Liz Chase, St. John’s University – Clinical Practice Programs

On St. John’s University Week: You’re not at your best when you face anxiety before an important test.

Liz Chase, assistant professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at St. John’s University, looks at teacher candidates and their rigorous clinical practice programs.

An assistant professor, in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Chase holds an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University; an M.S.T. from Pace University; and a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University. Before joining St. John’s University’s School of Education, Chase worked for 15 years in public schools in Harlem and the South Bronx. She taught in the classroom for ten years and worked for five years as an academic dean where she managed and supported all of the teaching and learning initiatives. While she was teaching, and later as a dean, she also pursued her doctorate in Curriculum Studies at Teachers College. Her dissertation explored counter narratives of achievement from the perspective of teenage mothers in high school. Her research interests include school achievement, teacher training in urban settings, and collaborative models of support between teachers and coaches. Her most recent research project involved an in-depth analysis of the experience of school success and failure for students who are traditionally labeled as “at risk.”

Clinical Practice Programs

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Leading researchers in the field of teacher preparation have cited extended clinical practice (ECP) as a successful method for enriching teacher preparation. While there are excellent scholarly resources that illustrate successful clinical practice programs, it is more difficult to find work that focuses on the entanglements that teacher educators may encounter in trying to establish engaged and rigorous clinical practice.

In my research, I present two complications that emerged in a three-year research study on extended clinical practice for pre-service teacher candidates. First, data from this study revealed that teacher candidates were approaching their own certification exam, known as the edTPA, from a stance of anxiety. In response to questions about how they felt about the edTPA, teacher candidates shared statements such as: “It’s terrible but I have to do it,” and “I want to learn to not let it bother me knowing my future depends on that video.” A majority of participants shared negative feelings including fear, anticipation, and a general sense of unknowing surrounding this assessment. This created a situation in which teacher candidates performed to the test rather than tested its boundaries.

Second, the challenge of being deeply embedded in a school emerged as teacher candidates shared their concerns about school politics and about getting the most out of their experience. Participants felt that it was their responsibility to assimilate fully into the school culture because they were there for an entire year. This was challenging for many teacher candidates as they navigated the personalities and preferences of various stakeholders.

Outside of these entanglements, my research echoes other positive findings on extended clinical practice, such as increased teacher retention and greater cohesion between university and field. However, these entanglements point to a need for further investigation into the concerns and issues that teacher candidates and teacher educators raise when working in an extended clinical practice program.

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