Class Acts: Service-Learning for Teacher Candidates

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By Shira Eve Epstein, Asst. Professor, and Andrew Ratner, Asst. Professor, School of Education, CCNY

The results are in: Teacher candidates engaged in service-learning report an enhanced readiness and confidence in their abilities as teachers.

Teacher candidates—graduate and undergraduate students who are studying to be teachers—need meaningful experiences in real schools. Ideally, candidates have adequate time in the classroom, both to observe highly skilled practitioners and lead lessons themselves.

As teacher educators at City College’s School of Education, we are committed to having our candidates engage in this clinical practice as part of their coursework. To this end, we have, in recent years, designed service-learning assignments that put candidates to work in city schools. We are able to partner with excellent teachers who create dynamic roles for our candidates in their classrooms.

Our teacher candidates have always completed fieldwork hours, but often the quality and quantity of their real-world experience was left to chance. Embedding service-learning into the fieldwork ensures that our candidates can better structure their time in the classroom—to their benefit as well as to the teachers and students they serve. In addition, the service-learning model allows for the particulars of an assignment to be determined by the teacher in conversation with the candidate, increasing the likelihood that teachers receive real support in areas that they identify. Naturally, we continue to revisit and revise our service-learning project descriptions and deepen our relationships with teachers in the field. So, while our work is still evolving, we are off to a good start.

By raising the bar for our candidates, entrusting them with more responsibility, and having higher expectations for their overall participation, service-learning has our candidates reflecting more often and more frequently putting ideas from their studies into practice—that is, beginning to do a teacher’s work.

Read more about Drs. Epstein and Ratner and our other contributors here.

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