Cumberland University

Undergraduate Field Experiences and Student Teaching

Creating competent, caring, qualified professional educators requires the application of knowledge and skills learned in class and through course materials. Reading, writing and talking about teaching are necessary but not sufficient activities for preparing educators.

Opportunities for active involvement with students and teachers promote an awareness of the impact of the contexts and elements of school settings on teachers’ roles, teaching strategies, aspects of child and adolescent growth and opportunities to learn.

Cumberland University undergraduate candidates for teacher licensure will complete roughly 150 hours of observation and field experience activity with P-12 students in a diversity of school and classroom settings. Student teachers will spend 15 weeks working in classrooms in close collaboration with highly qualified, cooperating teachers to complete their own development into competent, caring, qualified professional educators.

Introduction to the CU SoE&PS Field Experiences Program

As part of the requirements for completing the School of Education and Public Service’s (SoE&PS) Teacher Education Program at Cumberland University, and ultimately for obtaining a teaching license from the State of Tennessee, Cumberland University candidates are required to spend a set number of hours in field experiences in area schools.

Based on accepted standards of best practice, and input from our candidates and local education agencies, field experiences are structured to expose candidates to all facets of the classroom experience. Through active involvement at this level in schools, candidates will participate more widely in the total school program and become involved in a greater variety of concrete experiences prior to the student teaching experience. Candidates will have a more intimate knowledge of instructional approaches, teaching materials, curriculum development and instructional programs currently in use in the participating systems. Candidates will also be able to look for the application of course material to real world educational contexts.

Rather than channeling all field experiences through a single practicum course structure, the SoE distributes them across a set of courses. Doing so allows faculty to target field experience activities in order to reinforce evolving course content and adapt them to the varying contexts at different schools. Each candidate is expected to complete the number of hours of field experience as set forth in class syllabi.

Field Experiences & Course Map

Our field experience program is designed to benefit from a tight partnership between our cooperating schools and our faculty and our licensure candidates. Each course that requires field experiences are paired with an elementary and a secondary school. Candidates typically complete 10 hours of observation and field work designed by their faculty and in conjunction with their cooperating teacher and school.

Candidates are evaluated by cooperating teachers and must complete Field Experience Activity reports for each course that requires field experiences. Please visit the TEP Handbook page to see those forms. 

Partnerships in Field Experiences
  Course # Course Title Partner Elementary school
Partner Secondary school
ED 201 Education as a Profession Cumberland Elementary Lebanon HS
  301 Strategies in Teaching Coles Ferry Wilson Central
  304 Strategies for Reading Southside Walter J Baird MS
  305 Diagnosis & Remediation of Reading Difficulties Southside El Lebanon HS
  330 Exceptional & Culturally Diverse Students Sam Houston El Prospect/LHS
  424 Health & PE LSSD/CU Pre-K Wilson Central HS
  432 Classroom Management Student teaching placement school  
  433 Methods in Education Student teaching placement school  
SPE* 340 Language Development Byars Dowdy Elementary Walter J Baird MS
  345 Effective Collaboration Coles Ferry Watertown HS
  346 Practical Applications of Special Ed Castle Heights Upper El Mount Juliet HS
  350 Assessment of Exceptional Students West Elementary Mount Juliet MS
  360 Characteristics and needs of except students Castle Heights Upper El Walter J Baird MS
  361 Moderate and Severe Needs Castle Heights Upper El Walter J Baird MS
  440 Techniques & Strategies, mild & moderate West Elementary Mount Juliet MS
  441 Techniques & Strategies, moderate & severe West Elementary Mount Juliet MS
  444 Applied Behavioral Analysis West Elementary Mount Juliet MS
HPER 220 PE Activities LSSD/CU Pre-K  
  343 Adaptive PE Special Olympics  
*NOTE: many CU special education students are para-professionals. Those students may complete field experience hours at the schools in which they are employed. They are to complete observations with other teachers if at all possible and are strongly encouraged to visit other schools. Hands-on work may be completed in their classrooms in conjunction with targeted reflection activities. The schools listed here are for students in the courses who are not employed in a special education classroom.

Field Experience Activities

Candidates will follow a progression of activities in the classroom, from being an observer to being an assistant to being an instructional assistant (one-on-one, small group instruction, centers, etc.), including perhaps teaching a limited number of lessons.

These three main types of activity specifically are:

1.  Participate in guided observations of classroom phenomena. Course instructors will give students assignments related to the observation activities, detailing what to look for, and what to focus on in notes and reflections. Students should discuss course content in their reflections or notes. ED 432, Classroom Management, will involve observational field experiences only.

2.  Assist with classroom activities, especially related to course content. The course instructor may provide specific criteria for the types of activities to engage in. However, in this role, candidates are available for any task that a teacher may be required to do during school day. But candidates are expected to discuss the course with their cooperating teachers and together negotiate experiences that deal with content as much as is reasonably possible.

3.  Candidates will be allowed to teach lessons toward the end of the semester, if they have earned the privilege. Teaching is not in any way guaranteed, and the decision will come from CU personnel. Candidates will have two options for instruction: a) teach the Cooperating Teacher’s lesson plan; b) teach their own lesson plan based on content the CT gives them. Optimally, candidates will deliver at least two lessons toward the end of their placement.

In the performance of these three main activities, candidates may:

  1. Prepare materials for instruction under the direction of the teacher
  2. Deliver materials to or for the teacher to other locations within the school.
  3. Participate in Bus and carpool line
  4. Assist with set up and clean up activities
  5. Assist with physical needs of students
  6. Tutor individual students
  7. Guide small groups or centers
  8. Help administer TCAP or other standardized assessments
  9. Assist in lessons introduced by the teacher
  10. Assist classroom teacher with instructional activities
  11. Prepare and present mini-lessons under the direction of the teacher
  12. Participate in any other related activities that will assist the teacher with the instructional program and give the student practical experience.

Candidates may NOT:

  1. Share personal information about students with anyone but their cooperating teacher.
  2. Be left alone with students
  3. Be considered as or used as a substitute teacher
  4. Be involved in instructional activities without the approval of the cooperating teacher and course instructor
  5. Deliver a lesson of their own design without the prior collaboration with, and consent of, their cooperating teacher.

Introduction to the Professional Semester of Student Teaching

The professional student teaching semester has been designed to play an important integrating function in the Teacher Education Program at Cumberland University. It is through this culminating experience that our candidates apply skills, theoretical concepts and lessons developed in University coursework and field experiences to practical classroom situations. This practical application experience must be carefully structured so that not only is there a gradual development of the skills involved in classroom teaching, but also a clear understanding is provided to students as to how theoretical concepts are being applied.

Student teacher candidates are exposed to the full range of responsibility teachers manage, an experience that enables them to understand and consequently adapt successfully to the complex role of teaching.

Cooperating teachers accept an important mission in helping prepare qualified students for the teaching profession.

During the student teaching experience Cumberland University supervisors assist and evaluate student teacher candidates during their two placements. The purposes for which student teacher evaluation will be used are as follows:

  • Accountability: to assure effectiveness in the classroom and within the school.
  • Professional Growth: to provide a focus for professional growth in an area(s) which has the greatest capacity for facilitating improved student performance.
  • Cohesive School Structure: to increase and focus the dialogue within schools with the goal(s) of improved service to students.

The Professional Semester, Briefly

Cumberland University follows and is in compliance with all requirements for Student Teaching mandated by the State of Tennessee's requirements for Enhanced Student Teaching. All student teachers will have two student teaching experiences during the Professional Semester:

  • Elementary majors will be placed in two different grades – K-3 and 4-6;
  • Secondary majors will be placed under the supervision of two different teachers – one in the middle grade and the other in a high school setting;
  • Students preparing for a K-12 license will be placed in two different levels: Music K-6 & 7-12 and P.E. K-4 & 5-12. These experiences may take place at one school or at multiple schools;
  • Special education majors will have two placements: one in a general education classroom and the other in a special education setting. Grade level varies with interest of student and availability.
During student teaching candidates work closely and collaboratively with cooperating school personnel and University supervisors and faculty to ensure the success of all students under their care. In each of two placements candidates will work with Cooperating Teachers to co-plan and co-teach lessons, modules, or units and may be in full-time control of the classroom under the supervision of the cooperating teacher. Candidates will be assessed by supervisors and cooperating teachers on their teaching performance. Teacher Candidates must consider themselves to be employees of the schools and act accordingly, staying the same hours as their cooperating teacher and covering additional duties that may be entrusted to them.

Candidates should be aware of the following policies:

  1. The Professional Semester is a full-time experience. By State mandate candidates may not take any other class except student teaching seminar during this period. It is the School of Education and Public Service's position that candidates are not to hold another job during this period.
  2. Students shall not be assigned to a school where they have been a student, where they have worked or where family members attend or work.
  3. Student teachers may not serve as substitute teachers during the semester in which they are student teaching.
  4. Punctual, daily attendance is expected and essential and candidates are expected to conduct themselves in a highly professional manner.
  5. Student teachers will be present at all school-related functions in which their cooperating teachers are expected to attend, regardless of the time of day at which the functions occur.
  6. Student teachers must not assume responsibilities for activities in or out of the classroom not specifically covered by laws of the state.
  7. Student teaching placements will follow the school district calendar. Any exceptions must be cleared by the Coordinator of Field Experiences in advance.

Seminars & Supervisors

Student teachers will attend and participate in bi-weekly seminars and complete seminar course requirements.

Seminars will be held in classrooms on campus, or in a class or conference room at a local cooperating school. Students who are student teaching in classrooms remote from the Cumberland University campus may be able to join seminars through web-based conferencing software.

Student teacher candidates will be supervised and assessed during the Professional Semester by Cumberland University faculty from four of our five Schools, and/or adjunct faculty specially hired by the School of Education who have multiple years of experience in classrooms and/or are highly qualified in specific, relevant content area knowledge and pedagogy. Most of the School of Education faculty, including the dean, have shared in the supervision of our student teachers.

Cumberland University is proud of the level of commitment shared by the faculty of our School of Liberal Arts & Sciences, School of Business & Technology and School of Music & the Arts who are involved as secondary supervisors in the assessment of student teacher candidates during the Professional Semester.