1 E Learning, Volume 4, Number 1, 2007 doi: /elea A New View: reflection and student teacher growth through an e-practicum model LISA HOLSTROM, DONNA RUIZ & GERRY WELLER University of Cincinnati, USA ABSTRACT This article explores innovations in assessment of student teaching practice employed in the University of Cincinnati, USA, online associate s degree in early childhood education, the Early Childhood Learning Community. The program s components are identified with a specific focus on assessment of teaching practicum. The use of a range of information technologies, including video, is discussed, and evaluated through the voices of participating students. Student feedback shows the importance of integrating video and conference calling into an effective e-practicum model that provides self, mentor, and faculty evaluation of student teaching practice in a distance education program. Student teaching changed the way I view myself. I was able to watch the videos and learn a great deal about my style in the classroom. I now know how I actually sound, and have been able to find my teacher voice and use it appropriately. The videos gave me a view of the class like no other opportunity. I was able to see how I looked through the eyes of a child and most importantly how I reacted in the eyes of a child. (Quote from Dalisa, University of Cincinnati Early Childhood Learning Community [UC ECLC] program graduate) In 1998, the United States Congress voted to reauthorize Head Start, a US federal agency charged with assisting low-income children and families. As a part of their Reauthorization Act, Congress passed the requirement that Dalisa and other teachers in pre-schools operated by Head Start must have associate degrees in early childhood education. This two-year college degree requirement surpassed any previous educational expectation in the Head Start community. For many teachers who had been in their positions for over 10 years, the thought of attending college courses was intimidating and daunting. Additionally, these teachers could not leave their families or teaching positions to attend classes, even if colleges were nearby and offered evening schedules. The following discussion presents the very innovative and effective e-practicum model that was developed as faculty designed an online degree program to support teachers pursuing an associate degree. Extensive technology support, instructional design combining webstreamed video with conference calls, and a team approach have shown positive results. Specifically, desired outcomes have been surpassed by student teachers. As they near the end of their two-year degree program, these student teachers have demonstrated high levels of reflection and growth. Furthermore, many have exceeded the minimum required competencies for early childhood education teachers identified by the early childhood education program faculty, and organizations in the United States such as the State of Ohio Department of Education, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). After a brief explanation of the evolution of the design of the student teaching model, details of the e-practica experiences will be outlined and student growth will be highlighted. Lastly, results of the ECLC program s research and evaluation will be presented. 5
2 Lisa Holstrom et al Early Childhood Education Online In response to the educational needs of teachers like Dalisa above, the University of Cincinnati developed an online associate s degree in early childhood education, the Early Childhood Learning Community (ECLC). Started in 2000 with eight students, ECLC is currently serving over 600 students from all over the world. The average student age is 36 and the student population is 98% female. About one-third of the enrolled students qualify for the federal government s tuition assistance program for low-income students. Distance education may be defined as a means of delivering instruction through a medium that supports teachers and learners who are separated in space and time (LeBaron & Santos, 2005). ECLC designed a program that fitted this definition. The program would never require students to be on-campus; thus, all registrations, orientations, purchasing of books, and other student-related activities needed to be transacted at a distance, demanding a significant infrastructure of support personnel to be successful. Willis (1994) referred to support staff as the silent heroes of distance education; this is a true assessment of the individuals representing the infrastructure in place at ECLC. The team of directors, coordinators, advisors, and staff provide a significant support system to both students and faculty. Each team member has an important role in establishing relationships to successfully manage and support the growing student population and the concurrent growth in hiring, training, and mentoring the teaching faculty. The degree itself includes online coursework for a complete associate s degree, including English, Math, History and Social Sciences, as well as Early Childhood Technical Core content courses. Each course has a video lecture series which students access via streaming video, on VHS tape, or on DVD. Interactions among students and between students and the online instructor are facilitated by the Learning Management System, Blackboard. Courses were designed to ensure that the rigor and quality of the on-campus courses were retained and similar learning outcomes could be assured. ECLC e-practicum transition from a traditional approach Students in the associate s degree at the University of Cincinnati enroll in a year-long extensive sequence of practica as their culminating experience. These experiences are common in programs at most universities and colleges and are most often referred to as student teaching. Historically, it has been defined as a triad of student cooperating teacher university faculty. The student teacher is placed in the classroom of a master teacher. The student teacher watches and learns from the expert teacher (often called cooperating teacher ) and is given opportunities to replicate the skills they are seeing. During these teaching sessions, a university faculty observes the student, provides encouragement, feedback, and constructive criticism. Through this approach of observation and emulation, a new teacher is formed. Reinart & Fryback (1997) defined distance education teaching as a set of teaching and/or learning strategies to meet the needs of students separated from the traditional classroom setting and sometimes from the traditional roles of faculty. In 2001, just one quick year after the early childhood degree program went online, ECLC s academic and administrative teams undertook their greatest challenge to replicate the mentoring and supervision that occurs in an on-campus student teaching model, while allowing working professionals to complete the requirements in their geographically dispersed classrooms and programs. Budget considerations did not allow the program to recruit and hire supervisory faculty from each student s geographic location; thus, it was necessary to bring the student s classroom to the faculty. The decision to use video was based on the desire to create a research-based reflective model for growth and mastery, to accommodate the needs of the student teacher, and to retain elements of the traditional model of student teaching. 6 Video for Reflection The use of video is not new to teacher education. Research has supported how video may be a reliable tool for developing reflective practitioners (Jenson, 1994). As early as the 1980s, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education predicted that by the year 2000 more than 80% of off-
3 Reflection and Student Teacher Growth campus and 10-20% of online instruction would take place through technology-supported and enhanced telecommunications (Jeffries, 1996). Since 2000, other authors have reported on their use of video for promoting and improving self-reflection skills (I Anson et al, 2003; Collins et al, ). While these authors findings were based on situational practice that had been simulated or were examples of role-plays, they were also supportive of a theoretical foundation for developing a new model based on authentic teaching in authentic situations and classrooms. Student Needs Sometimes seen as competing and mutually exclusive priorities, academic integrity needed to be balanced with the needs of students. Faculty realized that many individuals who would begin the program s student teaching experience were teachers who had been teaching for 5-20 years; in many cases, teachers had received little formal post-secondary education. Furthermore, a traditional model of student observation and replication of the strategies of an expert teacher was deemed impossible because more often these teachers were considered the expert teacher within their programs and surrounding geographic areas. In addition, the traditional student teaching model required a student teacher to assist the expert teacher, usually without compensation. This was highly distressing for students who were working professionals with families of their own to support; even temporarily leaving their own classrooms to teach other children without compensation was not feasible. Finally, faculty considered communications from students which indicated their reluctance to leave their own classrooms because continuity of care was an important value to them. Therefore, it was necessary to develop a model that balanced students needs with the need for academic integrity and accountability to teacher growth. The New Triad Allowing student teachers to complete the requirements of student teaching in their own classrooms met the students needs, but introduced another issue: the absence of a cooperating teacher. The students were the teachers and they were not teaching under the tutelage of an expert. The solution was to use an on-site mentor as the third person in the triad to form a natural connection. A mentor student relationship was proposed in order to promote an understanding of the context in which the teaching would occur. Also, the mentor would actively mentor and support the student to be successful. Although the mentor would be selected by the student teacher, mentors had to meet requirements of at least two years of prior teaching experience, demonstrate through a written submission their understanding of developmentally appropriate practices and constructivism in early childhood education, either have prior mentor training or be willing to participate in free online training on mentoring adults in early childhood education, and a completed associate s degree. The resulting triad was defined as student mentor faculty. Retaining this element of the traditional model of student teaching had several benefits. First, the student teacher would need systems of support and the triad model provided several different levels of support for students. Second, it served as a bridge for faculty designing the online student teaching experiences a major shift from traditional practice. Aligning with the traditional model allowed faculty greater confidence in the initial design and development of these practica experiences and provided a framework for balancing between field experience and ongoing communication with the university instructor, mentor and students. Through a review of the parameters of the model, the program determined that each faculty could supervise up to six student teachers. This ensured there was ample opportunity for communication among students and between faculty and students. Figure 1 represents the reiterative reflection model that was designed as the ECLC e- Practicum. During one practicum of 10 weeks, this process may be repeated up to four times. At any time in this process, a student teacher may access one or more of the resources. 7
4 Lisa Holstrom et al Figure 1. e-practicum Reflection Model. Permissions Introducing a video camera into a classroom of children requires informed consent from supervisors, center directors, and parents. The program worked with the Office of General Counsel at the University of Cincinnati to design forms for supervisors and parents to sign. It was important to all staff and faculty that parents understood why the teacher would be videotaping and exactly how the videotape would be used. Since the e-practicum has been implemented, there have been concerns expressed occasionally from a direct supervisor or parent. Those concerns are handled by the Academic Director, who explains the care and safeguards used in protecting the videos. In addition to the video being linked to a password-protected classroom site within Blackboard, it is only linked to a special group site, to which only the student, mentor, and faculty have the password. This twopassword system usually assuages concerns and fears. In the very rare case where an individual parent has refused, their child is not filmed. Supportive Technology Integral to this online practica are the technologies that are utilized. Webstreamed video required specific equipment; interaction among student teachers and between faculty and students needed specific technologies to support the teaching and learning strategies. Purchased through a technology grant, the encoding equipment allowed the capability of webstreaming a student s video. Submitted via postal mail, a student video would then be encoded, stored on a super-secure streaming server, and linked to a group location in a practicum course in Blackboard; only the faculty, cooperating teacher, and student teacher had access to this site. This protected the confidentiality of the student, as well as the children that may have also been captured on video. The encoding equipment room was selected and integrated with the capacity to encode videos submitted in various formats, including DVD, VHS tape, camcorder tape, and several other formats. Because video cameras may not have been readily accessible in the workplace or home of students, it was important to have the technology to process whatever format was received. Retaining a variety of communication modes was important to build trust and rapport, a critical foundation for the self-reflection and honest critical inquiry process that was expected to 8
5 Reflection and Student Teacher Growth unfold over the culminating year. The intentional use of technology allowed these communications to occur over distances and between time zones. Open discussions using Blackboard s discussion board as well as phone conversations were supported to link the university faculty with students and mentors. Discussion Board Baker (1999) asserted that [p]roponents of asynchronous discussion list numerous benefits: shy students may be less intimidated to participate, quick thinking students cannot dominate discussions, student writing skills are improved through online discussion, and the additional time for reflection and research has the potential to increase the quality of student discussions. The range of potential for learning in this manner has been perceived as so vast that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has committed millions in grants for the development of asynchronous learning networks. Weekly discussions that began on a specific date/time and ended on a specific date/time were designed. Students would either begin a new thread of response and/or information on a topic or reply to another discussion thread already begun. These discussions had potential to further demonstrate the knowledge and growth of individual students as well as provide a wonderful opportunity to extend topics to relevant and practical application with faculty expertise and guidance. The result was a learning community that could bridge theory and discussion to demonstration of best practices. The student s voice on the discussion board represents class participation and is evaluated based on the following criteria: Dependability demonstrated by the frequency of participation; Communication skills demonstrated by well-articulated comments that develop ideas and feelings in a reflective tone; Content knowledge demonstrated by comments that build on theory, integrate field experience and extend curriculum planning; Openness measured by a willingness to consider differing points of view with a tone that projects courtesy and respect for all. 9 Conference Calls Person-to-person dialogue was required to assist in the development of an interpersonal relationship between student teachers and their academic resource, the university faculty. Scheduled phone calls were set up to establish overall course expectations and academic guidelines for both the mentor and the student teacher. Also, faculty were encouraged to conduct a largegroup conference call at the beginning and midpoint of the quarter (or semester) with all students and mentors. This call promoted setting a structure for meeting specific goals and establishing timelines. It allowed common information to be shared efficiently and quickly. The three team members, student, mentor and faculty, were required to come together in a three-way conference call following the submission of each videotape. The purpose of the conference call was to share reactions to the student s professional development using the videotape as a point of reference. Teams were challenged to put aside the temptation to discuss the superficial details of the videotape and to dig deeper into the motivation behind interactions and the refinement of teaching and guidance strategies that could advance a student teacher s professional growth and development. This promoted higher-level thinking skills and actually assisted the student in developing a reflective perspective. Prior to the conference calls, team members were invited to consider criteria that would shape the dialogue by integrating course content with field practice. The video was assigned a point value based on criteria as follows: Activities in the video meet academic standards taught in curriculum courses; Student successfully manages the focus activity while using instruction strategies and guidance skills to meet the needs of all the children in the environment; Mechanics of the video provide acceptable picture and audio quality to allow each team member to render an opinion about the student s performance.
6 Lisa Holstrom et al Demonstrating Successful Outcomes Student teachers are required to produce evidence of their growth by submitting journals, reflection papers, and a portfolio. Reviewed individually, these documents are used to evaluate each teacher s growth during the e-practica experiences. A checklist of specific indicators was designed to guide evaluation of performance in the practicum setting. Indicators were aligned with course outcomes and reflected NAEYC s standards for early childhood professional development in associate degree programs (NAEYC, 2003). When these assignments are aggregated, they attest to the success of this e-practicum model. Selected students journal entries are presented here followed by a description of the program s continued research efforts. These journal excerpts are used with students permission. Because this writing is informal and personal, grammar and spelling are encouraged but are not the primary focus. From Jean, an easel activity using large sheets of paper: I feel the art activity was successful. I saw evidence of children demonstrating increasing competence and even mastery of several domains and standards I identified. I also saw much more when I went back and watched the video, and, since I was busier than a one-armed paper hanger while we were working, the video will be a truly helpful tool in documenting all of the evidence of development. One of the issues that often troubles me at the end of the day is that I have been fully invested in each activity and adventure we have pursued, and there did not seem to be enough time to sit back, and consider the growth I am seeing. My mentor, Terry, helps me to work on that by offering positive feedback and her own perspective, cuing me in to things I might be missing. Last week she helped me step away from what I was doing to see two children working in the quiet area with puppets. They were using the bookcase as a theater and staging a show. Terry gave me a summary of the events that led up to their work together. From Amy, with children in a large group at a table attempting to cut strips and weave paper: I felt the waiting time was a little too long and my voice (with the paper and child) was growing in volume. It was not the children s fault at all. Mainly, everything should have been prepared and set out already it was not. The activity, paper weaving, may have been over their level. The older group (4 and 5 year olds) did it with no problem. However, I am dealing with the younger group (3 and younger 4 year olds). I think I fell under the category of what not to do according to DAP [developmentally appropriate practice] on teacher strategies (p. 55). That is the teacher dominates the environment by talking to the whole group most of the time and telling the children what to do instead of teachers move among groups and individuals to facilitate children s involvement with materials by asking questions, offering solutions, or adding more complex materials or ideas to a situation. I was sweating throughout the activity. I missed the interaction with the children. This was due to very poor planning and organizing. It was a cutting activity and I know that there were a couple of children who had not yet developed the skill. I should have broken it done [sic] to four in a group and let the others venture into other interest areas. I guess we all have to live and learn! From Jo Ellen s Best Practice Reflection Paper: Many things about the video were pleasing to me and made me think, Oh, yeah, that is how it should work! You sometimes have to sit back and watch someone else to remind yourself about the importance of visual scanning and observing the whole room. I know I will think more about that now in my own classroom. I see so many teachers being in the role of playmate instead of teacher. Monica [teacher in Best Practices Video] maintained the professional role. The children were busy all the time and didn t seem to have any behavioral issues at all. When Monica was in the block area she sat on a child-sized chair and talked about their play without building for them. I liked the way she reworded children s comments to encourage them, such as Looks like you re making a house big enough for the dinosaur. During a conflict she provided a helping hand with the resolution. She acted as a mediator helping two little girls talk about their problem. She encouraged one 10
7 Reflection and Student Teacher Growth child by saying, You can tell her I think this is important to fostering the child s self-esteem. I want to work more on using problem solving with the children in my classroom. Two excerpts from Brandie follow. The first reflects on a video where children in her classroom show little interest in planned classroom activities. The second highlights how Brandie used this knowledge to improve her teaching and plan the capstone project. Together they represent a strong testimony of how students in the distance education model used their own videos to set goals and improve teaching practice. Brandie s early video reflection: The children were happily engaged in throwing paper airplanes, but this was NOT the topic of the week I reflected on the inappropriate behavior in my video and decided to select a topic that interested the children I decided to use the theme of air travel I guess that the lesson in my video was that the children were bored and not at all interested in the leaf chart I spent so much time making Brandie s last reflection: I dressed the room with plenty of airplane pictures, print and made the dramatic play area an airplane. There was paper to make tickets. My interactive chart was displayed in the group meetings area. I made a path game to resemble an airport with miniature planes for markers I made a sentence strip for the writing center with cards about air travel I fly in the. I provided words cards with picture clues for children to self-select: helicopter, spaceship, and airplane. Research and Evaluation The University of Cincinnati and ECLC have initiated several research efforts to ensure that this model is effective. Qualitative data from graduates surveys and course evaluations have been analyzed and themes have emerged. In addition, a significant research study using a pre- and posttest model has recently been implemented. Although the study is currently under way and data is not yet available, the research design is shared here. 11 Program Graduates To glean feedback from program graduates, ECLC asked them to complete an anonymous online survey. Responses to the open-ended questions have been evaluated. Emergent themes from the content analysis included an increased knowledge of early childhood education and a new ability for self-reflection for improvement. Within the context of these responses was a clear indication that all graduates were more confident in both their teaching methods and their relationships with the children and families they served. Under this broad category of increased knowledge of early childhood education, several other sub-themes emerged. Many respondents reported that their new knowledge included an ability to teach the whole child. I now know how important it is to respect each child as an individual, stated one graduate. Another student commented, ECLC has given me the experience of teaching the whole person which enables me to teach the whole child. This appreciation for diversity and differences among children confirmed that students have strengthened their classroom practices, as summarized by this respondent: I learned to create interest areas that were exciting and hands-on for the children, using a constructivist approach and allowing children to build on their previous experiences.
8 Lisa Holstrom et al Equally dominant in graduates responses was the sub-theme of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). Almost every response to every question included a reference to using DAP, such as, I am knowledgeable in child development and developmentally appropriate practice. I am confident that coworkers, administration, children, families, and I benefit from my knowledge and skills. Another graduate responded similarly: I have been better able to pull together a theme and develop activities in all classroom areas that follow the theme and are DAP. The second major theme, a reported ability for self-reflection, was evident when graduates wrote about their student teaching experiences. A recent graduate wrote, I developed a better ability for self-reflection, becoming more aware of the impact that I have on the children in my care. I became more able to sit back and observe what was happening in my classroom and make improvements or changes according to the children s needs. Another student responded, I saw my weaknesses and strengths and was able to build upon my strengths to become a better teacher. This analysis of survey responses from program graduates encouraged ECLC to seek other opportunities to conduct research on this model. The program will soon have quantitative data that may support the effectiveness of the e-practicum model and its use in early childhood education. Ongoing Research The current research project will document measurable outcomes in classroom environment, teacher quality, and children s progress. Multiple indicators and data will be collected and analyzed to document and evaluate the following: 1. Changes in the physical and social/emotional environment in the classroom; 2. Quality and use of observations by the teacher for planning; 3. Outcomes-based activity/lesson planning; 4. Implementation of developmentally appropriate practice, A rigorous educational outcomes research design requires the ongoing collection of both qualitative and quantitative data in a naturalistic environment. Data sources used for demographic information include the student s progress and academic data from ECLC records. Program quality data will include the following: pre- and post-observational video of the center, classroom and the student teacher in the ECLC program, using the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale Revised Edition (ECERS-R) or the Infant/Toddler Environmental Rating Scale Revised Edition (ITERS-R) for coding the environment and the University of Cincinnati student teaching competencies for a baseline snapshot of the student teacher. Research participants will be students in the ECLC program. During their very early term as students, they will videotape themselves teaching using a protocol designed for this project and aligned with an ECERS-R or ITERS-R observation. As they complete the culminating student teaching, they will again videotape themselves using the same protocol. Use of pre- and post-evaluation of the student teacher s development through measurable outcomes provides needed data for assessing and documenting observable outcomes related to classroom environment and quality programming. All coding will be completed by two evaluators, trained to administer the ECERS-R and ITERS-R, to ensure inter-rater reliability. The ECERS-R and ITERS-R were selected due to the body of evidence on the validity, reliability, and stability of the instruments in diverse settings. The student teaching competencies, based on the NAEYC and NCATE requirements for teacher education, provide a baseline for comparison upon completion of the ECLC program. Analysis of the data and artifacts collected over time should provide patterns and insight into the effectiveness of the e-practicum model. These findings will not only add to the current research on effective online practices, but will also add to the knowledge base on teacher implementation of theory and practice into the classroom. 12 No Boundaries This article has identified strategies that were implemented in the University of Cincinnati online associate s degree in early childhood education. The experiences in design and implementation of
9 Reflection and Student Teacher Growth the program, and in ongoing assessment and research of outcomes, have provided indicators of the benefits of an online mode of teacher education delivery. Traditional student teaching models reached only as far as a faculty member was able to travel to observe student teachers in their classrooms. That model imposed limits on programs outreach efforts and students access to those programs. The implementation of innovative models such as the e-practicum has removed boundaries and has literally and metaphorically expanded the horizons of both faculty and students. References Baker, J.D. (1999) Student Interaction in Online Distance Education, Baker s Guide to Christian Distance Education. Seattle Pacific University. Collins, J.L., Cook-Cottone, C., Robinson, J. & Sullivan, R. ( ) Technology and New Directions in Professional Development: applications of digital video, peer review, and self-reflection, Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 33(2), pp Jeffries, M. (1996) The History of Distance Education, IPSE American Journal of Distance Education. Pennsylvania State University. Jenson, R.A. (1994) Fear of the Known: using audio-visual technology as a tool for reflection in teacher education. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Teacher Educators, Atlanta, GA, February. I Anson, J., Rodrigues, S. & Wilson, G. (2003) Mirrors, Reflections and Refractions: the contribution of microteaching to reflective practice, European Journal of Teacher Education, 26(2), pp LeBaron, J. & Santos, I (2005) Authentic Engagement of Adult Learners in Online Learning, Mountainrise Online Journal, 2(1), I. Coulter Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina. National Association for the Education of Young Children (2003) Preparing Early Childhood Processionals: NAEYC s standards for programs. Washington, DC: NAEYC. National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) (2002) Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education. Washington, DC: NCATE. Reinart, B. & Fryback, P. (1997) Distance Learning and Nursing Education, Journal of Nursing Education, 36(9), p Willis, B. (1994) Distance Education: strategies and tools. Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technologies Inc. URL addresses of institutions and organizations referred to in this article: University of Cincinnati (UC). College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH). Early Childhood Learning Community (ECLC). UC CECH NCATE. site National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. LISA HOLSTROM has presented papers on distance education at various conferences around the United States, including the National Head Start Association s national conference, NHSA s technology conference, and National Association for the Education of Young Children s Professional Development Institute as an invited presenter with the Office of Head Start, on the topic of university/program partnerships. She currently serves as the director of the Early Childhood Learning Community (ECLC), the largest distance education degree program at the 13
10 Lisa Holstrom et al University of Cincinnati. She is also Principal Investigator on a grant from the Office of Head Start, which has funded the translation of the online associate s degree into Spanish for teachers serving in Migrant and Seasonal Worker programs. Correspondence: Dr Lisa Holstrom, Early Childhood Learning Community, University of Cincinnati, 5140-A Edwards, Cincinnati, OH , USA DONNA M. RUIZ is currently the Academic Director for distance degree programs in Early Childhood Education through the Early Childhood Learning Community at the University of Cincinnati. She also continues to teach as an adjunct faculty member early childhood education and special education course work on campus and online with the University of Cincinnati. Among her areas of interest, Donna has expertise as an Early Interventionist, as an Early Childhood Education Specialist/Head Start teacher and parent educator, as a researcher and in evaluation, in urban education, working with childcare and school age organizations, and in promoting the development and health of children. GERRY ROSE WELLER is an Associate Professor in Early Childhood Education with a long history of working with non-traditional students including Child Development Associate (CDA) candidates. In 2000 Gerry joined the full-time faculty of the Early Childhood Care and Education Program. Today she serves as Program Coordinator for this program that culminates in an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree. Gerry s research interest in portfolio assessment began with her book, Building Portfolio Ideas for CDA Candidates, and continues today with the evolution of the student teacher portfolios that include electronic submission and design. 14