CUSP: Developing an innovative practicum partnership

Year: 2012

Author: Cooper, Beverley, Harlow, Ann, Cowie, Bronwen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Changes in school structures due to the introduction of a revised New Zealand curriculum impacted on the University of Waikato placement/practicum programmes. Historically, students in year one of a Bachelor of Teaching (primary) programme had been placed for one half day in local partnership schools, and given opportunities to carry out tasks at the request of Initial Teacher Education lecturers. Requests involved student teachers working with small groups of children often at specific year levels for particular curriculum areas. Principals expressed concerns that the Faculty of Education demands were impacting on children's classroom learning programmes and could not be sustained. Hence it was agreed to co-construct a new programme with partnership schools.

The placement/practicum experience co-construction occurred from July 2011, ready for implementation in February, 2012. Initially it was agreed that three principles would underpin all decisions: Children's progress and achievement is the central focus of all learning and teaching experiences in schools; Pre-service teachers will experience a high-quality, coherent school-based practicum and the Treaty of Waitangi has a unique place in Aotearoa/NZ for teachers and teaching. The initiative resulted in student teachers being placed in pairs in a base classroom for one whole day each week during semester A and the first year professional practice and enquiry paper co-taught by Faculty and the school staff. Placement continued in semester B culminating with a three-week practicum block.

The reframing process was researched through a developmental process that involved a collaboration amongst researchers from the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research who, although members of the Faculty, were not directly involved in the teacher education programme, and Faculty members, teachers and principals. The researchers collected data in the form of field notes of meetings, interviews with principals, Faculty lecturers and associate lecturers and surveys of associate teachers and student teachers. Meeting minutes and relevant documentation were made available.

This paper describes the nature of the collaborative practice as schools and Faculty staff co-constructed, repositioned, strengthened, and complemented their partnership to provide a more coherent experience for student teachers and children in their classrooms during their first year placement/practicum experience. In-depth cases studies of two partnership schools describe the nature of the local collaboration and decision-making processes and provide evidence of the impacts of the revised paper and placement/practicum on Faculty staff, principals/teachers and student teachers. Initial research findings have shown that there have been many benefits to student teacher learning.