SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 06, 2018) – Eighteen USF Sarasota-Manatee School of Education students finished their educational careers this week with a special two-hour exhibit that highlighted their work as interns.
Called the Research in Teacher Excellence program (RiTE), the exhibit Tuesday at the campus’ Selby Auditorium featured a display of trifold posters that depicted the students’ final work as interns before graduating and transitioning to full-time teaching jobs.
“This project required the interns to focus on effective instructional methods and to design lessons to help all of their students achieve success,” said Dr. Lora Kosten, who oversees the program. “The structure of this project will become the basis of a strategy these future teachers use throughout their careers.”
Called IP3, or Impact on Pupil Performance Profile, the two- to three-week project was meant to gauge the interns’ effectiveness in teaching a skill as they worked through their final internships at local elementary schools. The program was introduced five years ago at USFSM.
Under the project, the interns started by testing students on particular subjects, from math to language arts to social studies. Then they presented five lessons to the students and afterward post-tested them to measure how much they learned.
The intensive teaching exercise produced surprisingly positive results. In some instances, the students’ average test scores doubled compared with pre-test scores.
Gena Murphy, who interned at Toledo Blade Elementary School in North Port, was among those whose students showed dramatic improvement.
Murphy, who taught 22 fifth-graders, focused on Native American cultures. Her lesson plan included a segment that featured “arts-integrated instruction,” a technique that combines the arts with academic material to help students better understand and retain the material.
In Murphy’s case, her students created totem poles from colored paper as part of a tutorial about their meaning and significance.
“Personally, I liked doing the exercise because I like being creative and having that element to communicate the lesson to the students,” she said. “Sometimes it’s takes something visual to help you remember. Plus it was fun, and they were really engaged in the lesson.”
The proof emerged at the end of the exercise when the students were post-tested. After managing an average score of 45 percent in pre-lesson testing, Murphy’s class logged an impressive 86 percent by week three.
“Six or seven of the students got a 100,” she said.
Lindsey Mentzer can relate. The USFSM senior taught a second-grade class at Taylor Ranch Elementary School in Venice. Getting her young pupils to understand subtraction was a challenge at first, she said, but when she introduced an arts-integration element she was able to help them focus and better understand the material.
To illustrate the math concept, Mentzer and another teacher performed a skit where one of them borrowed books from the other and then asked how many books were remaining. The students then divided into teams and ran through similar scenarios, adding and subtracting books and figuring the totals.
“The kids really enjoyed it and I think it helped them understand the concept better,” said Mentzer. “I thought they might have anxiety performing in front of other kids, but these kids were great, they had no fear.”
Like Murphy’s students, Mentzer’s class excelled in post-testing. Their average scores rose from 40 to 85 percent.
Mentzer said she enjoyed the experience not only for its creative side, but also because the exercise was carefully structured. By administering pre- and post-lesson tests she was able to gauge classroom performance collectively while also measuring individual student achievement.
“I like that it was focused and very purposeful,” she said. “I will definitely do this in the future. I think the collection of data is very important to measure growth academically and socially.”
The RiTE program is held yearly. The interns were given certificates of achievement during the ceremony and asked to explain the impact of their IP3 exercises. Some were emotional in describing the connection they formed with their students.
Dr. Marie Byrd, director of USFSM’s School of Education, presided over the ceremony and noted that all the IP3 interns have jobs waiting for them when they graduate, except those who intentionally postponed their job searches. The students will graduate on Monday.
“I am very proud of these students,” Byrd said. “I thought they performed exceptionally well.”