Teacher Certification Programs Adapt Field Experiences as Coronavirus Closes Schools

Weidensall Hall (Photo Phoebe Doscher/The Gettysburgian)

Weidensall Hall (Photo Phoebe Doscher/The Gettysburgian)

By Carter Hanson, Staff Writer

With the novel coronavirus outbreak and subsequent university and school closures, the music education program and education department have had to dramatically alter their teacher preparation programs, suspending all field experiences and observations through the end of the semester. Despite the shift online, all graduating music education majors and education students pursuing teacher certification are expected to be certified in May as usual.

This semester, the music education program has two seniors who are student teaching. Initially, they planned to continue working in local schools if they remained open. However, Adams County school districts closed on March 13, and student teachers are now working on music instruction online with their cooperating teachers.

In addition to student teaching, observation hours have been forced to move online. Associate Professor of Music Education and Music Education Coordinator Brent Talbot has been working to create an online trove of music instruction videos. 

“I reached out to my network of friends and colleagues across the nation as well as our college music education alumni asking them to send videos of their teaching over the next few days,” Talbot said in an email. “My hope is to create a repository of music teaching videos that our students and other programs can access over the upcoming weeks.”

Talbot has been fairly successful in establishing an online platform of teaching videos.

“He [Talbot] has been compiling an enormous database of videos and reaching out to/putting us in contact with numerous teachers who have even more media to observe in place of our in-school observations,” said Patrick Peters ’21, a music education major.

Finding a suitable alternative to observation hours and student teaching experiences is a high priority for the music education and teacher certification programs, as the Pennsylvania Department of Education currently requires a minimum of 12 weeks of student teaching and 300 instructional hours for teacher certification.

Music Education majors have completed more than 9 of the 12 required weeks of student teaching. Like other colleges and universities statewide, Gettysburg is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to help students finish their student teaching requirement through remote versions of student teaching.

On Wednesday, both the Pennsylvania House and Senate passed SB-751 unanimously, a bill that would authorize the Secretary of Education to eliminate the 12-week requirement for student teaching due to the coronavirus pandemic. It now heads to the desk of Governor Tom Wolf, who is expected to sign it into law.

In addition to music education student teaching, all education department field experiences have been suspended for the rest of the semester. The suspension also includes the ASAP after-school program for students taking Education 201. Finally, as school districts across the nation have also closed, education students will not be able to complete their field experiences in local schools at home.

In response, the education department has adjusted contact hours in order to better accommodate students.

“I’ve asked course instructors to prorate the number of contact hours students are expected to complete in local school and focus on ensuring that students are able to complete their field assignments based on time they have already spent in the field,” Associate Professor and Chair of Education Dave Powell said.

The department is able to adjust the hourly requirement because they are course requirements, rather than state certification requirements. This gives some level of flexibility in regards to contact hours; the department will instead put a greater emphasis on assignment completion and field experiences that students have already completed.

“We have no students completing student teaching internships right now in the Education Department,” said Powell. “That means that our students who are completing field experiences are doing so mainly as part of their course requirements, and that gives us some flexibility to address the situation once everyone does eventually return to campus.”

Both Powell and Talbot expect that all current majors will graduate and complete the certification process on time this semester. 

“Even with these rapidly changing circumstances, I have no doubt our student teachers will successfully graduate with the Bachelor of Music Education in May,” Talbot said .

The quick response from the departments has also been recognized by students, as the departments have been working hard to help students complete their final major and certification requirements.

“As far as my experience, and those of my classmates,” Peters said, “I have confidence that our department and faculty are putting in a ton of effort to keep us afloat.”

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Author: Carter Hanson

Carter Hanson '23 is a political science student at Gettysburg College from Boulder, Colorado. He is a staff writer for the Gettysburgian, hosts the Pensive Anchor on 91.1 WZBT Gettysburg, is participating in the Contours of the Middle East Eisenhower Institute Program, and is involved in Fourscores Acapella and Concert Choir.

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