SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The mounds of paper and related handwritten carbonless forms once used in the evaluation of Slippery Rock University student teachers are being replaced by a simple iPad "app," according to Jim Preston, assistant professor of elementary education and early childhood.
"We are trying to streamline and improve the process of getting evaluations to our student teachers," he said. "Using this simple iPad application, we are going nearly paperless and simultaneously speeding up the process."
SRU faculty serving as student-teacher field supervisors use the application to provide feedback, including photos and video, as part of their reports, Preston said.
"Prior to using the application, the big hang up was getting the student teacher to sign the feedback form, because we had to give the form to the student teacher, allow them time to read and review it, and then we had to make copies to send to the College of Education office. We also sent a copy to the cooperating teacher. We used those carbonless forms and we had to handwrite and update the information after each post-conference meeting with the student. Now we simply use the application and send it to all of the appropriate recipients," Preston said.
"We shared our idea and its success with other departments within the College of Education, including physical education and special education, and we have held workshops to even further improve the process within our own staff," he said.
"This is the second semester we have used the new process, and we are still working to add further improvements," he said.
Each of the six supervisors observe 10 to 15 student teachers who are completing their in-class service at schools throughout the region. "A supervisor has an iPad and simply calls up the template for the review form as part of their observation. They can enter text while observing the student teacher and can use the iPad to capture audio, video or insert photos as part of that observation session. They can also handwrite on the document before giving it to the student teacher," Preston said.
The student teacher can provide feedback as part of the process, "and the feedback we have been receiving is much richer," Preston said.
"As part of the review process between the supervisor and the student teacher, the supervisor can play a video of the student teacher at work. Say in a chemistry lab the student teacher is giving a set of instructions about an upcoming project, but forgets to check the students for actual understanding. Once the student teacher sees the video as part of the post-session conference, the supervisor can ask, 'What didn't you do?' and the student may quickly realize they failed to check periodically to see that his or her students actually understood the procedure. This procedure gives the student teacher the chance to actually see, and learn from, their mistake, making for an excellent teaching moment for our student," he said.
The cooperating teacher also receives a copy of the report, allowing them to further follow-up if necessary.
"Some of our student teachers are already using these reports in their portfolios and showing them at job interviews," Preston said.
"The process provides much better documentation and immediacy, plus it is good for students to see their supervisor using technology, because technology is the world they live in," he said.
"We are offering in-service sessions and working to see that as many faculty as possible in the college have iPads," Preston said.
"With this technology, our supervisors are now able to record the student teaching performance and to superimpose that performance directly onto the student teacher's written lesson plan," said Keith Dils, dean of SRU's College of Education. "By having the written plan, the performance and the feedback all in alignment and shown in a visual format, there is no question in the student teacher's mind about what they need to do to improve. This tool is a significant step forward in student teaching supervision because all of this can be done with a few taps on the iPad screen."
Cinda Findlan, an SRU assistant professor in elementary education and early childhood, who is already using the iPad app as part of her work as a student teacher supervisor, said, "It makes the observation go clearly - and quickly. It is more professional and precise, and helps keep everyone on the same page."
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.