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Education department sends students back to school

Twent years ago, John Brown University’s education department began a partnership with the Siloam Springs School District, a partnership that Grace Davis has watched change over time.

Davis said the partners’ most recent change is a transition to embedded field experience, in which a faculty member and their class go to one of the district schools and have class in that school.

Davis, an assistant professor of education and Professional Development School director, said part of her role as director is to coordinate the relationship with the Siloam Springs School District, which is home to 4,000 students.

There are currently two classes that have made the transition to embedded field experience.

One of these is Davis’ English as a Second Language class.

In Davis’ class the teaching candidates work with students one-on-one in the Siloam Springs intermediate or high school.

“Both the education major and the child are getting what they need from the classroom: experience for the teaching candidate and learning material for the student,” Davis said.

She explained that the University’s education department has a commitment to tying theory to actual professional practice.

“Our education majors have got to know what the real deal looks like,” she said.

Davis said that the transition to embedded field experience is a three-year process that started with elementary education classes.

“Previously, teaching candidates had to do out-of-class field experience. Embedded field experience helps the entire class go deeper, faster with learning and making links,” Davis said.

Senior Andrew Goode was part of the pilot class and is currently in Davis’ ESL class.

Goode reflected on his previous out-of-class field experience and his current experience in the ESL class.

“I appreciated that the department wanted to get us time in the classrooms, but I remember being bored a lot. Much of the time spent in the classrooms was just watching,” Goode said. “Embedded field experience bridges the gap between content knowledge and instruction. I can definitely see an improvement with the field experience shift.”

Senior Kristin Pankey was another member of the pilot class.

“The biggest difference between out-of-class field experience and embedded is it’s easier to make that immediate connection between theory and practical experience. With this model, growth is essential,” Pankey said.

Gina Mayhew, an assistant professor of education and university education graduate talked about her experience as a teaching candidate and now as a professor.

“As a graduate, we didn’t really spend long amounts of meaningful time in the classroom until our internship. There wasn’t ever any focus,” Mayhew said.

Mayhew now teaches educational psychology, a class that is currently using the out-of-class field experience model, but she is working with the department and the class to transition the class to be part of the new design.

“We’re trying to find the fine balance between optimal learning time within the schools and meaningful in-class experience,” Mayhew said.

This semester is the first that secondary education majors have been in classes that incorporate embedded field experience. Senior Emma Pollard talked about her experience working with a high school ESL student.

“They only moved to the States a few months ago and know almost no English. I only know a few random Spanish phrases,” she said. “The language challenge and experience has been really interesting and fun and I feel like I’ve learned a lot.”