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Japanese University and UW-Eau Claire
Involved in Teaching Program Research
MAILED: Dec. 17, 2001
EAU CLAIRE — How do student teachers progress into teaching? How is their teaching evaluated? What role do cooperative teachers play? And, how are university faculty members involved in the student teachers' experience?
These are just a few of the questions that educators at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Fukushima University of Japan are addressing in a three-year research project funded by the Japanese government and its Ministry of Education.
A delegation of seven Japanese educators recently visited Eau Claire as part of the research grant, which is in its final year.
"The goal of this trip was to have the Japanese visitors work with Eau Claire educators to find ways to improve student teaching programs and to assist cooperating teachers in their role of working with student teachers," said Dr. Bill Dunlap, professor of curriculum and instruction who aided in setting up the trip for the group.
The research grant is divided into three parts. When the project began in 1998, elementary and middle schools were studied. During the second year, the focus was on preparation for special education teachers, and in the final year the Japanese professors are working with the Eau Claire professors to look at the evaluation process for student teachers, the impact on first-year teachers and the professional development of teachers.
Yoshikazu Usui, vice president at Fukushima University and one of the delegates who visited Eau Claire in November, hoped to gain a better understanding of the teacher education process in the United States.
"We are interested in learning how university professors and cooperative teachers work together and how student teachers work in schools in the United States," Usui said through an interpreter.
Also on the visit with Usui was Tomotaka Mori, a physical education professor in Japan. This was his fourth trip to Eau Claire. In 2000, Mori, his wife Sumiko and their son, Hidetaka, came to Eau Claire for one year to study the American physical educational systems at the elementary school level and research national standards of physical education.
Mori, also speaking through an interpreter, said the visits help them to compare and contrast education systems.
"There are several differences," Mori said. "Your education students get 18 weeks for student teaching, whereas ours only receive four weeks."
Dunlap further explained that once Wisconsin student teachers complete their 18 weeks of intensive student teaching experience they are expected to function independently, without a lot of assistance. In comparison, student teachers trained in Japan receive less student teaching experience, but as teachers they are highly supervised and mentored for further development.
Not only do several delegations each year come from Japan to study schools in Eau Claire, faculty members, including Dunlap; Dr. Todd Stephens, professor of special education; Dr. Susan McIntyre and Dr. Robert Hollon, professors of curriculum and instruction; and Dr. Katherine Rhoades, assistant professor of foundations of education, have spent time in Japan studying its teaching programs.
Information also has been gathered and shared through a questionnaire the groups designed and distributed to university faculty, cooperative teachers and student teachers within a 60-mile radius of UW-Eau Claire and in the Fukushima University area. Approximately 70 percent of recipients responded to the questionnaire.
"We had an incredible return rate on the questionnaire and got a good perspective on student teacher programs here and in Japan," Dunlap said. "Now we'll look at our own program and more deeply analyze the data we collected in the areas of elementary and middle school teacher preparation programs," he added, noting that each group will submit a final report to Japan's Ministry of Education in March 2002.
Dunlap, who has lost count of the number of times he has visited Japan, says UW-Eau Claire has had a long relationship with Fukushima - a relationship they hope to continue through another three-year research project with Fukushima University. This project, if accepted by the Ministry of Education, would involve researching the systems and contents of inservice teacher education and distance education for teachers.
"Our relationship has allowed us to, among other things, compare and contrast programs, which has caused us to reflect upon our own program," Dunlap said.
Although the countries' methods of training teachers differ, the educators involved in this research grant are not trying to determine which method is superior.
"Education is very much rooted in the culture of the country," Dunlap said. "So, we're not saying, 'Do away with your program and use ours.' This probably wouldn't work - but there definitely are some things that each group is doing that might be adapted and incorporated into our respective programs to make each one stronger."
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Dec. 17, 2001