Definition of Field Experience
The purpose of educational field experiences is to provide each teacher candidate with multiple opportunities to engage in the practical aspects of teaching in authentic classroom settings. The School of Education faculty, the Director of Field and Clinical Experiences, and the partners within the Partner School Network collaborate to plan and implement selection of classrooms, and teaching/learning environments appropriate to the needs of the students, candidates, and the goals of the Professional Teacher Education Program. The demographics of the field placements are tracked in a database to ensure teacher candidates gain experiences with diverse students, locales, and varying socioeconomic levels. In conjunction with professional courses, candidates are placed in selected classroom environments. Emphasis is given to balancing each candidate’s experiences between urban and rural as well as among diverse populations served within Georgia Southwestern State University’s service area. Each candidate is expected to engage in the full range of the respective program’s teacher licensure requirements as prescribed by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Teacher candidates must complete field experiences in at least two or more different counties prior to graduation.
Levels of Field Experience
Field Experiences are structured to offer candidates sequenced, gradual involvement with students and role responsibilities. Four levels of field experiences are offered. During field experiences, candidates are expected to complete assignments as specified in University courses. These assignments are listed on a designated form as a part of each course syllabus. It is the candidate’s responsibility to provide a copy of this sheet to each cooperating teacher.
Level 1 – Pre-service candidates are primarily involved in observing teaching and students’ response(s) to the instruction. Structured and unstructured observation may be experienced.
Level 2 – Pre-service candidates observe, assist the cooperating teacher, and are involved in the instruction of individual students and/or small groups of students.
Level 3 – Pre-service candidates are responsible for total class instruction. Instructional responsibilities are less than an entire school day.
Level 4 – Pre-service candidates have major planning and instructional responsibilities for all or most of the school day.
Types of Field Experience
Within various courses, teacher candidates are required to observe in Partner School Networks as part of their courses of study. Observations give candidates ample opportunities to develop school relationships and become immersed in the teaching and learning process.
Candidates observe, assist teachers, and are involved in the instruction of individual students or small groups of students. Candidates’ junior and senior years are spent in education courses with extensive field experiences involving lesson planning and implementation, selection of materials for instruction, classroom management, and other duties assigned by the course professor(s) and/or cooperating teacher(s).
Opening School Experience
A “beginning of school” field experience is required in the fall, which directly precedes student teaching. Opening school experiences require candidates to work during the pre-planning period of late July, early August with the master teacher to whom they are assigned for student teaching. Opening school experiences help candidates participate in the pivotal work of framing the school year. This experience leads to a better understanding of the planning and implementation of procedures master teachers use to effectively begin a new school year. Candidates scheduled to student teach in a fall semester complete the opening school experience immediately preceding the beginning of that semester, and remain on-site from pre-planning through the completion of the semester. Candidates scheduled to student teach in the subsequent spring semester complete all pre-planning days and five days upon student arrival, then return to the campus for their semester of course work and additional field experiences. Spring teacher candidates whose Opening School Experience conflict with GSW courses, are allowed to make a modified schedule that enables them to complete the equivalent of three pre-planning days and five full days at the host site while ensuring attendance in GSW courses. Candidates are encouraged to maintain contact with the placement to which they will return in January to complete student teaching.
Candidates have major planning and instructional responsibilities for all or most of the school day. Student teaching is a full-day, semester-long experience with candidates assuming more classroom responsibilities as the semester progresses.
Field Experience Placements
Candidates are assigned to schools participating in the Partner School Network. At the beginning of each semester, candidates in courses requiring field hours complete a Field Experience Information Card. The information provided on the card assists in making the assignment based on previous assignments. Candidates complete their programs having experiences with students in varying grade levels of their certification field, with students of varied and diverse ethnic, racial, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds and exceptionalities, and with a representative range of the curriculum or content field in which they will be certified. Candidates are required to be in at least two different counties prior to graduation in order to meet the multiple, diverse placement guidelines. If a candidate has a request for placement based on a medical condition, he/she must contact Student Support Services for appropriate paperwork and documentation.
Field Assignments are distributed to individual candidates. It is the candidate’s responsibility to notify the Office of Field and Clinical Experiences if an assignment has not been confirmed a week prior to the onset of field experiences.