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R&D Unit for Clinically-Based Teacher Education: Classroom-Academy

Strategy Document: Challenges, Objectives and Goals

The formation of the Classroom-Academy Program

The Classroom-Academy program applies a Professional Development School (PDS) model to the relationship between academic institutes for teacher training and pre K-12 educational institutes. It was established in December 2014, and began operating in a limited scope in the following school year. The program's main aim was to improve the quality of training, assimilation in the workplace, teaching routines and professional development processes pertaining to Pre-Service Teachers (PSTs), through founding and sustaining partnerships and mutual relationships between academic institutes and schools.

Three main challenges in the field of education are the background on which the program was conceived:

1.      Academic institutes did not offer sufficient solutions to both the changing needs and reality of educational institutes, and the objectives of the education system.

2.      A broadening phenomenon of new teachers leaving the system. According to a contemporary report – presented by the Knesset's Research and Information Center, and based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics – nearly a quarter of new teachers in elementary education dropped out after one year, and approximately 40% after three years.

3.      The traditional teachers’ training system, focusing on theoretical knowledge followed by practical knowledge created in the field, caused a disconnect between theory and practice.

The program’s main components

·       Extending the scope of PSTs’ practical experience in educational institutes, dedicating most of the third year to a clinical practicum. In that year, in addition to teaching roles, PSTs join teachers’ meetings, preparation days, ceremonies, parent-teacher meetings, school projects and so on.
·       The practicum is held during the entire school year, allowing PSTs to be part of the whole pre K-12 experience.
·       Each PST is personally mentored by a university/college-based teacher educator and a supervising teacher (ST) from the school.
·       Regulating a dialog between the academic institute-based teacher educators and STs to the PSTs.
·       Support and empowerment of STs through professional development by the academic institute.

Program evaluation and applicable insights

Evaluative studies conducted during the program’s first five years, point to a number of significant initial achievements. The program’s entrance into the education system has created a positive change in the way clinical experience is perceived as well as in the field-academy relationship. The resonance it created brought with it new spirit, interest, curiosity, and an expectation of something innovative and different. Here are some of the findings from these studies:

1.      The program established a new model of intensive experience for third year students. Their incorporation into the school, alongside close mentorship created good working relations between PSTs and supervising teachers (RAMA, 2018).

2.      The program anchored regularities that have aided in building infrastructure and mechanisms for professional development in schools (Margolin et. al., 2018)

3.      STs, principals and PSTs all considered the program an essential resource which contributed to the PSTs training (Margolin et. al., 2018; RAMA, 2018).

4.      The STs believed that the program contributed to their professional development, and to their feeling of satisfaction (Arnon & Fresko, 2020).

Have a taste…

Some positive voices from the field

“I wholeheartedly recommend this wonderful program to all schools. Pre-service teachers are exposed to things they would never see if they weren’t on this program.” (school principal.)

“The truth is that the Classroom-Academy program is a great asset which allows us to leverage the school.” (school principal.)

 “The principal pressured me to do it. Today, I wholeheartedly thank her for it.” (Supervising teacher.)

“The PSTs earned a very powerful feeling of self efficacy and ability to lead a classroom. Their practical experience was extremely rich and varied. They met school staff and felt they were treated as bona-fide teachers. Their training became extremely significant.” (School coordinator.)

Alongside encouraging signs that the assimilation phase was successful, implementing the program also encountered challenges, that necessitated a process of thinking and improvement:

1.      The Classroom-Academy practicum model has created a major change in the role of the academic lead (pedagogic advisor), without it being redefined and accompanied by sufficient dedicated training.

2.      The ST’s training mission has become more complex and challenging than in the past, and for the most part it was not accompanied by sufficient training and long-term professional mentoring.

3.      The relation between the academic lead, supervising teacher and PST was not regulated through an orderly and supportive mechanism.

4.      The PST sees one class, with one ST, and is not exposed to neither a variety of considerations from various teaching staff, nor to systemic issues.

Teacher training outline

The importance of the clinical experience element receives a valuable expression in the new teacher training outline (Wadmany & Inbar, 2020, chapter 5). According to this outline, clinical teachers’ training seeks to integrate the components of theory, discipline and practice between the academy and the field as well as between training PSTs and the professional development of school and kindergarten teachers, thus allowing for theory to be developed by examining field case-studies.”

The outline significantly expands the number of clinical hours in schools and kindergartens and lists eight objectives for the clinical practicum:

·       Affording a wide opportunity for a practicum combining teaching components from the disciplinary, educational and pedagogical fields.

·       Recognizing the importance of integrating knowledge with skills and values, which PSTs are exposed to during the clinical practicum.

·       Affording opportunities for experts from the academia and the field to meet and to crete and share knowledge.

·       Theory based analysis of learning-teaching-evaluation events and their relation to each other.

·       Fostering reflective self-teaching.

·       Fostering team work and working with a learning community.

·       Fostering SEL (Social Emotional Learning) skills.

Updated operational models for the classroom academy-program  beginning 2022

Three models of clinical experience, ordered hierarchically in terms of scope, and pedagogic depth, have been employed in academic institutes for teacher training since 2022.
The background on which these models were developed includes three factors:
1.      The new teachers’ education roadmap published by the Council for Higher Education in 2020.  
2.      The aspirations of the Ministry of Education, and directions in which it seeks to lead.
3.      Insights gathered from program evaluation studies conducted in the first 5 years of implementation.