The Clinical Teaching Model (CTM): Explored

by Dr Jim Twelves
6th September 2016

This article builds on my post ‘The Clinical Teaching Model (CTM)’ (Crucis, November 6, 2015). The first article tried to position the CTM within the broad concept of how we learn best for practical application from the commencement of a career in teaching. This article seeks to unpack the elements of the CTM as it might be applied by a pre-service teacher studying with us for either our Bachelor of Education (Primary), Master of Teaching (Primary) or Master of Teaching (Secondary). The discussion concludes with a reflection on some of the implications of the design elements of the CTM.

The CTM design seeks to be neutral in worldview, as it is not dependent on nor does it preference any particular religious, faith or cultural perspective. However, it resonates extremely well with discipleship models to the extent that the formation and development of the pre-service teacher is paramount and the model is dependent on continuous support systems from serving teachers that scaffold creative opportunities, tailored to the needs of the pre-service teacher, until they are ready to graduate as professional teachers themselves.

JT-Sept2016-clinical teaching model

This graphic attempts to capture the key elements of the CTM. The white circle in the centre depicts the teacher in training, already admitted to one of our awards on the basis of meeting the relevant entry requirements. Imagine them being supported by an array of structures and associated personnel, not alone on this journey but supported on all sides.

The orange bar at the base represents Alphacrucis College underpinning the pre-service teacher. The college holds the accredited awards that we want to award to the student upon successful completion of their studies. The people involved are the Tertiary Supervisor, the CTM Regional Director who is based within reach of the student’s Host School and the AC Liaison Officer who is charged with looking after the logistics of the pre-service teacher’s professional experience placements and their time with their CTM Host School.

Secondly, the blue sector on the right represents the professional experience placement schools. These comprise four discrete blocks for bachelor students and three for the masters. While the pre-service teacher is assigned a ‘Mentor Teacher’ the term implies more support than is usually the case. The mentor’s ultimate responsibility is to grade the pre-service teacher as they are the ones required to sign off that they have achieved the requisite Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) at graduate level. This responsibility impacts the nature of the relationship between the pre-service teacher and their mentor to the extent that it tends to be contractual more than relational.

Lastly, the green sector on the left represents the CTM Host School. Here the whole focus of the relationship with the pre-service teacher is one of formation as opposed to summation and assessment. The overarching goal of the Host School is to see the pre-service teacher develop and flourish as they progress through their studies. Their motivation is to nurture the potential they have identified in one of their own, support them in any areas of perceived weakness as much as they can and if at all possible to seek to employ the graduate upon successful completion of their studies.

One of the key personnel in the Host School is the Host Coach. Their role is to look after the needs of the pre-service teacher while in the Host School community. They look over the classes they will experience, the roles they will take on and the people they will come alongside. They liaise with the CTM Regional Director from Alphacrucis College to ensure that their Host School experience gives the pre-service teacher the maximum benefit. In particular, they negotiate assessment modification for the pre-service teacher so that the standard assessments for their studies can be tailored to fit their Host School context and that creative multimedia options are explored as vehicles for the submission of these assignments. It is recognised that the pre-service teacher needs to develop skills and confidence as much as and perhaps more importantly than academic rigour in presenting their work. Additionally the Host Coach appoints a Class Teacher or Teachers to be fitting support for the pre-service teacher. Relationships are marked by demonstration, modelling and walking-with the pre-service teacher rather than assessment-of or judgement-about. The Host School is entirely focused on the development of a new teacher rather than the measurement of their ability to reach particular prescribed standards. That is still covered but reserved for the professional experience placements.

Having reviewed the roles of the three support communities, the next part of this post explores the nature of the contractual basis of the CTM. The key feature to emphasis is that the CTM looks slightly different for each pre-service teacher and for each Host School involved in a CTM. A standard contract is issued but tailored to meet individual needs.

The establishment of a CTM contract for a specific pre-service teacher starts with the individual. Typically they would be known to the prospective Host School, often for a number of years, before the idea of a CTM ever gets raised. They may have been a student within this school and have grown up with the school. They may be a parent in the school community who has grown to love the school as they have seen the impact on the lives of their own children to the extent that they now want to devote the rest of their life to serving others in the community they have grown to love. They may be a teacher’s aide whose gift with children has been seen by the teachers and they have responded to the confidence placed in them that they now believe they actually can train to be a teacher. These scenarios represent life changing directions. These are formative situations which, if all goes to plan, can impact the lives of hundreds and perhaps thousands as the pre-service teacher embarks on their new found trajectory in life.

The development of a CTM contract usually takes one of two directions. The prospective Host School may approach Alphacrucis College with a particular pre-service teacher in mind. They have identified someone they would love to keep in their family and whom they would love to see grow and develop within their own culture, perpetuating their own DNA, their view of students, their teaching and learning approaches and their worldview and culture.

Alternatively one of Alphacrucis College students may approach the college and suggest they would like to continue their studies through the CTM. In this case, they would naturally already have a relationship with their tertiary college but they may not yet have a relationship with a prospective Host School. This would trigger discussions over a period of time as the college seeks to identify a suitable Host School. This is not as common as the first scenario and may take longer to establish but it is not impossible. The pre-service teacher would normally be required to put in some voluntary work with the prospective Host School to give them time and space to assess whether a CTM might work.

While the actual architecture of a CTM for an individual student in a specific Host School will look very different from any other, there are common elements in all our CTMs that are worthy of exploration. The design of our CTM is based on numerous models from North America, United Kingdom and Australia. Some versions have been running for over two decades and regulatory authorities have universally welcomed and supported these initiatives.

However, in order to explore our CTM in more detail I have selected the ten design elements from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education’s model for best practice in the United States of America (NCATE, 2010: 5-6). This was one of many initiatives that has strongly argued for a radical change away from an emphasis on academic preparation divorced from practice to programs rooted in clinical practice fully integrating academic content with professional practice. The next section of this post seeks to align each of these ten design items with our CTM:

  1. Student learning is the focus: In contrast to the traditional approach that focuses on the pre-service teacher reaching the prescriptive criteria based professional standards, the essential APSTs; the focus is turned towards the school student, whose learning must be the true measure of effective teacher preparation.

The CTM student will normally be in the Host School one or two days per week on as many or as few classes as is appropriate for their stage of development, there is no mandatory requirement of a set number of classes per week to be covered. In the early stages of the pre-service teacher’s CTM I would expect the majority of their time they will be observing a variety of teaching and learning situations and practicing school routines, rituals and tasks of a professional teacher as they shadow class teachers and others in the school community. Also early in the CTM the pre-service teacher will be engaged in assessment design, implementation, execution and evaluation so that their focus will be the school students.

2 Clinical preparation is integrated throughout every facet of teacher education in a dynamic way: Content and pedagogy are woven around clinical experiences throughout the pre-service teacher’s training rather than seeing it as a summative opportunity to assess how well they have been prepared. The emphasis here is on the ‘dynamic integration’ into the whole of the professional preparation process.

The CTM student expects to be on placement in their Host School from their first semester. The CTM Regional Director negotiates with the Host Coach and the pre-service teacher the adaptation of assignments for the specific CTM setting. Many prescribed assessments are discussed to devise teaching and learning situations where the pre-service teacher can demonstrate the same learning outcomes and APSTs as the non CTM students but using live teaching scenarios that might be critically reviewed and/or video reordered.

  1. The pre-service teacher’s progress and the elements of a preparation program are continuously judged on the basis of data: Continuous evaluation of the pre-service teacher’s progress is based on school students’ outcomes data, including student artefacts and formative and summative assessments.

The CTM student is encouraged by the objectivity of this approach and they feel relaxed in knowing that their success or otherwise is not based on the subjective perspective of one individual who might seek to distance relational bias but may not succeed. Instead the pre-service teacher is responsible for collecting the data themselves in its various forms, not least of which will be the instant feedback from the classes they teach in the form of the rapport they have achieved. This element is a compound upon items 1 and 2, developing a multifaceted approach for the CTM with the focus on the school student not the pre-service teacher.

  1. Programs prepare teachers who are expert in content and how to teach it and are also innovators, collaborators and problem solvers: To be successful teachers in challenging and changing environments, pre-service teachers must learn to use multiple assessment tools to advance learning and inform their practice with data to differentiate their teaching to match their students’ progress.

The CTM student is forced to devote all aspects of their training to practical application as opposed to merely theoretical understanding. Particularly in the early stages of their CTM, they will be encouraged master their content under the guidance of their Host Coach so that it is at the right level for the school students they teach. The traditional teacher training models notoriously find it difficult to teach the differentiated curriculum in a vacuum, so a program that integrates with the needs of real students is ideal. The emphasis here is on problem solving, which is much closer to the life of a professional teacher than one of theoretical mastery and again builds on elements 1 – 3 as it is evidence based at all times.

  1. Pre-service teachers learn in interactive professional communities: Everyone thrives under multiple opportunities for feedback in a collaborative culture, where rigorous peer review is expected to be given and received.

The CTM student develops best in a supportive community of practice. Building on the concept developed by Etienne Wenger (1998) of a shared history of learning, the focus is one of a continuous conversation about the pre-service teacher’s practice. The communities of practice established under the CTM are groups of people who share a concern (domain) and a passion for something they do and learn how to do better (practice) as they interact regularly (community) (1998: 4). The nature of this learning is individually tailored to the pre-service teacher’s personal developmental needs and learning styles. This design element has a natural resonance with a discipleship model.

  1. Clinical educators and coaches are rigorously selected, prepared and drawn from both higher education and the P-12 sector: Those who lead the next generation of teachers throughout their preparation and induction must themselves be effective practitioners.

The CTM student themselves are rigorously selected for the Host School as participation is not essential for a given initial teacher education program. The contracts are drawn up annually subject for renewal until the pre-service teacher has completed their studies. From the Host School perspective, the Host Coach and Class Teacher have to be carefully selected but their collaboration with the higher education faculty create a powerful synergy between theoreticians and practitioners. This counters one of the criticisms levelled at the traditional model that the faculty are too long out of active service in schools to be of any real value to the pre-service teacher.

  1. Specific sites are designated and funded to support embedded clinical preparation: All pre-service teachers should have intensive embedded clinical school experiences that are structured, staffed and financed to support their learning and their school student’s achievement.

The CTM student will only be able to develop a contact with a Host School that is open to the model. There is naturally a big commitment on the part if the Host School in terms of energy time and investment but if they deem it to be a worthy investment they can achieve a recruitment upon graduation of a candidate they have tried and tested over a number of years. When the pre-service teacher reaches their later stages of study for their degree, the CTM contact can be modified, if the Host School wishes; to include payment for the pre-service teacher’s service. Some Host Schools may establish a hurdle that precedes any payment such as positively answering the question, ‘has the pre-service teacher reached the requisite standard to be left, unsupervised, with school students?’ In contrast the Host School induction costs will be minimal as the new recruit will be thoroughly versed in the culture and systems of the school.

  1. Technology applications foster high-impact preparation: State-of-the-art technologies should be employed by teacher training programs to promote enhanced productivity, greater efficiencies, and collaboration through learning communities.

The CTM student is encouraged through the modification of assignments discussed in item 2 to utilise the most innovative technologies and to use multimedia for the submission of their modified assignments. They will also use an array of analytical tools to tease out the essential data from school student assessment in order to design innovative learning strategies for their students’ needs.

  1. A powerful R&D agenda, systematic gathering and use of data supports continuous improvement in teacher preparation: Effective teacher education programs require robust evidence based teaching effectiveness studies and application of best practice performance.

The CTM student is actively engaged in cutting edge best practice evidence based pedagogy being kept abreast of new developments by both faculty’s imperative for R&D and the Host School’s need to remain current and competitive in the educational landscape. This design element resonates with item 4 that brings the pre-service teacher to focus on problem solving as a core element of the CTM. The focus is always the school student’s learning outcomes rather than micro-management of the pre-service teacher’s performance.

  1. Strategic partnerships are imperative for powerful clinical preparation: Each partner’s needs can be met better by defining clinically based teacher preparation as a common task for which they share responsibility, authority, and accountability covering all aspects of program development and implementation.

The CTM student becomes embedded in strategic partnerships with specific schools, a further application of item 5, epitomised by the element of communities of practice which promote synergies for both higher education and the school sector. It also proffers professional development opportunities to be given by the college faculty, tried and tested graduates for future requitement needs and a pool of casual faculty for the college. In terms of accreditation of the initial teacher education programs the accreditation authorities are always keen to see connections with industry lending the programs validity and relevance.

The elements of the Alphacrucis College CTM have been designed with best practice objectives in mind as administrations from around the world have sought to revolutionise teacher training. Our CTM changes the focus from the pre-service teacher’s final assessment to the needs of individual school students with a dynamic integrated model that operates throughout the initial teacher education program. The model focuses on the pre-service teacher learning through problem-solving high technology data driven environment. At the heart of the model is the concept of communities of practice as tertiary faculty bring their passion for research and development together with school practitioners. Relationships are most significant, which naturally resonate with Christian discipleship models.

About the author: Dr Jim Twelves is the Dean of Faculty of Education at Alphacrucis College.

NCATE. (2010). 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 improving student learning, November, Washington, DC: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]