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EDU 4291
Student Teaching


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The Critical Incident Report:

During the student teaching experience, the student teacher will submit at least four weekly critical incident reports.  The purpose for writing these reports is to inculcate in student teachers the habit of reflecting upon one's professional practice, to examine not only what is transpiring as one learns to teach but also as one endeavors to gain insight into why things happening as they do, and to formulate action plans based upon one's insights and diagnosis of the situation that will enable the student teacher to respond more appropriately to similar situations in the future.

The first section of each critical incident report should provide a factually-based description of the event.  Like the prologue to any good novel, play or movie, the first section should include the "who," the "what," the "when," the "where," and the "why."  Writing this section challenges the student teacher to develop the powers of observation and of recall and helps the University supervisor to understand better the student teacher's self-awareness and grasp of the situation.

The second section should provide a description concerning what this incident means to the student teacher.  Student teachers should not write this section as if there is one "correct" answer" that the University supervisor is looking for.  Rather, the narrative should demonstrate how the student teacher is muddling through the various complicating factors that made decision making in this situation a more difficult process originally than it might have appeared on the surface to the student teacher.  This section of the critical incident report demonstrates the student teacher's breadth and expanse of professional knowledge and affords the University supervisor the opportunity to introduce alternative ways of understanding teaching episodes to the student teacher so as to expand the student teacher's professional knowledge base.

The third section of the critical incident report is a statement of what the critical incident is teaching the student teacher.  The question answered in this section is: "What do I know now that I wish I knew then and, had I known it, I would have taken that information into consideration and perhaps have acted differently?"  Once again, this section challenges the student teacher to expand how one is conceptualizing what is transpiring and to consider what that means in terms of building one's professional knowledge base.

Lastly, the critical incident report directs the student teach to identify the personal and professional tools, skills, and attributes that one needs in order to meet the challenges presented in the critical incident.  By identifying these personal and professional needs, the student teacher learns how to specify an action plan that can foster one's professional development.

As may be evident, the process of reflecting and writing is critical in this experience.  Student teachers should attempt, when writing their critical incident forms, from feeling defensive about how an incident may come across and/or be interpreted.  The purpose for this activity it to engage in self-learning so that, in actual professional practice, one will become a more reflective practitioner.  This individual knows not only what to do but why one is doing it.  This is the basis of ethical practice and is the hallmark of a virtuous educator.

Taken in aggregate, these four critical incident reports will provide the student teacher the materials needed to write the reflective essay serving as the capstone activity of the student teaching experience.  For the University supervisor, these four critical incident reports provide tangible evidence that the student teacher is learning to teach and the tangible evidence supporting that evaluation.