Western Michigan University's College of Education is engaged in a teacher education program which requires a full semester internship under the mentorship of selected teachers in partnership schools and teacher educators from WMU. The program is a result of years of research and criticism, often from teachers themselves, that prior forms of intern teaching did not adequately involve interaction between the teachers in the schools and faculty from the university.
The internship is designed to prepare teachers not only for their roles as classroom teachers of children, but as professionals studying their own teaching practice, participating in site-based decision making and coordinating their work with teachers and other members of the school community. In time the goal is to have other social service providers and families of the children working together with teachers and interns in meeting the needs of children in schools. Obviously, these ambitious goals cannot be accomplished without close coordination across all of the parts of the program and across the faculty as well. In the Intern Teaching Program, both school and university faculty work closely together to support and assist interns as they progress through the semester.
Because of the interdependent nature of the course work and experiences provided during the internship semester, we are working with only a few school districts and schools with teachers who have committed themselves to the goals of the program. In 1995 the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) cited this "cluster school" design as exemplary with the potential of contributing to school reform opportunities and to improvements in teacher education. We are not, therefore, placing interns in schools that are not part of the cluster site network. We believe our placement policy essential to preparing new teachers for a future in teaching that is different in many ways from the schools we have known.
Excellence through collaboration
The College of Education is dedicated to providing leadership and quality programs for advancing and merging the theory and practice of teaching. To this end, the College has established several new collaborative efforts with area public schools. The Intern Teaching Program is designed to be a high quality experience for intern teachers as well as their mentor teachers and students. Participating schools and school districts serve as "cluster sites" where several interns are placed in one school with mentor teachers in order to work and learn together as reflective practitioners.
A reflective practitioner, as indicated in the shaded area of Figure 1, continually builds, examinesand extends knowledge about learners, the content of schoolingand the contexts in which teaching and learning occur while simultaneously renewing teaching practice. Such renewal requires contemplation about one's self and one's effect on the teaching/learning process.
The purposes of the Intern Teaching Program are to improve the preparation of intern teachers, to offer professional development for the mentor teachers, to improve instruction for students in these schoolsand to assure the continuing professional development of college faculty. Through this program the university and the public schools are partners in the preparation of teachers.
These materials have been designed to introduce you to our Intern Teaching Program, to describe the various "cluster site" arrangementsand to explain the various roles of the people involved. Following are descriptions of the components of the program.
Cluster site: A cluster site is a school serving diverse populations in which a group of interns is placed to participate full time in studying, practicing and reflecting about teaching under the guidance of mentor teachers. The cluster school becomes a real-life laboratory for the intern to experience the diversity and challenges faced by the professional teacher today. Stakeholders in the school district (school board, administration, professional and support staff, students, parentsand community) are encouraged to participate in their district's collaboration with the College of Education.
Intern teacher: An intern teacher is a university student who is assigned full time for one semester to a school and who is preparing to be a teacher by studying and teaching under the guidance of a mentor teacher.
Mentor teacher: A mentor teacher is an experienced teacher who guides the practice of an individual intern teacher, or an intern pairand who participates regularly in studying and reflecting about his/her role with other mentor teachers and a university cluster coordinator.
Mentor coach: A mentor coach is an experienced teacher on site who participates in intensive mentor teacher preparation at the university and who coordinates and facilitates the work at the school site with other mentors and with the university cluster coordinator.
University cluster coordinator: A university cluster coordinator is a WMU faculty member who has overall responsibility for the coordination of a cluster site and who collaborates with mentor coaches, mentorsand other school personnel.
School/University partnership team: The mentor coaches from the schools and university cluster coordinators meet regularly to study new and developing aspects of the Intern Teaching Program and the role of the mentor, to solve problems as they ariseand to plan for modifications and for new initiatives in education. This partnership between school and university staff offers a unique opportunity to both groups to work together and to improve the education of teachers.
following school districts are currently participating as cluster
sites in the Intern Teaching Program:
Grand Rapids metropolitan area
Oak Park (elementary only)
It has been our long-standing practice to avoid the placement of students in districts from which they have graduated and/or have some previously established or familial relationship. Additionally, students with majors in the Departments of Family and Consumer Sciences and Human Performance and Health Education, as well as the School of Music, are placed and supervised by their respective disciplines and are generally limited to placement within a 50-mile radius of Kalamazoo. Students with majors in Special Education are typically placed within a 50-mile radius of Kalamazoo.