning tool. The science methods course is based on the National Standards in Science Education and involves students in developing their own understanding in science (particularly in the physical and earth sciences, areas in which elementary school teachers feel least prepared to teach), as well as developing an inquiry-oriented approach to teaching. The courses focused on literacy introduce them to strategies for teaching reading and writing. The social studies methods course focuses on the disciplines of history, geography, sociology and cultural anthropology. In this course, students explore the disciplines of the social sciences and learn how to help young children use original artifacts to learn about and interpret other cultures and other times.

The internship year also includes a weekly seminar that supports TEAMS students in discussing and reflecting upon their classroom experiences. The seminar is specifically geared to support students in systematically analyzing their practice. TEAMS students are expected to be able to critically reflect upon their practice with respect to the challenges that they face and the repertoire of effective teacher attributes which they bring to addressing those challenges, including the role of systematic reflection in facilitating learning from one's practice.

Students continue to demonstrate evidence toward the first six Teaching Standards used for Candidacy Review while demonstrating evidence toward the additional 6 Teaching Standards:

7. Instructional Planning: The teacher consistently plans and evaluates instruction based on knowledge of the learner, the subject matter, the community, the intended student outcomes, instructional strategies and representations, and the curriculum.

8. Instructional Strategies: The teacher understands and uses a variety of teaching strategies and tools, to promote learning and independent inquiry for all students.

9. Assessment: The teacher enhances and documents learning through continuing use of formal and informal assessment strategies, communicates feedback, and promotes guided self-evaluation in learners.

10. Citizenship: The teacher understands principles of democratic community and plans instruction to promote ideals, values, and practices of citizenship.

11. Professional Development: The teacher recognizes that s/he is, above all, a learner. S/he continually reflects on and evaluates choices and actions, and seeks out opportunities for professional development as well as ways to improve teaching and learning.

12. Classroom Management: The teacher understands and implements classroom management techniques that support individual responsibility and the principles of democratic community.

Progress towards meeting all 12 of the standards is evaluated during goal setting at the beginning of each placement, mid-placement, and at the end of each placement.

Since TEAMS is a partnership program, both university and partner school faculty are responsible for evaluating students' progress in relation to these standards. TEAMS uses the same assessment set as ETEP. These assessments include a case study or classroom profile, a reflective teaching journal, two teaching units, a professional vision or platform statement, an action research project, and a professional portfolio with a final presentation/exhibition. Success in these assessments during professional internship in partner schools results in a recommendation for a K-8 teaching certificate in the State of Maine.

Changes over Time

Three years after its inception, a major redesign took place in the TEAMS program that was related to when students could be admitted into the program and the advising of students during their program. In the original design, 20-25 first year undergraduates were admitted into the program each year and this group of students created a cohort that progressed through the program together. Each incoming cohort was assigned to a TEAMS faculty member who advised the cohort, taught the specific field-based TEAMS course to the cohort each semester, and mentored the cohort during their internship year. Several issues arose as this design was implemented. The attrition rate of students withdrawing from the TEAMS program was quite high for various reasons. Some TEAMS students discovered, through the early education courses and field placement experiences, that teaching was not the appropriate career for them.

Some TEAMS students were not able to successfully negotiate the rigorous nature of the combination of TEAMS courses and field experiences, core curriculum coursework, and the liberal arts major. Some TEAMS students left the program for personal reasons such as relocation, marriage, and limited financial resources.

Although faculty members who became TEAMS advisors discovered many rewards and benefits in advising, teaching, and mentoring a cohort of TEAMS students, there were challenges in teaching a new course each semester and problem-solving the logistics and issues relating to the implementation of a new program. Thus, it was decided that the TEAMS program would be redesigned to include admitting students into the program any time during their first two undergraduate years. In addition to the 20-25 first year undergraduate cohort of students who are admitted into the program, both internal and external transfers with less than 50 earned credits are admitted into the program in the pre-candidacy phase. After a transcript analysis, transfer students are placed into the specific cohort that best meets their academic needs. These students often need to take two TEAMS courses per semester to complete the TEAMS coursework required before candidacy. As a result of this change in the program and to meet the program needs of the students, the internship year may begin in January for some students and in September for other students. The redesign of TEAMS also involved a change in the responsibilities of a TEAMS faculty advisor.

It was decided that the TEAMS students would benefit from having learning experiences with numerous faculty members; thus, the TEAMS faculty currently teach one or two TEAMS courses that are the best fit with their expertise. TEAMS students are assigned a faculty member as an advisor when they are admitted into the program and this faculty member continues to advise them throughout their program.

New Program Initiatives

Over the past four years, TEAMS has benefited from a $4 million, five year Maine Mathematics and Science Teaching Excellence Collaborative (MMSTEC) grant funded by the National Science Foundation. This grant has provided scholarships for TEAMS students who choose mathematics or science as their liberal arts major or minor. In addition to the scholarships, the grant funded curriculum design work for a General Contract Science major with a life science, physical science, or earth science concentration. This major was designed by the MMSTEC Steering Committee in collaboration with TEAMS faculty to specifically meet the needs of elementary and/or middle schoolteachers of science.

Currently, there are increasing numbers of TEAMS students who are choosing this General Contract science major due to its availability and viability as an appropriate major for the TEAMS program. In collaboration with faculty members from the College of Arts and Science, the TEAMS faculty is exploring the possibility of the implementation of a Liberal Studies major with a 24 concentration in one academic area. This Liberal Studies major would have the potential of providing TEAMS students with more breadth in knowledge and understanding in liberal arts as well as more depth in at least one specific liberal arts area. TEAMS faculty are also collaborating with CEHD faculty from the Special Education programs to explore options for how special education courses and practicum might be integrated into the TEAMS curriculum so that TEAMS students who have an interest in pursuing certification in Special Education may be afforded that opportunity.

 


References

Goodlad, J. I. (1994). Educational renewal: Better teachers, better schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.