By Anna Dowling, Staff Writer 

With the help of Cindy Stevens, one of the newest professor to join the Elementary Education department, the advanced practicum program is set to see great changes, adding many new opportunities to assist students in broadening their knowledge of teaching and gaining real world experience by working in the field.

Stevens, a former teacher at Mallett Elementary School, has dedicated her time to evolving the current program in order to provide students with more experiences in specific schools, such as Mallett Elementary school itself.

“The faculty and the programs have so much to offer the students here at the university,” Stevens said, “but the students at the university also have a lot to offer the schools in terms of manpower, in terms of fresh ideas, in terms of energy, so really why not for the best of both worlds put both of them together?”

To determine specific needs to enhance the program, Stevens asked both students and staff members alike for feedback on the existing practicum experience.  

“It seemed that the feedback really was that we need to learn more from each other, we need to work on classroom management, we need to work on instructional strategies, and we need to work some on assessment,” Stevens said.

To combat these seemingly absent components of the program, Stevens has changed the guidelines to fill the gaps. Advanced practicum students will now be able to work with teachers other than their mentor teacher, have the opportunity to partner up and work together, and can now learn various teaching strategies by observing in a classroom and holding a discussion after.

Though crucial to learn and have support from their mentor teachers, Stevens emphasized the importance of peer learning among students and the usefulness of collaboration.

“They can learn together, plan together, watch together, give each other constructive criticism, and not just criticism but really be partnering,” Stevens said, “so if they designed a lesson together one could teach and one could watch the children. That kind of collaboration is part of what the teaching world is right now.”

Junior elementary education major Heather King has taken advantage of these new changes and is currently working with one of her peers to serve as a partner teacher.

“Watching someone else teach helps you decide what you like, what you don’t like, and how you can improve yourself,” King said, “you can also help them by giving them constructive criticism.”

Along with peer learning and observing, students will also have the opportunity to go to other school related activities, such as Response to Intervention (RTI) meetings and after school programs. More than this, students may also have the chance to work with some of the parent volunteers in the classroom.

“This will help us get a feel of the parent-teacher, parent-classroom community and interactions,” said King. “I think this will probably be the most beneficial piece to the changes.”

Though the newly evolved practicum program will allow students to feel more comfortable in the school system and provide countless opportunities for success, Stevens believes this is just the beginning and is sure that more adjustments are on the way.

“All of this is just like we said; it’s just the building and growing of the program to fit the needs that we’ve been told that people feel like they need,” said Stevens.