Two men sitting at a table with open laptops

Virtual Practicums: Issues and Reflections

Author: Samantha Goldman; info@ciddl.org

In our March CIDDL/CEEDAR Affinity group meeting, which aims to build the capacity of higher education faculty to support the development of PK-12 educators in planning, designing, and delivering effective instruction in online and hybrid learning environments, we discussed the issues impacting our ability to prepare teachers to teach in the online and hybrid environment. Barbara Serianni, an associate professor at Georgia Southern University, and Carolyn Rethwisch, a cooperating teacher from Savannah Chatham eLearning Academy shared their expertise on the matter, as well as highlighted some of the issues they have encountered. Marti Elford joined the conversation to share how she supported teacher candidates in the online and hybrid classrooms.

The Issues

Are we teaching how to teach online?  One reason is that there are popular misconceptions about what teaching online is such as that online teaching isn’t really teaching, that the role of the online teacher is not clearly defined, and that classroom management is not an area of struggle for online teachers. So, these misconceptions lead to the skills needed to teach in the online/ hybrid environment being neglected.

Reflections from the Field

To address the ongoing challenges, there needs to be specific expectations laid out for online practicums and internships. The emphasis of teacher preparation programs continues to be in-person learning, even though online learning has been around longer than the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-service teachers need support with how to develop relationships with students and parents because the way to foster and support these relationships online is very different than it is in the brick-and-mortar.

Considerations for LEA, SEA, and IHE

Working through this conversation of how to approach preparing pre-teachers for online and hybrid learning, we have to ask ourselves, who needs to be prepared for these environments? There are several things for Local Education Agencies (LEA), State Education Agencies (SEA), and Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) to consider. Does every pre-service teacher need to have experience in this model? Who determines which pre-service teachers do and do not need support and practicums in teaching in the online and hybrid environments? 

Some of these questions have been approached by researchers. For example, a study that was done found nine states have requirements for online and blended teaching endorsements.  This means that the majority of states do not have online and blended teaching endorsement requirements. The reasons responsible for this include there are too many other state requirements, meaning there is limited to no room for additional curriculum and courses. Another study explored the models that exist for online field experiences and noted that we are slowly developing more programs to support online practicums.

Supervision: What Does It Look Like?

Supervision of practicums is designed to provide immediate feedback to pre-service teachers so they can continue to develop their practice. We have explored in past CIDDL blogs the importance of video feedback in teacher preparation programs. As we consider supervision in the online and hybrid classroom, several questions are raised. For example, should the supervision occur live or should the pre-service teacher submit a recording? What indicators or standards should the pre-service teacher be working towards mastery? The National Standards for Quality Online Learning, created by Quality Matters, the Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance, and the Digital Learning Collaborative provides guidance for teacher-preparation programs to undertake to prepare teachers for this environment. One of the most important take-aways from this Affinity group meeting was that there needs to be increased professional learning for faculty and university supervisors to not only create clear and universal expectations for online practicums but also give them a sense of what is involved in teaching K-12 online.

Join the Conversation

We would love to have you be part of the conversation. What are your thoughts on some of the issues surrounding practicums for pre-service teachers in the online and hybrid environment?  Join the CIDDL Community to share your ideas on these questions and communicate with fellow teacher educators. Interested in participating in our last affinity group meeting? Our last meeting will meet online via Zoom from 2-3 pm EST (1 pm CST, 12 pm MST, and 11 am PST) on April 13, 2022. Registration for this session is open.