Field Experiences FAQs

Experiences in K12 school settings are as essential as formal class studies to understanding the role of a professional teacher. Every profession combines academic study with practice under the direct supervision of an experienced professional. In an effort to provide teacher candidates with a well-rounded foundation, the Teacher Education Program consists of various levels of classroom experience – the early/intermediate field experiences and the capstone clinical experience of student teaching. 

FIELD EXPERIENCES

How many field experiences are there?

All teacher candidates complete a minimum of two field experiences prior to student teaching. The initial experience is EDU 202: Early Field Experience. The second experience is fulfilled in conjunction with content area methods courses:

  • Elementary Candidates: EDU 491 Classroom Management/Field Experience
  • Secondary Candidates: EDU 395 Field Experience

Elementary candidates have an additional field experience (EDU 395) in conjunction with the language arts curriculum block.

Where will I be placed for my field experiences?

The Office of Field Experiences locates placements for the field experiences within a 30-mile radius of Missoula: Arlee, Bonner, Clinton, Florence, Frenchtown, Lolo, Missoula, Potomac, and Stevensville.

Should I contact teachers and/or school administrators to set up a field experience placement?

All field experience placements are assigned by the Office of Field Experiences. Students may not seek their own placements.

When should I expect to hear about the confirmation of my field experience placement?

To comply with the memoranda of agreement that the Office of Field Experiences (OFE) holds with school districts, a prescribed placement process is followed:

  1. OFE sends field experience placement requests to schools.
  2. School administrators share the requests with their faculty.
  3. Interested/qualified faculty meet with the school administrator.
  4. The administrator may approve/disapprove of the assignment.
  5. School administrators get back to OFE with their replies.

Although it is impossible to provide an exact date to expect assignment confirmation, the OFE strives to have all field placements confirmed within the first five-eight weeks of the semester.

The Office of Field Experiences will email a formal announcement to the teacher candidate’s UM email account once the field experience site and cooperating teacher are secured. The candidate is to contact the cooperating teacher within three days.

STUDENT TEACHING

When should I start preparing for student teaching? Before you can apply for student teaching, you must attend a mandatory student teaching Information Seminar two semesters before your student teaching semester. For times and dates of these meetings, visit “Upcoming Events”.

Where may I request to student teach?

Eligible teacher candidates may apply to student teach in a number of exciting locations:

  • Locally - within a 50-mile radius of Missoula: Alberton, Arlee, Bonner, Clinton, Corvallis, Drummond, Florence, Frenchtown, Hamilton, Lolo, Missoula, Potomac, Ronan, Seeley Lake, St. Ignatius, Stevensville, and Victor. Candidates must have a 2.75 GPA.
  • Out-of-Area - beyond a 50-mile radius of Missoula, but in the state of Montana. Candidates must have a 2.75 GPA.
  • Out-of-State: Candidates must have a 3.0 GPA & two recommendations (faculty and/or advisor)
  • International: Candidates must have a 3.0 GPA & two recommendations (faculty and/or advisor).  See application materials under “Student Teaching” for additional information. 


What are the requirements for student teaching?

Requirements for student teaching include coursework, field experiences, satisfactory academic performance, and two recommendations (out-of-state/international).For complete information, refer to the “Teacher Education Policy Handbook”.

Do I contact teachers and/or school administrators to set up a student teaching placement?

Candidates may not seek their own placements. Per agreements with partnering school districts, all field experience placement requests must come from the the Office of Field Experiences (OFE). The OFE collaborates with these districts to secure placements with eligible cooperating teachers. Student teaching placements are based on the following factors:

  • Eligibility of the student.
  • Quality and availability of approved field site/cooperating teacher.
  • Candidates are not to student teach in a school where a relative is professionally employed or where a family member attends.

When should I apply for student teaching?

Student Teaching Application due dates are dependent upon the requested placement location and placement options for particular majors.

Intended Semester for Student Teaching

Requested Placement Locations

Application Due Date*

Autumn Semester

Placements requested out-of-state or international. 

November 20

Autumn Semester

Missoula area or other locations in Montana.

February 20

Spring Semester

Placements requested out-of-state or international.

April 20

Spring Semester

Missoula area or other locations in Montana.

September 20

* If the 20th falls on a weekend or UM holiday, applications are due the next UM business day.

Can I still keep my job while I student teach?

Student teaching needs to be the primary focus – for your sake and that of your students. Reduction of outside workload is recommended.

Can I take other courses while I’m student teaching?

Student teaching needs to be the primary focus – for your sake and that of your students. Taking an additional course while student teaching is not recommended. If absolutely necessary, undergraduates must complete a petition to submit for consideration by the Field Experiences Committee, and graduate students must discuss with their C&I advisor.

How long is the student teaching semester?

Candidates complete a full-time student teaching assignment in a structured, supervised setting for one semester – 16 weeks of a full-day teaching practicum. Most Elementary and Secondary Education candidates will spend 15 weeks in their assigned classroom. Finals Week (the 16th week) is set aside purposely for two reasons: 1). for make-up days (if a candidate is absent more than 3 days during the semester), and 2). for observations in other classrooms. If a candidate does not need to make up any days, week 16 will consist of additional classroom observations. The cooperating teachers and university (field) supervisors are very helpful with suggesting teachers with whom candidates can set schedules. Observations during that last week play a crucial role in the candidate’s teaching preparation. 

Candidates must make serious decisions about any absences for personal reasons that would interfere with the requirements of the student teaching days. Teacher candidates must follow the public school calendar during their assignments and are expected to be in school every working day. Candidates will also be required to attend planned in-service events. In the case of any situation in which a candidate must be absent from school, the cooperating teacher(s) and the university (field) supervisor should be notified as soon as possible.

All absences will be documented and must be made up according to a plan that is jointly developed by the candidate, the university (field) supervisor, and the cooperating teacher(s). A full day of missed classes will be made up with a full day of instruction. 

How do I register for student teaching?

Teacher candidates will receive an email from the Office of Field Experiences indicating courses in which to enroll. Candidates are not to enroll in any other classes conflicting with responsibilities of the student teaching semester. If absolutely necessary, undergraduates must complete a petition to submit for consideration by the Field Experiences Committee, and graduate students must discuss with their C&I advisor.

When should I expect to hear about the confirmation of my student teaching placement?

To comply with the memoranda of agreement that the Office of Field Experiences (OFE) holds with school districts, a prescribed placement process is followed:

  1. OFE sends student teaching placement requests to schools.
  2. School administrators share the requests with their faculty.
  3. Interested/qualified faculty meet with the school administrator.
  4. The administrator may approve/disapprove of the assignment.
  5. School administrators get back to OFE with their replies.

There are several factors that affect the length of the placement process:

  1. The school decides not to accept teacher candidates (due to budget, availability of cooperating teachers, etc.). OFE then begins at Step 1 of the process above.
  2. The school asks for more time to consider the placement request (due to school breaks, teaching reassignments, budget, etc.).

With such a fluid placement process, it is impossible to provide an exact date to expect assignment confirmation. Autumn Semester teacher candidates receive confirmations from March to August. Spring Semester candidates from October to January.

The Office of Field Experiences will email a formal announcement to the teacher candidate’s UM email account once the field experience site and cooperating teacher are secured. The candidate is to contact the cooperating teacher within three days.

What does the cooperating teacher do?

The cooperating teacher provides a vital link in the teacher preparation program. This educator serves as mentor to the teacher candidate by using his/her expertise and experience to guide the development of pedagogically sound and realistically appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Responsibilities of the Cooperating Teacher

  • Meet with the teacher candidate and university (field) supervisor to review guidelines;
  • Serve as a role model, observe the standards of professional ethics;
  • Maintain consistency in expectations of students and the teacher candidate;
  • Become personally acquainted with the teacher candidate to help in the transition from student to teacher;
  • Orient the teacher candidate to personnel, class organization, course objectives, discipline, routine school and class procedures, information about students with special needs or medical problems, etc.;
  • Encourage the teacher candidate to ask questions regarding all aspects of the classroom;
  • Support the teacher candidate's experimentation with methods and materials;
  • Guide other teacher responsibilities in the lunch room, on school grounds, at assemblies or in committee work;
  • Demonstrate or model techniques and methods before expecting the teacher candidate to perform similar tasks;
  • Provide positive clinical supervision of teacher candidates including effective use of observation to identify student strengths and learning needs, constructive criticism to help the teacher candidate improve and grow professionally, and clearly communication when making recommendations for improving performance;
  • Confer regularly with the university supervisor to guide the teacher candidate in improving instructional or professional behaviors (to include a mid-term and final assessment of the teacher candidate's progress); and
  • In cooperation with the university supervisor, submit the summative assessment of the teacher candidate.

Who will be my cooperating teacher?

The cooperating teacher has: 1) full certification in his/her area of teaching; 2) a minimum of three years successful teaching experience; and 3) the inclination to provide a positive and productive learning environment for our future teachers.

The assigned cooperating teacher(s) and teacher candidate will receive a joint email announcing the placement. Upon receipt of the placement announcement, teacher candidates are instructed to contact their cooperating teacher(s) within 72 hours.

What does the university (field) supervisor do?

The supervisor is the liaison between the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, the Office of Field Experiences, the Licensure Office and the participating schools. A supervisor is familiar with the goals, organization, courses of study, and pertinent policies and regulations of UM's Teacher Education Program, especially those connected with student teaching, and assists in interpreting these to the personnel of the partnering schools. The supervisor provides leadership in building harmonious relations with the participating school systems and personnel. The Office of Field Experiences assigns university (field) supervisors to work with teacher candidates during the student teaching clinical experience.

Responsibilities of the University (Field) Supervisor

  • Meet with the teacher candidate and cooperating teacher to review guidelines;
  • Introduce yourself to the building administrator and the office assistants;
  • Assist the teacher candidate in developing teaching competency;
  • Provide regular and systematic evaluation of the teacher candidate's development;
  • Serve as a resource person when assistance is needed;
  • Consult regularly with the cooperating teacher, including a mid-term and final assessment of the teacher candidate's progress; and
  • In cooperation with the classroom teacher, submit the summative assessment of the teacher candidate.

Who will be my university (field) supervisor?

The Office of Field Experiences assigns supervisors to work with teacher candidates during the student teaching clinical experience. The assignments are based on the supervisor’s teaching major and/or experience. If the supervisor has served as a school administrator with experience in mentoring, promoting teacher development, and assessing the teaching effectiveness of classroom teachers, the supervisor may supervise teacher education candidates in more than one subject area.

Qualifications of the University (Field) Supervisor

  • A minimum of five years successful teaching. The supervisor may be currently licensed or recently retired from classroom teaching or school administration. The average experience for the majority of the supervisors is 20 – 25 years of teaching or administrative experience;
  • A master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, or subject content is preferred. In some circumstances, an individual who has achieved excellence as a classroom teacher and has a bachelor’s degree with 40 or more additional graduate credits may also be employed to serve as a supervisor. These are individuals who have been successful teachers, have the expertise to help a teacher candidate reflect on teaching strengths, and can offer a variety of possible alternatives for instruction or managing a classroom;
  • The ability to establish a positive environment with the school administrator, the cooperating teacher, the teacher candidate and other school personnel;
  • A willingness to serve as a liaison between The University of Montana and become well-versed in the knowledge and skills regarding teacher development; supervision, conferencing, and assessment with the teacher candidate and the cooperating teacher. (Refer to the Student Teaching Handbook.)

Candidates student teaching locally meet with their university (field) supervisor during the Orientation Seminar. Those student teaching at distant placements are contacted by their supervisor to schedule an introductory meeting.

What should I do if my situation changes and I can’t student teach/intern as planned?

You must notify the Office of Field Experiences immediately so the school and cooperating teacher can be notified. Our ability to provide quality placements and mentor teachers depends on maintaining good relationships with our school partners, and we cannot maintain those relationships unless we communicate important information like this in a timely manner.

How do I get my Background Check results to a school for substituting or when applying to a job?

If a candidate would like a copy of his/her background check or would like it disseminated to a school, please contact the OFE for the Background Redissemination Form. The form is required in compliance with the Department of Justice policies of sharing this confidential material. 

How do I get my TB results to a school for substituting or when applying to a job?

TB results are not kept on file in compliance with HIPAA regulations. TB results are returned to candidates at submission of the Student Teaching Application for inclusion in their records. Therefore, the candidate is responsible for sharing that information with the school.