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Flipping the Script for Special Educators

Preparing educators, counselors and leaders isn’t easy during a global pandemic that requires social distancing and masks. As part of TCU’s Connected Campus Plan, College of Education faculty and staff have been training and planning for high-quality online and blended instruction for the fall semester.

Professor Michael Faggella-Luby will use a flipped classroom approach for his Study of Exceptional Students course this fall. All Early Childhood-6th Grade Education students take the course during their junior year in a cohort and typically learn through class lectures, lesson plans developed with guidance from Dr. Faggella-Luby, and observation and teaching at Starpoint School, an on-campus laboratory school for children with learning differences.

“The kinds of cooperative learning that we do as educators isn’t functional from six feet away,” Dr. Faggella-Luby said. “But students can meet virtually as small groups in breakout rooms, have discussions and work together. To build trust and community, hybrid learning makes the most sense for training educators at this point in their program.”

Consequently, Dr. Faggella-Luby is reimagining how to engage students in his classes to promote meaningful learning. This fall, his students will experience a flipped learning environment with short pre-recorded videos of his teaching, links to related education resources and digital textbook materials prior to class each week. The students will then meet virtually with Dr. Faggella-Luby for large and small group discussions. Most importantly, the flipped classroom will allow Dr. Faggella-Luby to support students in real time as College of Education students develop lesson plans based on course content for use during their field experience.

A unique aspect of teacher preparation in the College of Education is that TCU students spend significant amounts of time in school-based field experiences. While COVID-19 has disrupted how field experiences will occur, that won’t stop the learning.

“We are fortunate to have wonderful partners and families at Starpoint School that enable College of Education students to continue working in authentic ways,” Faggella-Luby said. “During the semester, our students will partner with Starpoint students for an hour of one-on-one individualized instruction, plus another thirty minutes of small group cooperative learning in reading and science. I can’t think of many universities that can offer that kind of firsthand learning experience.”

Faggella-Luby said that the other benefit of online instruction will be teaching TCU students technology skills that they will likely need after graduation. If graduates need to teach students in a hybrid or online environment, they will already have the tools and experience needed to be successful.

“I am proud that from the very beginning, our program continues to prepare graduates to be competitive in the job market,” Faggella-Luby said. “As we adapt teacher preparation to the new reality of learning in K-12 schools, we are also ensuring that our graduates are leaders prepared to meet whatever challenges they encounter.”

TCU faculty are committed to providing an outstanding academic experience for students, whether courses are online, in person or a combination of both. For more information and resources for fall 2020, visit the TCU Connected Campus site. 

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