George Lucas Educational Foundation

Curry School of Education: Early Classroom Exposure Improves Teacher Preparation

At the University of Virginia, aspiring teachers are well prepared by working directly in classrooms and using the latest technology. More to this story.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Early Classroom Exposure Improves Teacher Preparation (Transcript)

Randy Bell: Be careful. I don’t want you to think that I'm saying that lecturing is wrong. There's a place for all different modes of instruction.

Voice Over: For decades, America's schools of education have spent countless hours lecturing students on teaching theory, leaving many of them ill prepared for the realities they'll face in today's classrooms. Today, prospective teachers are learning as much from working with students as they are from working with college professors. And in places like the University of Virginia's Curry school program, they will graduate with a solid grounding in their academic subject matter, and the teaching know how to make concepts like the Doppler effect come alive in the classroom.

Randy Bell: Now what I wanna do is toss it around the room, and I want you folks to notice the sound as it's approaching or going away from you, all right? Don't hurt anybody.

I wanted there to be an opportunity for students to experience the phenomena in a classroom. They have a basic understanding of their content or their subject area. They're pretty green when it comes to knowing how to teach that. And I wanted to model how you could start something that really engages students

Teacher 1: We were trying to look at if we could make [inaudible].

We set up--

Voice Over: At Curry, students get into real classrooms with real kids, early and often. Sophomore year is generally limited to observing in classrooms. Later in the program, students get involved in one on one tutoring.

Teacher 2: And try doing file, quit, and see if that works.

Voice Over: They also develop and present some class lessons before honing their teaching skills as full time student teachers.

Jessica Ozimek: I want you guys to think of a person who you think exemplifies-- you know, you like the way they present-- they're a good actor or actress, or they're a good speaker.

It looks so easy, until you get in there and do it, and then you're like, "Whoa, this is so hard." I mean, getting ready for a lesson, hours go into it. Classroom management, I mean, that is a huge issue.

When you present information, that presents information--

Mary Hatwood Futrell: There's nothing like walking into a classroom of twenty, twenty five, thirty active students and you've got to teach them. And the first thing you've got to do is to be able to manage the classroom, because if you can't manage a classroom, you're not gonna teach very much of anything.

And the second thing you've gotta do is to be able to present the lesson in a way that the children understand they can learn and they'll want to learn. There's no place to do that better than to actually be in a classroom with a group of students.

Jessica Ozimek: -- to decide which piece of artwork each person's gonna do and then who's gonna do the biography.

Virginia Coffey: You find that picture that you wanted.

Voice Over: Kindergarten teacher, Virginia Coffey, serves as a mentor for Curry students like Alexa Kane. Coffey graduated from Curry before it began to emphasize early classroom exposure, which, she feels, is essential for success.

Virginia Coffey: It's a very sink or swim profession, and so I think it's valuable that Curry has chosen to put them in earlier and give them more exposure over a period of time.

How much time do lawyers get and how much time to medical doctors get to work under supervision?

But I think it's the same in anything you do, where the more you do it, the better you get because of that experience.

Everybody: -- run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man.

Kid 1 on video: Kenny, if you weren't so dumb, we'd be done by now.

Kid 2 on video: Calm down, Leon. Just 'cause you did all the work on this assignment doesn't mean you're better than us.

Voice Over: To extend actual classroom experiences, Curry uses multimedia technology to offer the next best thing, virtual classrooms.

Teacher 1 on video: Don't forget to work on your project.

Voice Over: Developed by Curry faculty members, CaseNEX presents case studies of teaching situations, combining video recreations, comments by experts and video conferencing capability, delivered online.

Teacher 2 on video: Okay, Edith, what's up?

Teacher 3 on video: There have been several reports about your unwillingness to use the technology that's available to you for your class. Now to some parents, that's very important.

Teacher 2: I have too much to teach now to try and incorporate video games and the internet--

Bob McNergney: If I look at this and I say, "Yikes! This is something I might have to deal with while I'm out there," then I'm gonna give it my all. And so we're trying to prepare people, edge them a little bit closer to what it's really like out there, and up their chances for being successful.

Voice Over: CaseNEX allows diverse groups of students to share their views on common teaching dilemmas.

Student 3: I don't know. There's these two sides to that issue, so what do you think of that?

Voice Over: For this case, a Curry class links up with students at Hampton University.

Marsha Gartland: We set up the video conferencing camera and using iVisit, we saw each other online.

Student 4: Okay, I agree with what your student said.

I thought that was really interesting, being that--

Marsha Gartland: Then we brought up some of the things that we really wanted to delve deeper into and challenge each other's ideas on more.

Rudy Ford: -- the first time I saw that case got my mind working overtime--

When you're able to take a look at another culture, another school, another neighborhood, much easier. And form partnerships with people through the internet and email, that opened lines of communication that haven't been open before.

One of our students has commented. Is this a good time for me to share her comment?

Marsha Gartland: Please do.

Randy Ford: Okay, she--

As the technology becomes more commonplace in society, I think more people will be talking frankly with each other and that's got to improve, both teaching and learning and society.

Voice Over: With the combination of technology training and early classroom exposure, Curry is helping promising teacher candidates achieve their full potential.

Randy Bell: I know you all have the potential to be the kind of teacher that can change students' lives and make students enjoy subjects that they never thought they could enjoy, or that they could have success in before.

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

You are welcome to embed this video, download it for personal use, or use it in a presentation for a conference, class, workshop, or free online course, so long as a prominent credit or link back to Edutopia is included. If you'd like more detailed information about Edutopia's allowed usages, please see the Licenses section of our Terms of Use.


Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis
  • Jon Shenk, Actual Films

Director of Content:

  • Sara Armstrong

Associate Producers:

  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Megan Mylan


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Jon Shenk
  • Paul Rusnak
  • Eric Williams
  • Wes Sullivan
  • Nathan Clap

Post Production:

  • Nathaniel Higgs, Morgan Ho, Deirdre May


  • Kris Welch

Comments Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.