Clinical Teaching in Education

Assoc Prof Larissa McLean Davies, Dr Nicky Dulfer, Dr Jeana Kriewaldt , Assoc Prof Suzanne Rice, Dr Daniela Acquaro, Dr Christine Redman, Ms Catherine Reid, and Dr Teresa Angelico | View as single page |Feedback/Impact

Significance of professional standards of practice

A clinically based approach to teacher education enables aspiring teachers to understand and integrate the standards of practice (NCATE, 2010) to which professionals are held accountable (Darling-Hammond, 2006).  ‘Clinical communities of practice’ model professional standards and provide opportunities for aspiring teachers to develop competencies in clinical settings with clinical supervision. They also support teachers to gain recognition as professionals in their communities.

Professional standards of practice provide top-down support for bottom-up reform (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995) and facilitate the development, dissemination and reinforcement of a shared view of effective teaching (NCATE, 2010).  They can be constructed for use as a framework for benchmarking the high quality teaching practice that is needed to achieve strong learning outcomes for all students. This framework of professional standards of practice enables a series of discrete and separate standards to be viewed holistically (NCATE, 2010).  It enables communities of practice to monitor quality of teaching (Alter & Coggshall, 2009) and guide teaching day-to-day teaching practice and promote strong performance (Darling-Hammond & Baratz-Snowden, 2005). 

Most significantly, the framework of professional standards of practice, guides professional development at every stage of a teacher’s career and provides a basis for the assessment of clinical teaching and the evaluation of professional development programs.  An important design principle of a clinical approach to teacher education is to build pre-service teachers’ capacity to know what to teach and how to teach (NCATE, 2010). To assist teacher education providers, the American National Academy of Education Committee on Teacher Education, adopted a framework of professional standards of practice that is organised around three intersecting areas of knowledge that are evident in statements of standards for teaching:

  • “Knowledge of learners and how they learn and develop within social contexts, including knowledge of language development


  • Understanding of curriculum content and goals, including the subject matter and skills to be taught in light of disciplinary demands, student needs, and the social purposes of education


  • Understanding of and skills for teaching, including content pedagogical knowledge and knowledge for teaching diverse learners, as these are informed by an understanding of assessment and of how to construct and manage a productive classroom” (Darling-Hammond 2006, p. 4).

The content of clinical based approaches to teacher education courses and clinical experiences should “cumulatively add up to set of knowledge, skills and dispositions that determine what teachers actually do in a classroom” (Darling-Hammond, 2006, p. 4) and build pre-service teachers’ capacity for continuous learning and development.

Evidence Base and references

Alter, J. & Coggshall, J. (2009). Teaching as a Clinical Practice Profession: Implications for Teacher Education and State Policy. N.Y.: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Constructing 21st-century teacher education.  Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 57, No. X, 1-15.

Darling-Hammond, L. & Baratz-Snowden, J., (eds) (2005) A Good Teacher in Every Classroom: Preparing the Highly Qualified Teachers Our Children Deserve. San Francisco, CA: The Jossey-Bass education Series.

Darling-Hammond, L. & McLaughlin, M.W. (1995) Policies that support professional in an era of reform, Phi Delta Kappan,76(8), 597-604.

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (2010) Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers,