Practical field experience is an essential component of our SPED programs. Candidates complete four increasingly complex field experiences:
- Pre-admission volunteer work (32 hours)
- Fieldwork associated with courses (65 hours for mild/moderate; 93 hours for severe)
- Fall & Winter practica (120 hours)
- Student teaching (15–16 weeks, full-time) or internship (full school year, full-time)
The first two field experiences are supervised by qualified onsite special educators, and in some cases by university supervisors. The final two phases are guided by a university supervisor and onsite mentor teacher.
Prior to admission, applicants document 20 hours of volunteer service, assisting students with both mild/moderate and severe disabilities in school settings. In addition, there is a requirement for 12 hours of service learning as part of CPSE 203, Introduction to Special Education (a prerequisite for program admission). These hours are to be completed in inclusive educational environments, where teacher candidates work with students who are at risk for or identified with disabilities.
After being admitted, teacher candidates experience fieldwork and practice in diverse elementary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary settings. Our practicum coordinator works with professors and with our partnership school districts to ensure that teacher candidates have multiple experiences serving students from varied socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Teacher candidates who complete the TESOL minor will also work with students from diverse linguistic backgrounds. These fieldwork and practicum placements are typically in inclusionary, resource, or self-contained classrooms.
Teacher candidates begin their 12-semester hour student teaching during fall semester: CPSE 486R for Student Teaching: Students with Mild/Moderate Disabilities or CPSE 487R for Student Teaching: Students with Severe Disabilities. This capstone experience permits teacher candidates to apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they have acquired in their prior courses. Student teachers begin as participating observers and gradually assume more teaching responsibilities under the direction of a cooperating teacher. Student teachers should fully direct the classroom after 11 weeks. The duration of student teaching is 15–16 weeks, and student teachers work the same hourly schedule as their cooperating teachers. During student teaching, teacher candidates demonstrate competencies in our six major learning outcomes (aligned with INTASC/CEC standards): assessment, behavior support, collaboration, teaching, interpersonal relations, and professionalism (ABCTIP; described in the Student Teaching/Internship Handbook). These competencies are assessed through direct observation, a portfolio, and the Pedagogical Performance Assessment for Teachers (PPAT).
A 12-semester hour internship—CPSE 496R Academic Internship: SPED—is a sometimes-offered alternative to student teaching in which a teacher candidate is employed by a school district for a full year. When offered, BYUs SPED program supports the following internship models: co-teaching, shared-day teaching, and onsite mentoring. Interns assume responsibility for organizing and teaching in their own classrooms. A mentor teacher, selected and agreed upon by BYU and the participating school district, assists with curriculum planning, classroom management, assessment of learning, and professional acclimation. Generally, interns are paid half of a first-year teachers salary by the school district with a full benefits package. During the internship, teacher candidates demonstrate competencies in our six major learning outcomes.