Recently, Susanne Nobles, writing for the Christensen Institute, explored the topic of virtual field experiences as a method for infusing diverse classroom experiences in all teacher preparation programs, regardless of location. Excerpts from the piece appear below:
The dilemma is this: Preservice teachers need to practice teaching many times and in many places and ways. Yet, the opportunities for this critical practice are limited to classrooms near their teacher prep programs.
How can we disrupt existing teacher preparation to create more diverse and more plentiful opportunities for teaching practice? Let’s look at a new model: online teaching practice, also called virtual field experience.
Virtual field experiences are, at their core, the same as in-person ones: preservice teachers observe, assist, and lead instruction with mentor teachers. The difference is they do this online. These “classrooms” might be fully digital courses—either synchronous courses, where students, their teacher, and the preservice teacher meet virtually; or asynchronous courses where they interact through written or video posts. These virtual field experiences could also be digital components of hybrid courses, where students meet with their teacher in a traditional classroom then continue their learning by interacting with each other and the preservice teacher on a digital platform.
The critical difference is that virtual field experiences eliminate the requirement of local partners, breaking through the barriers that limit preservice teachers’ opportunities to practice teaching in three key ways.
Virtual field experiences do more than disrupt traditional methods: they also reach nonconsumers of the traditional teacher prep model. One nonconsumer is the adult wanting to change careers. Virtual field experiences open up a new, more sustainable pathway by providing much more flexibility for career-switchers to practice often and with different types of students.