When Sarah Paver began her student-teaching class last August, the graduate student in physical education quickly became concerned.
“I was very nervous when the edTPA came up,” says Paver, who graduated in December 2017. “A lot of my classmates had said that they had read the handbook over the summer. I didn’t look at anything until September.”
No problem, though.
The now-NIU alumna aced the edTPA with a score of 66 – 37 points or more is considered passing – to earn the highest Fall 2017 mark of any teacher-licensure student across the NIU campus.
Licensure candidates in the College of Education itself posted a 97 percent passage rate last semester, with nearly all of the 70 undergraduate and graduate students who submitted materials earning stamps of approval.
Candidates must submit a video of their actual teaching of between three and five lessons along with follow-up evidence that their students were learning and achieving. Candidates also must supply examples of further support they provided to students and subsequent plans for future teaching based on the earlier assessment.
For Paver, described by a former professor as “focused, hard-working, well-rounded and really warm and good with kids,” the road to edTPA victory was paved in sections.
“Once I buckled down, I really conquered it one step at a time,” she says. “I did Task One in one week. I just spent one entire week filming.”
Subsequent steps came after short breaks. “Once I finished one task, I didn’t jump right into the next because it was so easy to burn out,” she says. “If I didn’t put it away and not touch it for a couple of days, it could be super-overwhelming.”
“They understand that their ability to acquire teacher-licensure in Illinois rests on a passing edTPA score, along with all of the other degree requirements we have in the program, so they take it seriously,” Ressler says. “They understand that being an effective teacher includes the things that the edTPA asks of them, which reinforces the things we believe are important.”
For example, he adds, “that includes having very clear and dynamic lesson plans. It includes trying to meet the needs of every student. It includes supporting your decisions as a teacher with meaningful data from across all learning domains.”
“Because the edTPA is a performance-based assessment, our candidates are being asked to demonstrate more than what they have learned in their teacher-training programs,” adds Jennifer Johnson, the College of Education’s director of teacher preparation and development.
“They are being asked to demonstrate an understanding of teaching and learning within their own context, their own student-teaching experience. This is something that faculty have prepared them for throughout their coursework and early field clinical experiences,” she says. “NIU College of Education faculty are engaged in the process of preparing exemplary teacher-candidates, and I believe that our candidates’ edTPA results reflect that.”
Paver logged her student-teaching hours at Old Post Elementary School in Oswego, IL. She chose lessons in catching-and-throwing for her video submissions, later measuring student achievement in cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains.
“My cooperating teacher there, Robin Ormsbee, was a great resource for me,” Paver says. “She also videotaped me.”
Children provided hard information on comprehension through a written test with questions on offensive and defensive strategies and the difference between the two.
They also demonstrated their skills for Paver before, during and after her lessons as she walked among them for first-hand observation. She also watched for signs of respect for their classmates and ability to take constructive criticism, factors that satisfied the affective domain.
“I really enjoyed Oswego and the elementary and junior high schools. I really enjoyed the consistency of teaching full time. It’s the first time I’ve had that, considering clinicals are only an hour a day,” she says.
“I also enjoyed getting to know the students,” she adds. “It was quite sad to leave. You build such great relationships with the kids and the cooperating teachers.”
Paver isn’t sure when she’ll enter the gymnasium again.
Currently using her bachelor’s degree in athletic training at an OSF HealthCare centers in Ottawa and Mendota, she is open to physical education jobs that would begin in the fall and keep her close to home in her native Big Rock, IL.
“I’m very happy with the job I have right now,” she says, “but I think that my eyes are always open for teaching positions if the right teaching job came along. I really enjoy the middle- and high-school age, and would love to continue.”
Meanwhile, the future teacher has lessons for NIU students still facing the edTPA.
“Conquer in chunks. Focus on one task at a time. Videotape sooner than later. Task One is videotaping, and you just can’t hold it off until the last minute.”
Also, she says, don’t miss the opportunity to solicit support from classmates. “Our student-teaching class met every two weeks,” she says. “I would make sure I had each task completed before I went to class so I could ask good questions.”
Help is also always available from Judy Boisen, the Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation’s full-time edTPA coordinator.
“Judy is someone we’ve asked to make guest appearances in two or three of our program seminars each semester,” Ressler says. “Our students know Judy. She’s been an incredible resource.”