Part I: Field Experiences

Questions About Teacher Education Field Experiences

Northern’s field experiences are designed so that all parties involved benefit from the experience. Not only should the teacher education student learn from the experience, but the classroom teacher and students should benefit from NMU students being in their classroom. 

Q.   What are field experiences?

The field experiences described in this handbook refer to school-based clinical experiences including classroom observations, tutoring, assisting teachers, small and large group instruction and developing and practicing the duties of a teacher. 

Q.  Why do we have field experiences? 

Field experiences have a large influence on preservice teacher education students and are highly valued by them because of their ability to give firsthand experience in the profession. When properly integrated with their preservice education course work, field experiences provide a balanced blend of theory and practice. 

Q.  What are the policies, procedures and responsibilities related to field experiences?

The policies to prepare students to work effectively in classroom settings deal with selection of sites, types of experiences, supervision, feedback, sequence of experiences, skill development and amount of experiences. The field experience for each course has specific requirements. The general policies are reflected in the Field Experience Student Agreement (see Appendix) that is signed by every student having a school field experience. The professional roles and responsibilities of all parties have been clearly delineated and are explained throughout this guide.

The failure of students to properly abide by the policies and fulfill their roles and responsibilities in these settings jeopardizes their educational careers and future placements. At the very minimum, students are to behave in an ethical, professional and courteous manner in accord with NMU’s Teacher Education Conceptual Framework. Students should follow the directions and procedures given by the course instructor, school administrator and classroom teacher. They should follow school rules, report to the classroom teacher at the time agreed upon and inform supervisors if they will be tardy or absent. 

Q.  Where are students placed for their field experiences? 

Field experiences are designed to give students an opportunity to interact in a variety of settings. As students progress through the program they are placed in different settings, subject areas and grade levels appropriate for their particular program. Four basic criteria are considered when making placements: 1) the relevance of placement to the student’s coursework and program 2) the quality of the school, classroom and teacher 3) the willingness of the school and teacher to participate in the program and 4) the ability of all parties to fulfill the obligations associated with the placement.

Students are generally placed in area schools according to program needs and availability. Because of the heavy demand on the teachers in these schools, it is important that students  cooperatively work with these teachers.

Students will be informed during their first few weeks of classes where they will be doing their field experiences and when they are to report for these experiences. With the approval of the instructor, students may have an opportunity to do their field experience outside the designated sites. All placements are made with approval of the Director of Field Experiences.

Q.  Will I have field experiences with culturally diverse and exceptional students?

NMU students have opportunities to work with exceptional children in their classrooms since most of the field experiences occur in schools practicing inclusive education. Most of the field experiences occur in local schools where there is limited cultural and racial diversity. To compensate for this limitation, the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service offers several opportunities for teacher education students to work with culturally and racially diverse students to better develop a multicultural perspective and also offers a multicultural education course. The School of Education, Leadership and Public Service also regularly sponsors field trips to more urban and culturally diverse schools .Students may apply to student teach overseas and in schools with 20% or more minority population anywhere in the United States.

The professors who teach the courses requiring field experiences have much experience with culturally diverse and exceptional populations. They expect their students to demonstrate a multicultural perspective and an appreciation of individual differences and exceptionalities as described in the Teacher Education Conceptual Frameworks.

Q.  What is the role of the Director of Field Experiences? 

A full-time Director of Field Experiences oversees all teacher education field experiences. The Director identifies, obtains and monitors quality field placement sites, oversees all reports and forms, maintains good relations with schools, provides the leadership necessary for a quality program, oversees all applications and placements, monitors student progress, orients all parties and evaluates and improves the program. This arrangement allows for systematic development of the program, insures quality and consistency and provides a coordinated system of working with and developing placement sites. If you have any questions or concerns about any of the field experiences, you may contact the Director of Field Experiences in the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service. 

Q.  How are students evaluated in these field experiences?

Northern’s assessments of teaching competence are based upon the duties of the teacher: knowledge base, instructional competence, assessment competence and professionalism, and incorporate all the State Board Approved Criteria for Assessment of Pedagogy (see Appendix). Field experiences help determine the student’s ability to carry out the duties of a teacher and offer many sources of data for evaluation. Supervising teachers determine if these competencies are adequately demonstrated by the students and make comments to explain or support their assessments. Supervising teachers help the students identify their strengths and weaknesses and encourage self-evaluation through techniques such as feedback, reflection, journaling, scripting, conferencing and videotaping.

The evaluations are designed to give a comprehensive assessment of the student’s competence in applying professional knowledge in classroom practice. The competencies that NMU has decided upon as needed by preservice teachers to be recommended for certification as teachers are described in Evaluation Procedures in the Student Teaching section of this handbook.

Minimal competencies expected at each step in the teacher education program are explained in each course, including those derived from NMU’s Teacher Education Conceptual Frameworks and the Michigan Criteria for the Assessment of Pedagogy.

Q.  How are field experiences sequenced? 

Field experiences allow students to develop the knowledge, attitude and skills that enable them to assume full responsibility for classroom instruction. Education students move from role orientation to role conceptualization to role learning and commitment to role assumption and to role evaluation. The experiences in the first phase emphasize role orientation and conceptualization. The second phase experiences emphasize role learning and commitment. The culminating experience, or student teaching, emphasizes role assumption and evaluation. Field experiences are a bridge between theory and practice with the sequence moving from theory to increasing practice.

NMU field experiences are to prepare students to apply pedagogical theory in making instructional decisions, to analyze educational needs and to use appropriate materials. Through situational analysis, reflection and evaluation, teacher education students become teachers.

Q.  How are field experiences supervised? 

The evaluation of the preservice teachers competencies in field settings is the primary responsibility of the supervising teachers. As all field experiences are integral parts of a course, the professor will monitor the student’s field experience and provide the supervision and feedback needed. The Director of Field Experiences becomes involved in professional supervision and feedback with students who are not meeting program expectations.

Supervision, feedback and debriefing of the student’s knowledge, skills and attitudes occur through formal and informal assessments, such as direct observation, video tapes, audio tapes, journals, papers, discussion, conferences, evaluation forms and reports.

During the first phase, students are involved in role orientation and conceptualization through, interviews,  structured observation and participation in K-12 classrooms. Supervisors monitor and evaluate students’ knowledge of the profession, teaching, students, schools and self. The evaluation by the classroom teacher and the university instructor is based upon the students’ demonstrated competency, their attitudes related to the profession, diversity and human relations.

In the second phase of field experiences, students are involved in planning based upon their knowledge of students, schools, classrooms and their current course content. After feedback and approval from their instructor, they try out their plans in a classroom setting and then evaluate based upon the results of the lesson. The role of the supervisors at this level includes the development and evaluation of communication skills, lesson planning, selection and creation of materials, classroom management, management of learning, knowledge of student assessment and professional ethics. As most methods courses are currently taught in K-12 schools, supervision and feedback by the course instructor and classroom teacher is timely and frequent.

The student teaching phase of the program provides the most intensive supervision, feedback and experience. During this 16-week full-time experience, the students are required to assume full responsibilities of the classroom teacher. The student teaching evaluation covers all of the duties of a teacher and the student receives regular feedback on their professional development from both the university and classroom supervisor. The seminar that is required for all student teachers is another means for supervision, feedback and debriefing.

Q.  What courses require a field experience?

All field experiences are part of an education course. This allows the professor to integrate the principles and theories covered in the course with the student’s field experience and provide a vehicle to determine the student’s ability to apply that knowledge in better diagnosing and solving real problems. Below is a list of the courses currently requiring a field practicum. The NMU field experience program is divided into Phase I (choosing to become a teacher), Phase 2 (learning to become a teacher) and Phase 3 (becoming a teacher) to develop a knowledge of the institution, knowledge of the student, knowledge of instruction and knowledge of practice. This longitudinal process of combining theory and practice to prepare professionals allows for more growth in making instructional decisions, reflecting on practice and developing competence in the duties of a teacher. These field experiences help students understand and deal effectively with students, classrooms, teaching and educational institutions.  

Courses Requiring Field Experiences

Phase I

Level 1 Role Orientation

  • ED 201/301 Introduction to Education/Dimensions of American Education

Level 2 Role Conceptualization

  • ED 230 Teaching and Learning in the Elementary Classroom
  • ED 231 Teaching and Learning in the Secondary Classroom

Phase II

Level 3 Role Learning and Commitment

  • ED 360 Orientation to Special Education
  • ED 401 Curriculum and Methods for Teaching the Mentally Impaired
  • ED 402 Teaching Life Skills to Impaired Individuals
  • ED 306 Children’s Literature
  • ED 311/316 Language Arts Methods & Materials/Elementary Reading
  • ED 312 Science Methods and Materials for Elementary Teachers
  • ED 318 Elementary Reading Instruction II
  • ED 319/349 Teaching of Reading for Secondary Teachers/Teaching for Diversity, Equity and Social Justice in the Secondary School Community
  • ** 350 Specialized Secondary Methods
  • ED 361 Special Education and the General Classroom Teacher
  • ED 403 Pre-Vocational Training for the Impaired
  • ED 406 Supervised Apprenticeship in Teaching K-12 MI
  • ED 408 Instruction and Educational Structuring for Students with Emotional Impairments
  • ED 409 Supervised Apprenticeship with Students with Emotional Impairments
  • MA 353 Elementary Mathematics Methods

Phase III

Level 4 Role Assumption

  • ED 420-440 Student Teaching

Phase I Field Experiences 

The Phase I stage of the teacher education curricula includes ED 201/301 and ED 230/231. This stage is characterized by the student’s choosing to become a teacher based on observation and reflection opportunities in K-12 settings and a learning community in university courses.

Phase I field experiences introduce role orientation and conceptualization. In role orientation (ED 201/301), the student learns what becoming a teacher requires and is introduced to the profession of teaching. Field experiences at this stage involve visits to schools and classrooms to observe the nature of schooling and teaching to get a general knowledge of the role of the schools, classrooms and teachers.

Field experiences designed to develop role conceptualization (Ed 230/231) include observing and working with children in classrooms to understand them better and opportunities to work with schools and teachers to develop an understanding of their functioning and duties. These objectives are accomplished through 30 hours of  study of children, classrooms and teachers and assisting teachers with activities related to teaching.

ED 201/301 Introduction to Education/Dimensions of American Education

In ED 201/301 students have a field experience requirement of spending one-half day in a K-12 classroom. This brief exposure is to help education students to better know if teaching is for them. They are required to interview the teacher they observe concerning their roles and responsibilities and their feelings about teaching. No evaluation of their professional competencies is expected in this field experience beyond the student’s self-evaluation.

ED 230/231 Teaching and Learning in the Elementary Classroom/Teaching and Learning in the Secondary Classroom

The class generally meets in an area middle school and the students spend 30 hours in a classroom. Students may be required to complete some of these hours by visiting a Native or urban school. The purpose of these field experiences are to provide a significant measure of contact with students in a school setting in order to better understand the course content. As the first significant field experience in the education program, this assignment also provides students with a beginning opportunity to understand the dynamics of teaching and learning. Each student is expected to establish a working relationship with classroom teachers during this field experience. Professional demeanor is both learned and practiced in this field experience.

ED 360 Orientation to Special Education

Students are assigned to a 20 hour field experience to study etiology and characteristics of exceptional children as well as the education provisions that exist for their care, treatment, training, education and habitation.

ED 401 Curriculum and Methods for Teaching the Mentally Impaired

Lesson construction and methodology for teaching the moderately and mildly mentally impaired of elementary age: includes the use of commercially and teacher-made materials. The teacher’s multiple professional roles are stressed.

ED 402 Teaching Life Skills to Impaired Individuals

Survey of national, state and community resources in independent living, recreation and socialization opportunities for impaired individuals. In addition, students examine materials and curriculum for educating the impaired in social skills, free time activities and human sexuality. A field experience of 5-7 hours is required.

Phase II Field Experiences 

Role learning and commitment result from experiences that allow the students to practice various aspects related to teaching, such as lesson planning, teaching small groups or micro-teaching. Phase II of teacher education is characterized by learning to become a teacher by allowing opportunities to practice in a learning community.

Some elementary methods classes are offered in blocks to allow students to combine and better integrate field experiences and the content of these courses. The first block of courses consists of ED 306/310/311/316/361 and 483. The second block is ED 307/312/318 and MA 353. Each block consists of at least two courses taught in an elementary school with significant classroom experiences in that school.

Elementary Program Methods

ED 306 Children’s Literature

Students gain experience with young children by reading a children’s book to students for one session.

ED 311/316 Language Arts Methods & Materials/Elementary Reading Instruction I

These jointly scheduled courses have their class and field experience in an area elementary school to bring theory and practice together through real experiences teaching language arts. The teachers in these schools have been oriented to the expectations of our program and are cooperating to achieve our objectives. Students prepare and teach lessons in the field placements under the supervision of the classroom teacher and the university professor. Students spend from 25 to 30 hours in the classroom.

ED 312 Science Methods and Materials for Elementary Teachers

All students will have 14 hours of field experience. Ten hours will be in a elementary school classroom and four hours in related science teaching activities, and students with  majors or minors in the sciences must complete an additional ten hours in a middle school science classroom. Students plan and teach cooperatively and will participate in teaching and presenting their own lessons. Students meet in an area elementary school for one class meeting and the Seaborg Science classroom for the other class meeting.

ED 318 Elementary Reading Instruction II

This course and its field experience are normally held in an area elementary school. Students work in an elementary classroom individually tutoring one to three children. Literacy assessment guides these tutoring sessions and the lesson plans they develop. The professor and the classroom teacher monitor these teaching activities. Students spend at least ten hours with their students.

ED 361 Special Education and the General Classroom Teacher

Students are required to complete a field experience that will take place over several days for a total of three hours. Students currently enrolled in a methods class where observation is required will be permitted to complete the requirement for ED 361 in the same placement. Students not enrolled in a methods class will be provided a classroom assignment to complete the observation.

In this experience, each student will visit a regular education classroom where students with special needs are placed or a special education classroom. Students will be required to research the modification or strategies they observe and write about the experience.

MA 353 Elementary Mathematics Methods

This class normally meets in an area elementary school. The practicum in this course requires a minimum of ten sessions developing expertise and familiarity with mathematics teaching in K-8 classrooms.

Secondary Program Methods

ED 319/349 Teaching of Reading for Secondary Teachers/Teaching for Diversity, Equity and Social Justice in the Secondary School Community

Students meet in and use the classrooms and the learning centers in the area secondary schools as sites to work with students in groups and individually. They spend 20 hours assisting learning and tutoring under the supervision of a teacher.

**350 Specialized Secondary Methods

Students get experience in teaching their major and/or minor with an area teacher in a classroom for 15 hours and are required to teach a lesson that is to be observed and evaluated by the classroom teacher and the university professor. Each specialty methods course will have different requirements for its particular area that will be covered in the course.

Special Education Program Methods

ED 403 Pre-Vocational Training for Students with Disabilities

A study of pre-vocational curriculum within the special education class including the development of pre-vocational/vocational objectives, vocation assessment and potential vocational options. Emphasis is placed on practical applications and programs as well as theoretical concepts. A field experience of 5-7 hours is required.

ED 406 Supervised Apprenticeship in Teaching Students with Cognitive Impairments in K-12 Settings

A four week full-day career related supervised experience. Students are assigned in school-based programs for students with mild or moderate impairments. Provides an opportunity to refine goals and police skills; to translate abstract classroom theory to life application. It is a testing of personal stamina and dedication to working with impaired students.

ED 408 Instruction and Educational Structuring for Students with Emotional Impairments

This is a senior level course for those preparing to teach students with emotional/behavioral impairments. Students will obtain knowledge of teaching strategies, service units and educational assessment unique to the needs of this population. Various roles and strategies used by teachers will be studied as well as prescriptive parent planning.

ED 409 Supervised Apprenticeship with Students with Emotional Impairments

A four week, full day career related, supervised experience. Students are assigned to facilities serving children with emotional impairments. This experience offers the opportunity to observe, to tutor, to assess and to instruct individuals or groups.  This is an opportunity for the student to refine goals and to translate theory to life application. This experience will allow students to observe a variety of methods used in classroom instruction for students with emotional impairments.