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Standard 4: Relationships Between Theory and Practice

The teacher preparation program provides extensive opportunities for candidates to analyze, implement and reflect on the relationships between foundational issues, theories, and professional practice related to teaching and learning.

In coursework, classroom observations, and supervised fieldwork candidates examine research-based theories and their relationships to (a) principles of human learning and development; (b) pedagogical strategies and options; (c) curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and (d) student accomplishments, attitudes, and conduct.

Working collaboratively, course instructors, program field supervisors, and district support personnel explain and illustrate a variety of models of teaching and the application of these models contextually. They instruct and coach candidates to use and reflect on their understanding of relevant theory and research in making instructional decisions and improving pedagogical practices and how these theories and practices inform school policies and practices.

Intern Program Delivery Model:

In an intern delivery model, the program design addresses this standard in the specific context of being the teacher of record.

One of the key beliefs of the Single Subject Program faculty is that theory must be wedded to practice. As theories and issues are introduced in the social and psychological foundations courses, their classroom implications are discussed. For example, the social foundations class presents contrasting concepts of educational equity. Students are asked to identify common classroom practices that are consistent with each definition of equity, based on their experience as classroom observers. In the psychological foundations course, a typical assignment would be to analyze a teaching episode that the candidate has observed in terms of one of the learning theories presented in class. (See CI 151 and CI 152 syllabi.)

In CI 151 Social Foundations of Education, candidates examine issues related to the purposes of schooling and school reform. They are asked to reflect on what they as teachers could do in terms of the content they teach and the methods they use to contribute more to the basic purposes of education. For example, they read an article on workplace competencies in the 21 st century. Then in subject–specific groups, they think of ways that they could teach those competencies in the context of their own classroom.With reference to school reforms, they discuss the impact of each reform on teachers and students. For example, the standards, testing, accountability movement is discussed in terms of how it impacts teachers and students. They also explore culture, race, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status in terms of their impact on school experience, especially the outcomes of schooling. In discussing each of those factors, the focus of the discussion is what classroom teachers can do to improve the learning of all their students in light of what they know about the complex relationship of each factor to student learning. The major assignment for the course asks students to do some research on multicultural education in their own subject field. Multiculturalism encompasses diversity in race, ethnicity, social class and gender for the purposes of this assignment. They are required to summarize this research and to develop a lesson plan that is multicultural in terms of content and methodology. This assignment also asks the candidates to explain how the content, the instructional and assessment strategies and the materials they have chosen to use are multicultural in nature. This assignment requires candidates to reflect on and apply some of the major the ideas presented in the class to a specific teaching task.

In CI 152 Psychological Foundations of Education, issues related to development, theories of learning and motivation, learning styles, and theories and models of classroom management are the focus. In the language and literacy class, theories and issues related to language acquisition are presented.  All of these issues are discussed in terms of their implications or impact on school policies and classroom practices.

In methods classes, as students plan, implement, and assess instruction they reflect on the theoretical and research base for their decision-making. In student teaching seminars and workshops and in conferences with university supervisors, candidates are asked to reflect on, assess, and modify their instructional practices in light of their theoretical and empirical knowledge base.

Learning how research theories relate to theories of human learning and development, curriculum, instruction, assessment, student outcomes, school policies and school practices.

In CI 152 Psychological Foundations of Education, students study key aspects of child and adolescent development with special emphasis on similarities and differences among 12- to 18-year-olds. Types of development studied include (1) physical development, for example, the tremendous variation among adolescents in regard to rate of physical maturation and the impact of puberty, (2) social development, such as the increasing influence of peers in early adolescence, (3) emotional development, including common emotional problems suffered by youth such as depression, and (4) cognitive development, such as the increasing ability of adolescents to engage in formal thought.  Skinner, Bandura, Ausubel, Bruner, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Gardner are the learning theorists studied. Class discussion, assignments, and assessment with regard to these theorists is focused on applying their respective theories to classroom practice.

Theories and concepts regarding first and second language acquisition studied in the language and literacy course ( LEE 154) encompass those of environmentalists, nativists, and interactionists.  Students study some of the key ideas of such theorists as Chomsky, Krashen, Schuman, Hymes, Vygotsky, and Cummins. This course helps future teachers to view language diversity as an element of school enrichment.

Instructors of methods courses and field supervisors help candidates to draw on theory.

All methods oriented course work as well as field experiences draw on the theoretical framework of the foundations courses. For example, concepts of culture and schooling are examined CI 151 Social Foundations of Education. In CI 159 Curriculum and Instruction, candidates develop lesson plans and explain how these plans are accommodating of cultural diversity. (See CI 159 syllabus.) In student teaching, students are placed in settings with a high degree of cultural diversity and are evaluated on their ability to accommodate cultural diversity in all aspects of their teaching from planning to assessment.

Another specific example of the program’s emphasis on relating theory to practice can be seen in the psychological foundations course, the general methods course, and student teaching. In CI 152 Psychological Foundations of Education, students learn that the ability to deal with abstractions is a developmental process and that many early adolescents need assistance with tasks that are highly abstract. In CI 159 Curriculum and Instruction, students practice designing lessons in which abstract tasks are made more concrete. In student teaching, students are evaluated on their ability to successfully help their students deal with abstractions.

In EHD 155A and EHD 155B (initial and final student teaching), students are coached on, receive feedback on, and are evaluated on their application of pedagogical theories and principles regarding facilitating English language development, differentiating instruction, selecting materials and instructional strategies, increasing students understanding and knowledge in their subject area, reducing racism and other forms of intolerance, and maintaining equitable classrooms for all students. (See student teaching observation forms in the Student Teaching Handbook and Teacher Performance Assessments in the Fresno Assessment of Student Teachers.) 

Illustrating models of teaching

The Single Subject faculty and field supervisor strongly supports the notion that in an effective teacher preparation program a variety of instructional strategies are modeled. As our syllabi indicate, instructional strategies modeled in the program include the following:

  • Lecture
  • Small group discussion
  • Whole group discussion
  • Mediated instruction films
  • Web-assisted learning
  • Cooperative learning
  • Project-based learning
  • Modeling
  • Demonstrations
  • Reciprocal teaching
  • Role-playing
  • Simulations

With our emphasis on reflective teaching, students are required not only to demonstrate their ability to use a variety of teaching strategies, but also their ability to make appropriate choices given the real-life context in which they student teach. (See FAST Assessments in the FASTManual.)

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