Spotlight on Clinical Experiences
How State Leaders Could Support High-Quality Clinical Practice

Blog post Matthew Smith | SREB Research Associate

The SREB Teacher Preparation Commission called on state leaders to consider ways to improve the quality of teacher candidates’ classroom experiences. After consulting the research, Commission members learned that the length of a clinical experience is less important than ensuring that candidates are supported by effective mentors and supervised by university faculty who have experience in the classroom.

Most state policies address the required length of internships and residencies, the selection criteria for mentor teachers, and the work products that candidates must complete during the residency. Few SREB states define what a high-quality clinical experience should look like through state law or administrative regulations.

Here are three ways state leaders could encourage educator preparation programs and their K-12 partners to consider changes to their clinical experiences.

Which Levers Could State Leaders Pull?

  1. State Funding: Use a pilot framework to provide grants for innovative and experimental programs. State leaders could require grantees to assess the effectiveness of their approach through rigorous evaluation methods. The pilots could help state leaders understand which elements contribute to high-quality programming. 
  2. Strategy Refinement: Ensure that current program requirements and incentives support high-quality clinical experiences. For instance, require programs and districts to select, train, support, and compensate teacher mentors.
  3. Data and Reporting: Require teacher prep programs to provide data and supporting evidence to show that their candidates participate in high-quality clinical experiences. Evidence could include observations by mentors, clinical supervisors, and school administrators, examples of teacher artifacts, and analysis of student work.

Signaling State Priorities

These levers allow state leaders to fund what works, align state requirements with effective practice, and learn more about implementing clinical experiences.

Identifying promising practices could motivate policymakers to adopt standards of quality for clinical experiences. Setting quality standards, especially in consultation with local implementers, could signal what state leaders prioritize.

For instance, a state could require programs in STEM teaching fields to offer immersive, work-based learning experiences to show how student learning could translate to careers after high school. Or a state could recommend yearlong residency options, but only if programs ensure that the longer learning experiences contribute to better-prepared teachers.

How SREB Supports State Leaders in This Area

The SREB Teacher Preparation Commission was the starting point for a regional discussion about improving the effectiveness of early-career teachers.

SREB staff facilitated a series of meetings  related to teacher preparation and licensure for the North Carolina Human Capital Roundtable and will release four briefings based on policy analysis conducted for group. We will post the briefings to to inform decision-making in all SREB states.

SREB staff are available to consult with state legislators and K-12 and higher education agencies on how to transform educator preparation, licensure, and professional learning.