MAILED: April 23, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE - Future middle school teachers coming out of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are getting experience across a variety of disciplines thanks to a School of Education pilot program.
Student teachers and interns are working in groups with teams of four to eight teachers at three western Wisconsin middle schools to expose them to disciplines beyond their majors and minors.
"A major purpose of the Mentor Associate Teaming Program is to challenge the cooperating teachers on the team to use the talents of the team of students to help with instruction not able to be done by one teacher without assistance," said Dr. Jerry Rottier, UW-Eau Claire professor of curriculum and instruction and coordinator the project. "For the student teachers and interns, the goal is not only to give them an opportunity to teach in their major/minors, but to involve them in activities in all disciplines represented on the team.
"It's anticipated that the involvement of the interns and student teachers across the curriculum will break down barriers between disciplines and encourage prospective teachers to find ways to provide interdisciplinary opportunities for students in their classrooms upon leaving UW-Eau Claire."
The traditional procedure for placement of interns and student teachers has been to assign one student teacher to one cooperating teacher. That student was provided guidance and assistance by the cooperating teacher to develop teaching skills. Rarely would the student venture beyond the classroom of the cooperating teacher.
In an effort to leave behind all the assumptions associated with the traditional student teacher classroom experiences, students in the pilot program are known as associates and the cooperating teachers are called mentors.
The pilot program is in its third semester. The first two semesters provided interesting experiences for associates, Rottier said. Students taught classes in their majors/minors but also participated in activities in the remaining disciplines associated with the team. Some of the interdisciplinary teams have involved a science and an English associate; a library research project and a social studies project on an ancient civilizations unit involving English, social studies, and science and math associates; an interdisciplinary unit on the elections of 1996 involving a social studies associate, and a mathematics and English associate.
Under Rottier's direction, information is being gathered to assess the effectiveness of the pilot program. Representative mentors and associates from the eight teams involved in this project came together recently to discuss the program's effectiveness.
Reactions to the pilot program from the schools and UW-Eau Claire students have been positive, Rottier said, noting many of the student teams have created interdisciplinary units of instruction for the schools.
"We're finding the cooperating teachers are excited because they are finding new ways to teach units because they have more than one adult in the classroom," Rottier said. "And our students are excited because they have a support group and are able to solve a lot of problems among themselves.
"Students reported they received sufficient opportunities to teach classes in their major/minor in order to demonstrate the skills of planning, teaching, evaluating and managing the classroom. In addition, they gained some experiences working with the remaining teachers on the team."
"It's going really well," said Chad Enloe, a senior who is student teaching as part of the program at Delong Middle School in Eau Claire. "It's been a good experience; I've learned a lot of new things. I've been able to combine a lot of subject areas with social studies."
The associates and mentors on his team were able to combine their resources and skills to create an environmental unit for the seventh-graders, Enloe said. "We took five subject areas and combined it into one environmental education unit," he said. "We brought in guest speakers, organized field trips and had lots of hands-on activities for the students. Students seem to like having more adults in the classrooms because it means more individual attention."
Tina Johnson, a senior learning disabilities and elementary education major at UW-Eau Claire, said she is the first special education teacher assigned to a team at Delong. "It's been a great opportunity to communicate with other teachers," she said, adding that she's co-teaching an English class with another associate. "With this approach, it's easier to learn more about individual students. I know what areas they are in and where they are excelling."
With 80 percent of the middle schools in Wisconsin using the team approach, the experience gives UW-Eau Claire students an edge in the hiring process, Rottier said, noting that all six students who participated in the first semester of the program now have full-time teaching positions. Students are now asking to participate in the program, he said.
Enloe, who will graduate from UW-Eau Claire in May, is currently interviewing for social studies teaching positions. Already, he said, some administrators interviewing him have indicated that they view team teaching as the approach of the future. "The team concept is more popular everywhere and I think that's going to benefit those of us in this program," said Enloe.
"We're slowly building the program," Rottier said. "We still have a lot to learn so it's still a pilot program."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: April 23, 1997