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B.C.'s student-teachers showing their ingenuity during current practicums

Last Updated May 8, 2020 at 12:44 am PDT

FILE (iStock)

UBC education prof says new learning methods used during the practicums could signal what future looks like in classroom

She says key skills are being developed, even though teacher-candidates are not in schools

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – For a lot of post-secondary students, practicum placements won’t be possible this spring.

That’s not the case for student teachers, though, who are working alongside bona-fide teachers to get their certification.

‘Alongside,’ of course, has a different connotation during the pandemic. They are practising their skills with teachers online; presenting and recording lessons, working through the curriculum, and correcting students’ work.

Marianne McTavish is the Associate Dean Teacher Education in the Faculty of Education at UBC. She feels the student teachers aren’t missing much by not being in the classroom.

“To be quite honest, I don’t think they are missing anything. Sure they are missing the face-to-face aspect. But they are really gaining a great deal of skills that would be similar to face-to-face interaction. They are making relationships with students and they are making sure lessons are flowing.”

She thinks the resourcefulness demonstrated by both teachers and their protégés in using screens, videos and other online resources will shape education.

“This is really how education is going to change and be reshaped as we go forward after COVID,” she says. “It’s a different platform but it requires similar yet different skills and ones they are developing for the 21st Century.”

She admits evaluating the teacher-candidates has been a bit more tricky. She says standards don’t change, and the candidates are still assessed to the highest standards before embarking on their careers. Faculty advisors and even retired teachers are now helping on that front.

Fortunately, teacher-candidates enrolled at UBC get a taste of what the classroom is like throughout their program. For example, they get to spend one day a week in schools in the fall and then during two-week periods as the program progresses.

She stresses student-teachers who feel underprepared for their careers, or who were not comfortable executing online lessons, can do additional practicums in real-life classrooms in the fall. Plus, she points out, teachers are constantly enhancing their skills — professional development days being one example of the ongoing education for teachers.

Getting the student teachers out into the real world is a priority since the province still has a teacher shortage. But McTavish believes her students are more than ready for the challenge.

“In this changing landscape, I have just been so impressed by the inspiration that these students are bringing in terms of the support and strength to both students and teachers. They are amazingly resilient, they’ve shown amazing flexibility and adaptability. They have risen to the task, and I’m really proud.”