Today’s new teachers do not have time to adjust to the classroom. With state accountability for district and teacher preparation programs, new teachers are expected to teach at the level of a third year teacher starting their first year. To meet this demand, Texas A&M University-Texarkana has begun partnering with area school districts to provide teacher candidates more experience in the classroom throughout their training.
A&M-Texarkana education students during their junior year will have the opportunity to take education course work taught in conjunction with observations while in local school districts. Regarding her class experience, A&M-Texarkana senior Samantha Drabble states, “Being able to study textbook materials simultaneously with classroom observation magnified my learning experience. I found the classes to be more engaging and interactive than the traditional set-up. I looked forward to going to class. The classes were a great way to showcase methods of instruction and procedures that otherwise cannot be accurately depicted.”
Beginning this fall, A&M-Texarkana seniors will participate in Co-Teaching as their required field experience for teacher certification. “The idea of Co-Teaching is not new,” says Glenda Ballard, Dean of College of Education and Liberal Arts, “Co-Teaching for teacher training is a newer, researched-based method of preparing teachers for the classroom in a more realistic setting.”
With Co-Teaching, university students are paired with highly successful teachers in the schools for an entire year. During the first semester, university students are in the class a few hours each week. “The first semester is really about the university student being considered an integral part of the class and the university student establishes a relationship of trust and respect with the experienced teacher and students,” says Teacher Preparation Program Director, Sara Langford.
“The district teacher and the university teacher candidate are required to participate in training to support the development of the relationship in a manner that ultimately benefits the students in that it provides two teachers in the classroom.”
For the final semester, the university student is in the classroom all day. Having established a relationship of trust and respect with classroom teacher and students, the university student can take more responsibility sooner. Further, the year-long model allows the university student to feel like they’ve already participated in a full year of teaching prior to starting their first job.
“As with most things, our Co-Teaching Model is all about building relationships with our partners in the best interest of students, the university and our area school districts,” says Dr. Ballard. Indeed, the research bears this out. A&M-Texarkana consulted with St. Cloud University, a leader in Co-Teaching for Teacher Preparation, and was impressed by the research showing classrooms participating in Co-Teaching resulted in greater learning outcomes than classrooms with just one certified teacher or classrooms with one certified teacher and student teacher not participating in Co-Teaching Model. Dr. Ballard continues, “We’re excited that our districts share our vision, knowing that this model provides an investment that will benefit their students for years to come.” Texarkana Independent School District Assistant Superintendent Autumn Thomas agrees with Dr. Ballard. “Texarkana ISD is pleased to partner with Texas A&M University – Texarkana with opening our schools for the opportunity of their college students to have a lab school experience, as well as co-teaching for their teacher preparation,” says Thomas. “These initiatives provide hands on and job embedded approach to training future teachers, as well as enhanced teacher preparation. We appreciate A&M -Texarkana and our current teachers and schools partnering in this initiative to prepare future teachers for our future students.” A&M-Texarkana education students have experienced a 99 percent pass rate on teacher certification tests for Pedagogy and Professional Responsibility (2012-2013). In addition, A&M-Texarkana education graduates represent the highest rate in the region for five year retention rates of new teachers among teacher preparation programs.