Ways to Conquer the edTPA: SMSU Teacher Candidates Share Their 2-Cents Worth

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The end of the semester is close which means many of our SMSU teacher candidates are nearing the end of their student teaching experience. In addition to their 16 weeks in the classroom, they also had to wrestle with their Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA)! No small feat, mind you. So, recently hearing that our SMSU teacher candidates are passing their edTPA’s with distinction makes us profs hoot and holler and cheer with joy.

Currently, the edTPA is a MN Board of Teaching (BOT) requirement. As reported by the BOT website…In 2011, the Minnesota Legislature enacted a requirement to make a performance assessment a required part of all teacher preparation programs. Teacher preparation programs including alternative teacher preparation programs under section 122A.245, among other programs, must include a content specific, Board approved, performance based assessment that measures teacher candidates in three areas: planning for instruction and assessment; engaging students and supporting learning; and assessing student learning. In response to the 2011 Legislative mandate, the Board of Teaching has adopted the edTPA as the performance assessment for Minnesota teacher candidates (https://www.leg.state.mn.us/docs/2013/mandated/130362.pdf).

According to our SMSU edTPA conquerors, it was no easy task to survive this BOT expectation. These teacher candidates agreed upon a few edTPA stressors that caused them to stumble (but not fall):

  • Accountability for both edTPA and student teaching at the same time
  • Time away from the most important thing…teaching
  • Emotionally drained
  • Lost time with family
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Insurmountable pressure to pass
  • Time consuming

Here is an example of what one exhausted teacher candidate shared about her edTPA journey: “To be honest, doing the edTPA while student teaching was awful. It took away from the teaching experience. I’m a parent and lost time with my children. It left me drained, tired, overwhelmed and exhausted. One day I spent 15 hours straight on one task and didn’t even finish it in that sitting.”

While many teacher candidates grappled with the edTPA, most of them persevered, never gave up, and defeated it for a ginormous WIN! They not only passed, they excelled. How? Below, these successful teacher candidates offer the following suggestions so you too can conquer YOUR edTPA:

Pre-Student Teaching edTPA: Pay attention to the edTPA you do during your pre-student teaching experience. Make it seem like the ‘real deal’ because then when it comes to student teaching you will understand and be comfortable with the structure and expectations.

Rubric Score: Shoot for the highest score on the rubric. Go for the 5 while making sure to cover all the points found in 1 – 5. Pay close attention to the rubric level of progression.

Level of Progression: Carefully and thoroughly read the current Understanding Rubric Level of Progression found for your content area. Print it off and use it.

Make Good Choices: Read through this support guide very carefully. It is full of helpful hints on how to organize, write, and understand the edTPA.

Order of Completion: Start it early. Select the task you want to work on and then do two numbers a day. Example: 1a, 1b; 2a, 2b, and 2c. Do each part of the whole number thoroughly. Then be done for the night…unless you are on a roll, then by all means keep going. Have a time frame…set goals such as be done with Task 1 by a specific date and Task 3 by a specific date, etc.

Pursue Support: Find a support group of 2 or 3 others who you can meet with to work together on the edTPA. Use social media for assistance. Start a private edTPA Facebook group to allow for discussions (and venting). Check out advice on Twitter @edTPAtips. Also seek out assistance from other supports such as PassedTPA for strategies. Remember to google it.

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Proof Read: Anytime you write anything you should always have someone proof read your material. OR…better yet, read your material to someone and anyone who will listen. When you read it out loud, that really helps you hear it and see it then fix it!

Plan and Align: Plan, plan, and plan some more. Make sure your goals and your assessments align with each other. Restate your central focus often so the evaluator doesn’t have to go back to look for it.

Take Time for You: Take some time away from the edTPA to keep your sanity in check. Find positive ways that will destress you. Go for a walk, get a massage, listen to music, drink lots of water, prepare and enjoy a nutritious meal, laugh a lot, go on a lunch date with family or friends, and…eat desserts first (because did you know that stressed spelled backwards is desserts? 🙂 ).

Wholehearted congratulations to all our teacher candidates who passed their edTPA! We are your professors, couldn’t be prouder. If you can’t hear us, we’ll yell a little louder. 🙂 Two thumbs up, teacher candidates. We loudly applaud you while giving a standing ovation!  

Stay Calm & Excel On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

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