An effective mathematics teacher preparation program includes clinical experiences that are guided on the basis of a shared vision of high-quality mathematics instruction and have sufficient support structures and personnel to provide coherent, developmentally appropriate opportunities for candidates to teach and to learn from their own teaching and the teaching of others.
As stated in the AMLE Middle Level Teacher Preparation and Certification/Licensure guide (2015), effective middle level teacher preparation programs place high priorities on providing and requiring early and continuing middle level clinical experiences for prospective middle level teachers. The priority given these experiences reflects the views of practicing teachers about the essential components of professional preparation programs (Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001).
Effective programs preparing teachers of mathematics at the middle level include clinical experiences in middle schools that are exemplar sites, reflecting standards for mathematics and middle level education. [Elaboration of P.4.1]
Programs for the preparation of middle level teachers of mathematics seek placements in model middle schools. Consistent with the standards of the AMLE and expressed in the organization’s landmark position paper This We Believe (2010), effective middle schools address the needs of middle level learners, including emphases on students helping one another to be successful and developing the abilities to contribute positively to their communities and the world. Schools at which well-prepared beginning teachers serve as interns and develop their practices through clinical experiences must exemplify practices that support the needs of middle level learners. For example, young adolescents tend to be highly curious and display broad arrays of interests (which can quickly change), are eager to learn about things they find interesting, and prefer active learning (Kellough & Kellough, 2008).
Those responsible for mathematics planning, teaching, and assessing practices within the school and the assigned classroom(s) must clearly value, advocate for, and understand the unique characteristics of young adolescents. Model middle schools also have organizational features such as interdisciplinary teams, learning environments, and time structures that contribute to learning and achievement; they avoid practices such as tracking that lower expectations for many learners. Furthermore, the school environment must be safe, inclusive, and supportive of the learners’ needs. The involvement of families, businesses, and other members of the community must be evident and active. When such a middle school is not available for candidate placement, middle level candidates need opportunities to consider how such environments can be created in their own classrooms. Engaging in experiences such as viewing videos, group discussions, and personal reflections can supplement candidates' clinical placements. Additionally, if opportunities for clinical experiences in exemplar middle schools are limited, programs can create partnerships with schools to develop a cadre of middle level teachers who can help provide a reinforcing environment for what teacher candidates are learning.
To ensure that the curriculum principles unique to middle level education are addressed, programs must ensure that clinical internship or practicum placements occur not only within a mathematics classroom but also with an instructional team that involves teachers with licensure or certification in other disciplines. Having full certification in two content areas is not necessary, but well-prepared beginning teachers of middle school mathematics need to have practical experiences teaching content that complements mathematics and is part of the diverse middle level school curriculum. In particular, the integration of information-literacy skills and appropriate state-of-the–art technologies into teaching mathematics to meet the needs of all young adolescents (i.e., regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, age, appearance, ability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, family composition) is essential.