York U program gives Norwegian student teachers experience in Ontario schools

The student teachers from Norway gather for a group photo.

Twenty elementary and secondary student teachers from Sor Trondelag University College in Norway recently completed a five-week school-based experience program delivered by York University’s Faculty of Education through its International Education Office.

The student teachers from Norway gather for a group photo.
The student teachers from Norway gather for a group photo.

The students attended practicum placements to observe and learn about a variety of classroom strategies in place at five local schools from the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board.

“The students from Sor Trondelag University College gained valuable teaching experience in the schools through their practicum,” said Gaye Rawding, international education coordinator in the Faculty of Education. “The practicum setting provided the students with a stronger understanding of English language learning in a context where in most classrooms, at least 50 per cent of the students speak a language other than English at home. They were able to observe a variety of teaching styles from their mentor teachers in diverse classrooms and practice their own lesson delivery.”

Another feature of the program was a one-day professional learning workshop focused on inclusion, classroom technologies and subject-based instructional strategies. The morning session was facilitated by Fair Chance Learning, a company that connects educators and innovators to improve the quality of education and transform learning into a 21st century experience. Company founders Dustin and Martha Jez led a discussion around inclusive classrooms. They demonstrated how special education technologies could be integrated in classrooms to improve achievement levels for students and teachers at the post-secondary, secondary, and elementary levels throughout Canada.

The afternoon session was a Math in Action workshop facilitated by York course director Mark Husband that focused on taking a deeper look at “inquiry in the math classroom”. The students watched a video called Fast Clapper Act 1 and posed questions about the video such as whether or not the “record” could be beat. The students then did math exercises to strengthen their predictions before watching the follow-up video, Fast Clapper Part 3, to find out if their predictions were true. Some of the mathematical thinking and themes that emerged from the session were: constant rate, patterning, unit rate, and proportional reasoning and data relationships. “The significance of this exercise was to demonstrate how to make math inclusive in all learning environments,” said Husband. “Math is a universal subject that can be taught and applied in fun and interesting ways in classrooms around the world.”

Other highlights of the students’ visit included excursions to cultural and educational sites such as the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. They also visited local attractions such as the CN Tower and Niagara Falls, and even attended a Toronto Marlies game.

“This program is significant in that it gives our students a first-hand look and insight into how the Ontario Education system works,” said Ruth Gruters, head of studies, Faculty of Teacher and Interpreter Education at Sor Trondelag University College. “Ontario schools within the same school board are very different from each other which isn’t the case with schools in Norway. Observing these differences provided our student teachers with a very rich and diverse learning environment and invaluable data for their thesis papers. The range of experiences that they had during their visit will also serve to inform their future teaching practice(s) back in Norway.”

The program was designed to give the students an overview of the Ontario school system and to provide them with opportunities to explore education and teaching in different contexts. This was the third cohort of teacher candidates from Norway to participate in the program.