Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


An Authentic, Sustainable Model for Field Experience in Graduate Reading/Language Arts


Leadership and Learning


College of Education

Date Range





Abstract Teachers in a graduate field experience in Reading/Language Arts gained feedback on their instruction in an authentic way. They observed each others instruction in a Lab Classroom context, providing each other with feedback in collaborative conversations facilitated by a literacy coach. Data indicate that conversations focused on student learning produced considerable insight into factors, including teacher decisions, which facilitate or constrain student learning. Teachers reported feeling safe and well-supported by peers in these conversations. Purpose or Objectives The purpose of this study was to inform the development of an authentic and sustainable model of teacher professional growth in the context of a graduate Reading/Language Arts practicum experience. The purpose of this presentation is to share this model and the insights gained about the potential of coached, collaborative conversations as a model for facilitating teacher instructional decision making, generally, and novice literacy coach development, specifically. Major Content of Presentation A foundational practice in graduate literacy education is a field experience rich with opportunities for teacher professional growth. Surveys show that consistent, carefully selected, and relevant field experiences are the most highly rated feature of distinguished literacy education programs (p. 333, Lacina & Collins Block, 2011). Necessary components for literacy education field experiences have been set forth by Cambourne (1995) in a well-respected model that includes immersion, demonstrations, expectations, responsibility, approximations, practice, and feedback. With respect to feedback, the component of interest in this work, there is a rich literature across areas of teaching on the importance of instructor feedback that is specific, immediate, and builds on strengths (Tang & Chow, 2007). Traditionally, literacy education programs have provided teacher-graduate candidates with observation and feedback from university instructors to facilitate professional growth. However, the work of Literacy Coaches in K-12 school settings suggests that another source of feedback, peer coaching, is a powerful resource for teacher professional growth. In a model like Collaborative Coaching and Learning (Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools, 2012), teachers observe each others teaching in a Lab Classroom and provide feedback in conversations facilitated by a Literacy Coach. The Lab Classroom model potentially carries the added cache of authenticity those who offer feedback are insiders, peers who know each other, the school context, the students, the day-to-day demands of the job as (some might say) university instructors, who may espouse practices that are ideal but not practical in some K-12 settings, could not. This study sought to blend the best of both worlds, bridging perceived gaps between practices in universities and K-12 settings, by adopting a Lab Classroom model in a practicum staffed by co-instructors from both K-12 and university settings. Participants were K-12 teachers, enrolled in graduate study in Reading/Language Arts. Their K-8 classrooms, with a high proportion of English Language Learners, served as Lab Classrooms. Each teacher hosted a small group of peer guests who, in conversations facilitated by a literacy coach, provided feedback and considered the implications of the observed lesson for their own instruction. Data collected included lesson plans before- and after- consultation with instructor/coach, video recordings of lessons, artifacts of student learning, teachers written responses to the question protocol that guided the facilitated conversations, audio recording of facilitated conversations, and self-reflections and evaluation of the Lab Classroom experience. Analysis of the data indicate that teachers, who were initially nervous about guests in their classrooms or about videotaping and being the subject of discussion, soon became accustomed to these practices and describe feeling safe under such scrutiny. Indications are that a major contributing factor to these feelings of safety was the focus on student learning that figured prominently in the protocols for both guiding observation and facilitating conversation. Similarly, the focus on student learning seemed to shift focus from individual teachers to a very productive focus on big questions in teaching or, as one group of teacher-collaborators would ask: What is the heart of the matter in this lesson?

Conference Name

ALER Conference

Conference Location

Delray Beach, Florida

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