The MAT Program requires an equal amount of advanced study in the elected academic discipline and in education courses challenging preservice teachers to apply the results of research and pedagogical analysis to their teaching. MAT students are engaged in public school classrooms throughout the year, reflecting an intensive residency model of professional preparation.
This residency model offers a singular opportunity to pursue graduate study while participating in classroom apprenticeships, thereby grounding theory in the work of teaching and learning. The program’s instructionally innovative courses provide the basis for critical reflection about education practice.
Research indicates that teachers tend to teach in the same way they were taught. In response, the MAT Program focuses on teaching as a clinical profession, and on the teacher as a professional. MAT graduates are strongly grounded in their subject areas and skilled in applying their knowledge of learning to the different needs of individual learners; in short, MAT graduates are prepared to teach and to lead.
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MAT students take graduate-level courses in their elected discipline. This curriculum culminates in a final research project that must demonstrate a high level of understanding within the field. MAT students also take graduate-level courses in education, which cover a wide range of issues, ideas, and practices, and culminates in a Classroom Research Project (CRP) in the public schools. These education courses concentrate on adolescent education, and are thematically designed to answer essential questions about teaching and learning. Courses are framed by practice-based research. A year-long seminar, Teaching as Clinical Practice, provides the forum for integrating subject areas and educational studies with the work of teaching and learning. Academic advising takes place in various contexts: MAT students meet regularly with MAT faculty members and with mentor teachers from partner public schools, and work closely with their MAT faculty advisers. As teaching interns, MAT students design and teach lessons and units, assess student understanding, and modify practices to adapt to their students’ needs in the context of educational priorities. Throughout each phase of their teaching experience, MAT students engage in the kind of reflective practice that is essential to teaching effectively and growing professionally. Classroom research projects conducted by MAT student apprentices are informed by studies and experiences in classrooms during the summer and fall quarters and carried out during the field apprenticeships in partnership with mentor teachers.
Yearlong Residency Programs
Maximizing the amount of time that a pre-service teacher spends in public school classrooms working side-by-side with experienced teachers is widely recognized as key factor in the best teacher education programs. It is structured in various ways by different programs but with an effort to ensure that active work in classrooms is a consistent frame of reference throughout the academic year.
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In the Bard MAT program, the residency experience is developmentally structured to build key competencies incrementally beginning with part-time immersion in a summer school program and finishing with prime responsibility for the design and delivery of learning experiences for public school students. Getting to “the head of the class” follows a similar schedule across all sites:
1. Summer, Pre-practicum – for approximately six weeks, the MAT apprentice works as a tutor in a summer school setting, so that teaching begins with the work of getting to know students as individuals and responding to their needs.
2. Fall, Practicum I – from September through December, the MAT apprentice works in the classroom of a mentor teacher three full days per week, beginning as an observer through guided activities that develop a critical awareness of the complex dynamics of the culture and life of classroom learning. Gradually, the apprentice becomes a collaborator, supporting the work of the mentor teacher in myriad dimensions and developing a repertoire of practices that together constitute the work of effective teaching.
3. Winter/Spring, Practicum II – after a cycle of studies devoted to completion of graduate work in the discipline, MAT students return to classrooms in a new placement from March through May as full-time apprentices, repeating a briefer cycle of observations to understand and quickly moving into the role of collaborator and co-teacher, with goal of meeting the full range of expectations that constitute the daily life of the teacher.
The goal of the Bard program is to emulate the model of the teaching hospital, integrating regular work in classrooms with continued studies and guided coaching and reflection. Over the past four years in New York City, most of the MAT coursework has taken place on the campus of a partner high school, offering regular access to the daily life of a public school and we are continuing to advance this model at all Bard MAT locations.
Improving Secondary and Postsecondary Education
In pursuing the goal of making positive changes in the public schools, the faculty of the MAT Program supply leadership in developing and applying a variety of approaches that differ from conventional classroom practices. The MAT Program’s teaching internship provides an opportunity to question the tacit assumptions so often made by teachers and students alike, and to construct, instead, a new educational perspective based upon classroom experience and advanced study in the academic disciplines.
Continued Revision of Public School Programs
The MAT Program’s partnership with public schools includes MAT faculty–designed professional development courses on topics specific to broadening teacher expertise and constructing curricula that encourage better learning. Teachers from participating schools, MAT students, and MAT faculty meet regularly to pose critical questions regarding education. These meetings engage students and mentors in inquiry and research that lead to productive changes and, in turn, to further questions.
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Most public school schedules leave little time or support for the kinds of questions and investigations that can help teachers shift their practices to accommodate individual learning needs in the classroom. The MAT Program’s public school partnerships, coupled with the high level of disciplinary expertise and educational research made available to MAT students, creates an extraordinary opportunity for current and future teachers alike.
Bard Master of Arts in Teaching Bard College, 7401 South Broadway, Red Hook, NY 12571