CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Feb. 5, 2001
UI education majors get field experience in area elementary schools
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Beginning this year, University of Iowa students studying
to become elementary teachers will get almost a full semester of hands-on
experience while helping out area primary schools.
Elementary education majors in the UI College of Education will spend two
hours for four days a week interviewing, observing and assisting teachers
in Hills, Penn, Weber and Wickham elementary schools. In previous years, education
majors spent only a few weeks each semester as part of their "methods
practicum" and had to wait for more in-depth field experience until their
student-teaching assignment in their senior year.
Thirty-five UI students -- most of them juniors -- are taking part in the
field experience this semester. Eventually, 280 or so students -- in other
words, all elementary education majors -- will have a chance to put into practice
some of the skills they're learning in their college courses. And many will
get paired with teachers whose specialties -- such as social studies, science,
math, language arts, reading, special education and early childhood education
-- match their own areas of study.
"The schools have been extremely receptive," said Pamela Ries,
an assistant clinical professor in the College of Education's Division of
Curriculum and Instruction and director of the practicum experience. "The
principals have been very supportive. They've released their teachers to be
guest speakers, they've opened up their schools and allowed our students to
observe, and they've allowed us to hold our seminars in the schools."
During the seminars, held each Friday, the students meet with UI faculty
and practicum supervisors to discuss the week's experience, compare notes
and begin compiling lesson plans, photos and video footage from the classrooms
and other materials for a Web-based portfolio called an "electronic backpack."
Jolaine Emlet, a senior in elementary education who is working on specialties
in special education and reading, has been assigned to Penn Elementary this
semester. She says the practicum will go a long way toward preparing her for
her student-teaching experience this fall.
"This practicum is going to be unique because I'll get a real chance
to teach my own lessons," Emlet said. "With the other practicums,
by the time you get in there and you get comfortable in the classroom, you
really were done already. Since this is such an extended amount of time, I'll
get comfortable with the kids, I'll get comfortable with the teachers teaching
the class, and I'll get in there teaching the kids myself."
Mary Ellen Maske, principal at Wickham, said the benefits of the practicum
are twofold. They give the UI students a chance to experience teaching close-up,
and they give area teachers some assistance throughout the semester.
"As with anything, where we're preparing students for higher education
or for any field, like medicine -- it's certainly beneficial to us in that
field to help mentor them and prepare them for the field," Maske said.
"Our teachers learn from the students as well.
"I'm very excited about the new practicum because it will provide so
much more exposure to the students prior to their student-teaching,"
Maske added. "This will give a picture of what it's like to be in a classroom
for a longer period of time so they can see what the life of an elementary
classroom teacher is like."