Qualified and trained teachers are crucial to ensure the quality of education. Most organizations recruit well-trained teachers to keep up the standard of education. Enriched training in education hones the teaching skills of educators and thereby enhances students’ learning. The two important aspects of teacher training are the course content and practicum.
In this article, let us look into what practicum is and how it is crucial to degrees in education and teacher training courses.
What is a Practicum?
Practicum is a significant aspect of education. It refers to the practical application of learned theory under the direction of an experienced professional. It is common for higher education graduates in the field of education, social work, and mental health to have practicum as a part of their course. An approved university, college, or public agency that offers higher education includes practicum as a significant part of the curriculum.
Practicum refers to the course of study in teacher training. It involves the practical experiences that trainee teachers receive before taking up student teaching and other responsibilities as a teacher, that is, it is the practical and experiential learning and exploration of the teaching practice under a mentor’s supervision.
Purpose of Practicum in Teaching
A practicum is designed to provide trainee students with experiential learning. The crucial aspect of practicum lies in observation and feedback by the mentors.
During the practicum, the trainees gain insight into the responsibilities of a teacher. The trainee teacher works hand in hand with experienced professional, state-licensed teachers, who act as mentors. The trainee teachers plan lessons and implement them using various teaching strategies to meet diverse learning needs. The mentor supervises the trainees, guides them on their activities, and provides feedback on their work.
Teaching practicum deals with teaching and other responsibilities teachers handle in their profession.
Where are Practicums Held?
Teaching practicums are held in primary, middle school, or high school classrooms. During the practicum, the teacher trainees visit classrooms of different grade levels at schools. They are supervised by experienced and licensed teachers, who act as mentors.
Trainee teachers who take up online education can take their practicum in a nearby school with the approval of the school’s training department.
Practicums are structured in various ways. A trainee teacher may be assigned to one or more schools. In contrast, several trainees may be assigned within the same school. The level of responsibilities assigned to the trainees may differ as well. Some trainees may be allocated wider roles and responsibilities than others depending on their potential.
The Time Frame
Teaching practicum generally includes a specific number of hours that may be spread across the number of weeks of the semester. The time allocated for practicum differs according to the degree level and the education program, and it depends on the organization that trains the teachers.
Education training is a combination of theory and practice. Practicums offer experiential learning to the teacher trainees, putting their theoretical learning into practice. Mostly, teaching practicums are offered for credit. Trainee teachers are required to work with small groups under the mentorship of licensed teachers, apart from attending seminars and completing their coursework. Upon completing the practicums, students are offered their credit.
Importance of Practicum
- A teaching practicum is an antecedent to student teaching in the classroom. During teacher training, trainees work with lesson plans and activity plans; it is only during practicum that the teacher trainee experiences conducting a complete class and implements these plans.
- Teacher trainees work with small groups of students during teaching practicum. The practical experience gives them the confidence and teaching internship.
- Practicums provide hands-on experience to trainee teachers and enable them to apply their learning.
- Practicums enhance the career prospects of teachers. Educational organizations prefer teachers with practicum experience. The real work experience obtained during practicum gives an advantage to the candidates. It helps in a seamless and smooth transition between teacher training and employment.
- The practicum course is offered credit. Besides monitoring teaching duties, trainees prepare lesson plans and activities, complete the course work and attend seminars. Trainee teachers also take up additional tasks such as evaluating exam papers and arranging experiments in the labs. These activities give hands-on experience to future educators.
Practicum Vs. Student Teaching
Practicum and student teaching are two variants of fieldwork in a teacher education program. Let us compare these two important aspects of teacher training.
Practicums are a part of experiential learning where the trainee is a part of the class. An experienced and licensed educator supervises the trainee. During practicums, the mentors provide a lot of hand-holding to the trainee teachers, which nurtures their teaching and class management skills.
In student teaching, the teacher trainees apply their experience and skill in an independent setting. However, the trainee is assigned with a supervisor, similar to the reporting manager in a professional work environment. The trainee works closely with the supervisor to promote student learning.
In teacher education programs, practicums are done before student teaching. This two-step process helps easy transition from being a trainee to a professional educator. Practicum, followed by student teaching, helps the trainee teacher hone her skills as a teacher and assume her role with poise and confidence.
Higher education in teaching aims at developing teaching professionals who are equipped to meet the requirements and challenges of the 21st century. The classrooms and workplace of the new age require the teachers to build on their knowledge and skills and adapt to the changing needs and time.
Thus, it is crucial for teacher education programs to couple experiential learning with conventional theoretical learning. School-based experience or practicums help the trainee teachers to experience the expanse of a teacher’s role at school.
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