Skip to main content

Peabody Journal of Education, Volume 89, Issue 4, 2014

Clinical Partnerships in Teacher Education: Perspectives, Practices, and Outcomes

Introduction by Ann E. Larson and Diane W. Kyle

In this issue of the Peabody Journal of Education, we address the critical topic of clinical partnerships as transformative in preparing teachers for today's and tomorrow's classrooms. This issue is most timely in light of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education's (NCATE's) 2010 Blue Ribbon Panel report “Transforming Teacher Education: A National Strategy for Preparing Effective Teachers.” Panel members challenged teacher educator programs to form clinical partnerships as an organizing structure within which all stakeholders would commit to the recruitment, admission, preparation, assessment, and continuing development of teachers who effectively enable the learning of all students in all contexts. According to Arne Duncan (2010), U.S. Secretary of Education, “The report of NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel marks the most sweeping recommendations for reforming the accreditation of teacher preparation programs in the more than century-long history of our nation's education schools.” Paralleling NCATE's report is a policy brief presented by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE, 2010), which specifically addresses clinical preparation and notes that “high-quality preparation programs are school-embedded” (p. 5).

The articles that follow address the recommendations of NCATE and AACTE as critical to the preparation of teacher candidates. The authors, leaders in the field of educator preparation, share details of exemplary programs, address related policy issues, and argue for decision making and change as the work goes forward. Before elaborating on the contributions, however, we share our own development as teacher educators and what led us to see merit in this theme.

Our professional journeys began as classroom teachers who in time served as “cooperating” teachers for student teachers. Although we found teaching rewarding, we each sought further growth and entered doctoral programs. Our individual journeys led us eventually to join the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville (UofL).

During our years at UofL, we have been involved in a clinical approach to preparing our teacher candidates. As part of a college with a long history of field-based programs, we followed the lead of faculty who established the college and shaped its perspectives and commitments. Further, we were encouraged by Dean Ray Nystrand, who led the college as a charter member of the Holmes Group and participated in national conversations in the 1990s about university-school collaborations for teacher education, professional development, and school reform.

We each served as “university liaisons” at Professional Development Schools, which involved providing on-site classes, observing teacher candidates in field and clinical experiences, providing assessments of candidate performance as a team with mentor teachers, offering and participating in professional development opportunities, conducting school-based and collaborative research studies, and coauthoring and copresenting with our teacher colleagues and candidates as we all learned together. We feel enriched by these experiences that shaped us as teacher educators and explain why the present advocacy of a clinical approach resonates so strongly with us. As administrators, we provide support to colleagues who now serve in roles we once had and who, with their own talents and insights, shape what a clinical approach currently means in our urban context.

Knowing of excellent work taking place nationally on clinical approaches, we concluded that an issue of the Peabody Journal of Education on this topic would afford a wonderful opportunity to share examples, results, issues, and challenges. Contributors are leaders in educator preparation and represent highly regarded programs and organizations across the country.

James G. Cibulka, president of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), contributes the Foreword to the issue. His background as a dean and now as organizational leader provides him with extensive knowledge of the current state of teacher education. He offers a national policy perspective critical in framing the articles that follow.

Betty Lou Whitford, Dean of the College of Education at Auburn University, and her colleague Susan Kidd Villaume put current practices about clinical preparation into historical context. They look anew at the evolution of teacher education, the influence of accreditation policies and standards, and an interpretation of what a clinical approach means. They offer insights about the benefits and challenges to consider in advocating for such an approach and guide reading of the subsequent articles with a challenge toward “a shared commitment to successful student learning as the core mission of public schools in a democracy.”

The next several contributions describe varied examples of clinical partnerships in teacher education and emergent issues to be addressed. Bruce E. Field and Irma J. Van Scoy of the University of South Carolina continue the retrospective analysis begun by Whitford and Villaume. The University of South Carolina Professional Development Network can boast of sustaining university–school partnerships spanning more than two decades. The authors share lessons learned from their early years through years of change to current work. They remind us of the critical need for relationship building, a shared vision, dedicated leadership, and a view of institutional change as a source of strength and basis for growth.

Following this, Robin Hands and Yuhang Rong of the University of Connecticut provide a descriptive account of how their Integrated Bachelor's and Master's Program, developed in partnership with several area school districts, demonstrates a well-designed clinical model. Faculty with specifically designated roles, a coteaching emphasis, coursework connected to classroom experiences, and an ongoing use of assessment data provide a foundation for their “schools as clinics” image of learning sites.

With colleagues Melissa Evans-Andris, Harrie Buecker, W. Blake Haselton, Penny Howell, Caroline Sheffield, Christine Sherretz, and Ingrid Weiland, we next present a description of our clinical model in the urban context of the University of Louisville. Implementation occurred consistent with a university commitment to community engagement and improvement. Recognizing challenges experienced in a high-poverty area of our city, the university encouraged all units to consider how to make a positive difference within this Signature Partnership Initiative (SPI). Our college responded with a focus on the development, implementation, and assessment of our clinical model within SPI schools, beginning with one having the highest rate of student poverty in the state. We share the evolution of the model in two SPI elementary schools and its eventual expansion to a middle school. We describe components that appear to be most powerful in establishing partnerships, insights about the continued development of the model, and needed topics for research.

Continuing the focus on program outcomes and impact, Elizabeth A. van Es, Judith Haymore Sandholtz, and Lauren M. Shea provide findings from research conducted on their partner-based program at the University of California, Irvine. They examined the experiences, outcomes, and perceptions of secondary mathematics and science candidates in both a 4-year undergraduate partnership program and a 1-year postbaccalaureate program. The data revealed surprising results as candidates in each group made progress toward teaching effectiveness yet still needed support to reach ambitious teaching practices and classrooms of “rich discourse communities.” The authors argue that a combination of “broad and up-close” assessment data can help determine candidates’ readiness and areas for continued growth.

Continuing the discussion further, Morva McDonald, Elham Kazemi, Megan Kelley-Petersen, Karen Mikolasy, Jessica Thompson, Shelia W. Valencia, and Mark Windschitl from the University of Washington argue that without creating a meaningful integration between coursework and fieldwork, reform in teacher education will not achieve the desired outcomes. They posit the need for simultaneous innovation in three areas of teacher preparation (organizational structures and policies, content and curriculum, and teacher education pedagogy).

Establishing assessment as integral to clinical models in teacher education requires committing to evidence-based decision making and engaging all partners in the process. Ellen McIntyre, Dean of the College of Education at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and her colleagues, Tina Heafner, and Melba Spooner describe such a process, using as their framework for discussion two of the CAEP standards: Standard 2, Clinical Partnerships and Practice, and Standard 4, Program Impact. With their secondary education program as an example, they share a program evaluation framework and formative and summative measures that document impact for all stakeholders, including students. They affirm the intention of the CAEP standards and argue that documenting impact “can become more visible to all who have a vested interest in the success of school children and those who teach them.”

Although the articles to this point address clinical approaches to initial teacher preparation, Alyson Adams and Dorene D. Ross extend the discussion with their focus at the University of Florida on a clinical approach to graduate teacher education. Participants in this off-campus program engage in course work that intentionally addresses reform needs within their own classrooms and schools. Offered mostly online with local support, the program offers “support for the learning and leadership of practicing teachers.” Data from research studies have documented positive program impact on teachers’ and principals’ perceived changes in teachers’ instructional practice, conceptualization of teaching, and inquiry about practice. Further data note the improvement of students’ reading and mathematics achievement and school attendance in the classrooms of program teachers. Adams and Ross conclude with an invitation to collaborate with other “like-minded teacher educators who can envision new approaches to graduate education for practicing educators.” Providing a culminating article, Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, 2012 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award in Education and for many years an advocate of school–university partnerships, synthesizes key issues in clinical teacher preparation nationally and internationally. She challenges the field to consider the reforms needed to bring this approach to prominence and concludes, “Strengthening clinical practice in teacher preparation is clearly one of the most important strategies for improving the competence of new teachers and the capacity of the teaching force as a whole.”

Sharon Porter Robinson, President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, provides insightful and powerful comments in the afterword to the issue. Most appropriately, she speaks to audiences of university faculty and administrators, school district and school-based educators, organizational leaders, and policy developers. She concludes this theme issue with a realistic and urgent look to the future: “Although high-quality clinical practice and clinical partnerships are not yet the norm in today's preparation programs … these should be at the heart of teacher preparation and the focus of innovation. … Extensive clinical development is a program standard that must be met.”

1. American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. (2010). The clinical preparation of teachers: A policy brief. Washington, DC: Author.
2. Duncan, A. (2010, November 16). Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks to National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from remarks-national-council-accreditation-teacher-education
3. National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (2010, November). Transforming teacher education through clinical practice: A national strategy to prepare effective teachers. . Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning. Washington, DC: Author.


Journal abstracts are linked to titles.

Foreword: Systemic Strategies to Create Clinically Rich Teacher Preparation
James G. Cibulka
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 419-422.

Clinical Teacher Preparation: A Retrospective
Betty Lou Whitford & Susan Kidd Villaume
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 423-435.

The Challenges Never Stop! Two Decades of Reaching for the Best in Clinical Practice
Bruce E. Field & Irma J. Van Scoy
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 436-452.

Schools as Clinics: Learning About Practice in Practice
Robin Hands & Yuhang Rong
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 86, No. 4: pages 453-465.

Clinical Preparation of Teachers in the Context of a University-Wide Community Engagement Emphasis
Melissa Evans-Andris, Diane W. Kyle, Ann E. Larson, Harrie Buecker, W. Blake Haselton, Penny Howell, Caroline Sheffield, Christine Sherretz & Ingrid Weiland
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 466-481.

Exploring the Influences of a Partner-Based Teacher Credential Program on Candidates’ Performance Outcomes
Elizabeth A. van Es, Judith Haymore Sandholz & Lauren M. Shea
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 482-499.

Practice Makes Practice: Learning to Teach in Teacher Education
Morva McDonald, Elham Kazemi, Megan Kelley-Peterson, Karen Mikolasy, Jessica Thompson, Sheila W. Valencia & Mark Windschitl
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 500-515.

The CAEP Standards and Research on Educator Preparation Programs: Linking Clinical Partnerships With Program Impact
Tina Heafner, Ellen McIntyre & Melba Spooner
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 516-532.

Clinical Partnership at a Distance: A Design That Transforms Teaching and Leadership
Alyson Adams & Dorene D. Ross
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 533-546.

Strengthening Clinical Preparation: The Holy Grail of Teacher Education
Linda Darling-Hammond
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 547-561.

Sharon Porter Robinson
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 89, No. 4: pages 562-565.