Beyond the Classroom with Field-Based Experience

24 Sep
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Edward Bell, Ph.D., CRC, NOMC

Edward Bell, Ph.D., CRC, NOMC

Dr. Bell is the Director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University.

Too many teacher-prep programs in the field of blindness, especially the fully online degrees, focus too heavily upon textbooks. In many cases, we know that students don’t shake the hand of a blind person until their internships or student teaching experiences.

While the program at Louisiana Tech University has always been unique in that our classes are taught from the mindset that blindness isn’t a tragedy, I’m even more excited to announce that we are getting all of our graduate students into the field from day one. Since the inception of our programs, we have always placed a high premium on field-based experience and pairing our students with real-world, blind people throughout their training. Beginning this semester, however, we are requiring all graduate students to complete at least 20 hours in the field per quarter. This equates to at least 100 hours of field-based education over a student’s tenure.

If this idea doesn’t sound newsworthy to you, that’s because you’re a logical thinker.

In too many programs, sighted teachers blindfold themselves and “pretend” to be a blind person so that their students can learn how to teach and interact with blind people. A few years ago, we learned that one program put their students through a two-week, immersive experience where the sighted students would wear blindfolds 24/7. They were even isolated from other blind consumers at the agency who hosted the graduate students! This was detramental to the well-being of those students and did little to teach the students what being around blind consumers actually meant.

Learning from and with actual blind consumers teaches something that no textbook or teacher-student relationship can provide. As any parent will know, a 10-year-old will flat out tell you, “Get your hands off me!” An instructor, on the other hand, is more likely to tolerate your strange behavior under the guise of thinking, “She’s just learning.”

It is exactly this type of authentic experience that is critical to the preparation of professionals who wish to work with the blind. Students don’t just need to understand the condition of blindness, but they must understand blind people as living, breathing humans with hopes, fears, interests and goals.

Our students will assist licensed teachers in the planning and delivery of several statewide summer programs. They’ll also participate in seminars, outings, and other field experiences with students and teachers who have low vision. Additionally, those learning to teach braille will help with “Saturday Club,” a local event coordinated by our staff and instructors where youth with visual impairments come together monthly to build partnerships, to sharpen non-visual skills, and to do fun social activities.

From the very beginning, then, we’re instilling in our students that they are not the almighty holders of knowledge. The instructional model of structured discovery is designed to prepare you to help students think, not as a means to prepare you to solve every travel, accessibility, or reading challenge. Rather, we want our students to learn to teach the process of solving novel and complex problems to their students.

Blind children and consumers are not merely the end products of our professional training, rather they are the core knowledge-base from which we learn what it means “to be blind.” Our consumers will always be teaching us how to help others be comfortable with blindness. We at Louisiana Tech are proud of this tradition we have started, and are excited to be formalizing it through our curriculum. Come and join us at Tech to build a better future of teachers of blind students.

If you are ready to discuss the next, right step for your professional career, call our team at (318) 257-4554.

The following two tabs change content below.
Edward Bell, Ph.D., CRC, NOMC

Edward Bell, Ph.D., CRC, NOMC

Dr. Bell is the Director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University.

One thought on “Beyond the Classroom with Field-Based Experience

  1. Pingback: Yes, You Can Read Braille 110% Faster in 9 Months | Blog on Blindness

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