A non-traditional classroom experience

TSA-BGSU partnership shows students creative ways to teach

By Lindsay Laurent

The College of Education and Human Development is known for producing some of the top teacher-candidates in the state. Through programs like the teacher match program and Capstone Day, BGSU continues to stay ahead in the field of middle childhood to adolescent to young adult childhood education. Added to its programming this year is a new, inclusive learning experience for students at Toledo School for the Arts (TSA).

“Our partnership with TSA is rich and unique,” said Dr. Tim Murnen, director of the School of Teaching and Learning at BGSU. “Like any other state school, TSA is focused on state standards and takes these standards very seriously. But their method of teaching is very integrated and creative. Administrators and teachers work together to integrate the arts into everything they teach.”

According to Murnen, the BGSU/TSA partnership is important because it is a learning experience that adds value to both institutions. Students going to TSA learn and actively participate in classrooms with their mentor teachers, adding value to that classroom. In turn, BGSU students are able to go into the classrooms and learn by doing, not just observing. TSA is completely open to this approach, and the BGSU students are put to work, thus maximizing the value our students can add to the classrooms.

The TSA teaching and learning experience is just one of the reasons this collaboration is important for the students. Teacher education students going to TSA go in their freshman and sophomore year, which is new to the middle childhood and adolescence to young adult programs. Traditionally, students have only observed in classrooms until the professional phase of their careers, which isn’t until their third or fourth year. By listening to students and discussing with faculty, the School of Teaching and Learning decided they needed to get students more active classroom experience before their professional phase.

“This partnership has been an evolution in the works for almost a decade,” said Nick Mariano, TSA principal. “What I love about this program is the timing is so upfront and new into the professional experience. It is crucial for students to recognize and identify that teaching is what they are suited for, and know what it is like to be on the other side of the desk.”

BGSU students go to TSA on the same day each week in order to experience what it is like to be in a classroom all semester. Students arrive at school at the same time as the regular teachers and participate in the goings-on in the classroom twice a week. They are assigned to teachers in the content area and grade level they previously expressed interest in. 

“The TSA experience complements the traditional methods of teaching and learning that are taught in our classrooms,” said Murnen. “TSA does a nice job of integrating the arts with the core curriculum and they bring the arts to the forefront of the educational experience.” 

Students going to TSA also experience what it is like to integrate technology into the classrooms. According to Mariano, TSA provides a one-to-one, technology-to-student ratio. BGSU students are able to see first hand what it is like to completely integrate technology into a classroom, and use that technology effectively as a mechanism of learning. Specifically, TSA has switched to only using tablets instead of textbooks in their classrooms.

“After leaving the Teacher Job Fair at BGSU last spring, we noticed that BGSU students are prepared to integrate technology into educational plans, but not every school is prepared with the proper tools,” said Shirley (Sam) Arnold, TSA vice principal. “Therefore, allowing the students into our classrooms and observing how technology is used can help the comfort level of using technology when teaching in their own classrooms.”

Allowing BGSU students into its classrooms is only the beginning of this new partnership. Both Mariano and Arnold expressed interest in expanding the role of BGSU students to include tutoring younger students and being involved in after school activities. 

“We are appreciative of the services BGSU offers us,” Arnold said. “By sending us their students we can offer personalized tutoring to our students, and BGSU students can assist in identifying students that need more individualized attention.”

Although it is in its infant stages, students partaking in the opportunity to participate at TSA are reaping the rewards. BGSU and TSA administrators and faculty agree that the TSA experience is not for everybody, but the students interested in teaching in that kind of environment are already benefiting from the partnership.