Section 1: A Nod to the Literature
The National and Virginia Landscapes of Mentor Training and Clinical Practice
The Single Most Important Factor
Teacher preparation research literature is replete with studies identifying the final capstone internship experience (and by proxy the “mentor teachers” or “clinical faculty” who guide interns) as the single most important factor in a teacher candidate’s professional development (Valencia, Martin, Place, & Grossman, 2009; Zeichner & Gore, 1990). This literature also pinpoints the first years in the profession as a key window for these new teachers’ growth and retention. Thus, the Virginia Department of Education’s focus on mentor training, clinical faculty, and clinical practice is consistent with national trends in the field of teacher preparation. It is also closely aligned with the commitment to clinical faculty/mentor teacher professional development of many of the nation’s teacher preparation programs. The Mentoring Virginia institutions and networks are deeply committed to these mentor training and development initiatives.
A Common Call
Mentor training and development efforts are tied to recent calls from professional associations, scholarly/policy reports, and accreditation agencies that have sparked a national shift toward clinically-centered teacher preparation (CAEP, 2013; Dennis, Burns, Tricarico, Van Ingen, Jacobs, & Davis, 2017; NCATE, 2010; Zeichner, 2013). While now a decade old, the NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel Report, Transforming Teacher Education through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers (2010), still represents an important impetus for this turn, as it urged teacher educators to situate clinical practice—rather than university-based instruction—at the heart of their preparation efforts, interweaving academic learning and professional application. This move from theory and practice as isolated experiences to theory and practice as intentionally connected experiences represents an essential shift in the field—more recently echoed by numerous scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and professional associations, including The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) in its white paper A Pivot Toward Clinical Practice, Its Lexicon, and the Renewal of Educator Preparation (AACTE, 2018).
All In On Clinical Practice
AACTE and other national organizations such as the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) continue to explicitly focus their agendas on clinical practice efforts--and, by extension, on mentor training and development--in the form of AACTE’s Clinical Practice Commission and ATE’s Clinical Fellows Institute. And while there are certainly pockets of institutions around the United States with long histories of clinically-centered teacher preparation and mentor training initiatives, such as in programs with Professional Development School (PDS) orientations, the most recent teacher preparation assessment criteria from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)—our leading accreditation body—requires colleges to document efforts in clinical practice (e.g., via CAEP Standard 2 [CAEP, 2013]). Thus, the work of clinically-based teacher and mentor training preparation have gone mainstream and colleges of education around the country are embedding teacher preparation in “clinical” PK-12 settings, highlighting the clinical faculty and mentor teacher roles that are the focus of the Mentoring Virginia project (NCATE, 2010).
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