The course that I am transforming into a hybrid course is TCE 309: Field Practicum (3 quarter credits). This course is designed for undergraduate students who want to explore teaching in formal and/or informal settings by allowing them to engage in 66 hours of observations or small group interaction with students in a school or community education setting. Currently, the class size will be very small – perhaps only 1 to 3 students in a term -drawing initially from only undergraduate General Science students. The student numbers may grow in the future as the new Social Sciences undergraduate major comes on board, or as we consider opening up the course to other undergraduate majors.
The key challenge of the course was determining how to best balance and integrate the three course features: field observations, face-to-face meetings, and web-based interaction. The course that I inherited had few supports for student observations, such as introducing fundamental education concepts, practices, and vocabulary for topics such as classroom management or diverse learners. My goal was to provide those supports, primarily through Blackboard online readings, quizzes, and surveys. The original course met four times for 2 hours; my plan is to meet only three times for one hour.
Prior to the course, the students must complete a number of steps including applying for a field practicum setting, completing (and passing) a criminal history check, applying to be a volunteer in the public schools, completing and passing a Safe Schools tutorial and quiz (indicating an understanding of rules and regulations surrounding appropriate interactions with minors), and applying for personal liability insurance with the National Education Association.
Course assignments are minimal: Class attendance and participation, an Activity Log documenting observation activities and hours (monitored in Google Docs), six written reflections (with evidence of incorporating materials from readings and f2f discussions – using a separate journal entry for each in order to have individual grades), and a final evaluation from the Cooperating Teacher, mostly related to professional ethics and dispositions. The course is Pass/No Pass and all elements of the course must be passed at minimum standards in order to pass the course.
The first course session will involve a welcome and introductions, course expectations, an experience/tutorial on Blackboard, and an introduction to expectations in clinical settings, professional dispositions and ethics, and introductory activities that the students can use to engage the cooperating teacher. Since students will not start their field placement until week 2, I will engage them online with additional readings about professional dispositions and ethics, a professional dispositions self-assessment, and a Student Belief Inventory about the Nature of Schools. These two items will be used to inform the first reflection: What do I believe about teaching and learning?
The remaining weeks are a self-paced combination of field observations and readings (with online quizzes to make sure that students have completed the readings). Tentative reading topics will be classroom climate, classroom management, student engagement, classroom demographics and diversity, instructional strategies, and content standards and objectives. Written reflections 2 and 3 are due at week 5, reflections 4 and 5 at week 9, and reflection 6 (what I learned) and the Cooperating Teacher Evaluation and Activity Log are due at the end of finals week. Face to face sessions will occur at week 3 (feedback on first reflection, check in on placements, additional information on professionalism) and week 6 (feedback on reflections, check in on field, and professional learning and growth-to support reflection 6).
I hope that there is a seamless interplay of observation, online support, and reflection. I will have the students use the Journal feature of Blackboard so, if more than one student enrolls in the course, we have the option of sharing one or more journal entries. The course is repeatable for up to 6 credits. For students taking the course a second time, the course structure and assignments are the same, though the support materials will be different, allowing for the variation of the student experience, but also allowing for a single instructor to monitor the low enrollments of simultaneous first and second time participants.