Education Students Gain Real-World Classroom Experience in Urban Schools

In March 2018, a group of students from Montana Western’s Education Department traveled to Seattle, Washington, to gain first-hand experience working in diverse urban schools as part of a unique travel course being offered for the first time. The students were led by three members of the department’s faculty: Dr. Estee Aiken, Dr. Laura Straus, and Dr. John Xanthopoulos.

Seattle Field Experience Northwest African American Museum

This photo taken at the Northwest African American Museum features all 11 of the students who completed the “Seattle Course,” along with Dr. Estee Aiken, who accompanied them on this specific EDU 311-related field trip. Dr. Aiken is the first person on the left in the back row. From left to right in the remainder of the back row are: Kayla Adair, Christina Hansen, Kyra Palmer, Aubrey Carpenter, Devyn Christian, Edson Mendoza, and Megan Lombardi. In the front row, from left to right: Lacey Knadler, Khali Knadler, Halee Davis, and Katie Bumgarner.

The trip was a joint educational experience made up of two courses offered at Montana Western: “EDU 311: Cultures, Diversity, and Ethics in Global Education,” and “EDU 352: Field Experience.” The students in these classes took part in a 14-day field experience, providing them with day-long co-teaching experiences with linguistically and ethnically diverse students, supervised by classroom teachers.

Late afternoons and evenings would often find the students and accompanying professors on field trips to different religious and cultural centers. Teacher candidates listened to presentations at each of those centers and engaged in valuable discussions with representatives from a wide range of religious and cultural groups. The candidates noted that the religious and cultural diversity explored in these field-based experiences was closely connected to the diversity found within their various classrooms.

Other late afternoons and evenings were spent in lecture, discussion, and activity sessions organized by their professors. Completion of the course required that students develop a teacher work sample and a research paper. Class members also presented at Montana Western’s Annual Research Symposium, held in April each year.

Seattle Education Trip

Several of the students who participated in the field experience trip to Seattle reunited after their return and shared their experiences with each other and with the members of the Education Department faculty who created the unique combined course.

“I loved every minute of the trip,” said teaching candidate Lacey Knadler.

This pilot project provided the 11 teacher candidates on the trip with an extremely rich field experience and the opportunity to improve their teaching practices. It also offered the accompanying faculty members with a strong foundation for further development of this teaching model.  The second Seattle-based travel course will be offered in the spring of 2020.

A course like this is “really a testament to the block system and Experience One,” stated Xanthopoulos.

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