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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

September 18 , 2003

Educational experience


Dr. David Dibbon
Dr. David Dibbon

By Kristin M. Harris
SPARK Correspondent

Some students pursuing their B.Ed. (secondary) this year in the Faculty of Education were afforded a new and unique way to earn credits towards their degree. Forty students elected to participate in a suite of post-internship field placement courses which placed them in as many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, largely rural and remote, for a six-week educational experience that involved integrating educational theory with practice.

Drs. David Dibbon and Barry Barrell along with research/teaching assistant Lisa Brown-Peters and student placement co-ordinator Judith Mellor were the primary faculty members involved in developing and supervising this pilot project, which replaced courses that are normally completed during the Intersession period.

Dr. Dibbon witnessed the process as students worked in the field, and has heard feedback now that they have returned.

“This is one of the best programs I have seen in education,” he said. “It was a pretty powerful learning experience. The students felt valued, and their level of expertise was acknowledged. They were accepted as professionals within the teaching community.”

Dr. Dibbon stressed that this was not a second internship; it was a means for students to utilize the knowledge gained from coursework, as well as skills acquired through their internships, and apply them to an everyday working experience in the classroom. The students were also challenged to reflect on their experiences, both individually and collectively with their colleagues. Dr. Barrell was most impressed with the way that students were able to reflect critically on the field experience and relate this experience to previous course work. In his words many of the students came back from the field placement “wise beyond their years.”

In addition to their placements, which were typically in areas where it is difficult to recruit and retain teachers, students were in continual contact with faculty members. A partnership with the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI) and the NLTA’s Virtual Teachers Centre (VTC) enabled students and instructors to utilize innovative distance education technologies, providing students with a regular opportunity to reflect on their experiences in the field, with professors and other students in the program. Dr. Dibbon said, “We were successful in creating a professional online learning community where teachers in rural and remote communities met regularly with colleagues and instructors to reflect on their experiences in an online learning community. This could not have happened without the co-operation of the CDLI and the VTC.”

Dr. Dibbon, his colleagues, and the students involved are all quite enthusiastic about this program, and believe that this field placement experience will further enhance the skills and experience of education students, as they foray into the working world in the fall. He felt that this experience would give students an added advantage in the job market and many of them have reported getting jobs as a result of the experience. The project, supported by the Department of Education, The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association and the School Boards’ Association (NLSBA) was funded by SIOC (Student Investment Opportunities Corporation) of the provincial government, and has funding for one more year has been approved. Drs. Dibbon and Barrell are both optimistic that the program will find a way to continue after that.



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Next issue: October 2, 2003

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