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Transforming reform into practice : the enactment of standards-based teacher preparation and university-school partnerships in clinical practice activity settings

  • Author(s): Napoli, Deborah
  • et al.
Abstract

Those who work to prepare student teachers in the field have faced increasing demands due to the most recent reform effort to professionalize teacher education. Three notable changes brought about by the professionalization movement are : (1) standards-based professional education, (2) state mandated teacher performance assessments, and (3) the increase in collaboration between the K-12 schools and the teacher preparation institutions. Little is known about the ways in which the expectations related to professionalization are enacted in clinical practice activity settings. The broad question asked in this study is : How are state and university expectations for clinical practice in teacher education enacted through the patterns of communication and the use of assessment tools in a clinical practice group? Four clinical practice groups, each made up of the student teacher and those that observe, mentor, and evaluate that student teacher in the field, were examined in this study. The use of Activity Theory as a conceptual lens through which to examine clinical practice allowed for a focus on the social, not individual, aspects of the setting. Overall, the professional teaching standards were found to guide the evaluation of student teacher performance ; however the evaluation tools were sometimes used in ways other than required by those who created them, thus privileging particular standards over others. Also, classroom management issues were found to permeate communication about performance while balanced discussions concerning professional teaching standards were less common. Patterns found in the partnership groups signaled movement toward increased collaboration to develop a shared understanding of evaluation tools. However, the outcome for school and university personnel to work together to develop, implement, and evaluate the clinical practice program was not found within the groups' activities. A discussion of these findings from an Activity Theory perspective suggests that particular elements of the clinical practice setting may have influenced the enactment of state and university outcomes during clinical practice

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