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Dec. 4, 2020 LA GRANDE, Ore. – Teacher candidates in Eastern Oregon University’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program can practice leading a classroom without actually being in one.
An innovative practicum software called Mursion allows soon-to-be-teachers to carry out lesson plans with a simulated class. A teacher avatar acts out lectures and interacts with virtual students.
A second platform, GoReact, allows EOU professors observing a practice lesson to pause the simulation to provide feedback. Candidates can also rewind the recording to watch playbacks on the spot, without disrupting a real classroom of students.
“This has become vital because of COVID-19, but it’s also something we were planning on trying regardless,” said Associate Professor of Education Rae Ette Newman. “It’s pretty exciting for teacher candidates. Even though the classroom looks a lot different, they are being offered opportunities to hone their skills.”
Even with all its capabilities, the simulated practicum is just one tool in EOU’s instructional tool kit. Kristin Johnson, an academic adviser for graduate students in the College of Education, said candidates are still paired with experienced classroom teachers who they apprentice with throughout the entire year.
The MAT program also stands out for its hybrid format and speedy completion time.
“One of the most distinct aspects is that it only takes 10 months to earn both a teaching license and a master’s degree. That’s really unusual to earn both in under a year,” Johnson said.
Most classes are taught online, but students gather with their cohorts on campus 6 times throughout the program.
“This program works really well for people who already have a bachelor’s degree,” Johnson said. “Anybody who wants to become a teacher, but didn’t go through a licensure program as an undergraduate could decide to become a teacher in either elementary or secondary schools.”
The cohorts are split by which level — elementary or secondary — the candidates are looking to teach. These small groups form tight bonds with instructors and one another.
“We build strong relationships that extend beyond graduation to support working teachers,” Newman said. “Because we are in a cohort, the candidates also build a support network for their careers.”
Many teacher candidates have already established one career and are embarking on a new one in education. Others have worked in K-12 schools as paraprofessionals, volunteers, or substitute teachers with a restricted teaching license and are looking to earn a higher salary and work in their own classroom. Some have just finished their undergraduate degree, and launch straight into the MAT program to gain experience.
Newman estimated that more than 95% of graduates are hired right after completing their licensure. The pandemic has limited some of the facets of the program, but accommodations are in place so candidates can still meet program requirements.
EOU also coordinates an advisory council to assess the program’s curriculum and ensure it aligns with the needs of schools districts across the region. Every district with an EOU alumnus teaching in it is invited to join the council as a partner. The partnerships also help fill teacher shortages in Oregon.
“We like to build those relationships and keep them going,” Newman said. “They look at our program reports for accreditation and talk about field experiences. We provide training for school districts. The advisory council emphasized the need to increase the number of qualified Special Educators and so we’re now developing an undergraduate program that combines preliminary licensure with a Special Education endorsement.”
Graduates of the MAT program have gone on to teach in and lead schools throughout the Pacific Northwest. Several of them have been Teacher of the Year recipients in Oregon and Idaho.
More information about the Master of Arts in Teaching program is available at eou.edu/mat.
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