The Year-Long Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a model elementary teacher education program based on collaboration between the University faculty members and local public school teachers. It is considered unique because it integrates extensive classroom experience and methods courses within the final year of teacher preparation and asks classroom teachers to play a strong collaborative role in training, advising and evaluation of the preservice teacher.
Collaboration within the YLP is sustained by semi-monthly meetings of the YLP Advisory Committee, chaired by the UIUC Director of Clinical Experiences. The Advisory Committee consists of ten cooperating teachers, known as the Building Representatives, one from each of the ten schools hosting YLP preservice teachers; the methods course instructors, known as Instructional Team Members; and four preservice teachers with two alternates elected by their YLP colleagues.
Another indication of the emphasis placed upon collaboration within the YLP is the role of the classroom teachers in the development of the YLP preservice teachers. The cooperating teachers in whose rooms the YLP preservice teachers spend their first eight-week placements are known as the Fall Advisors. The Fall Advisors arrange at least two classroom visits and follow-up conferences with their Advisees during the second eight-week placement and during the Spring semester. Additionally, they participate in all student teaching evaluation conferences throughout the year.
Program goals were developed for the YLP at its inception, and then revised by the YLP Advisory Committee during the first two years of operation. The approved goals, as reported by Ochs (1992) and based on notes by Benson (1991), follow:
The preservice teachers enrolled in the YLP participate in three separate classroom placements. During the Fall semester there are two eight-week placements of two and one half days per week in the classroom. The placements are usually within the same school, but at different grade levels. The first placement also includes a full week in the classroom as school opens. This is done so that classroom organization and beginning-of-year activities can be experienced. As the YLP preservice teachers grow in experience they are entrusted with more classroom responsibilities, take a larger role in planning, and teach more frequently and for longer periods of time.
When the preservice teachers enter the Spring semester, they are placed in another school, at yet another grade level. That means YLP preservice teachers have experiences at three grade levels and in two schools.
The Spring placement, which lasts the whole semester, is for two and a half days per week until the end of February; then the preservice teachers spend full time in the classroom and attend a weekly seminar in the evening with instructional team members.
As stated previously, preservice teachers who enroll in the YLP take methods courses as part of the YLP experience. The four integrated methods courses, all of which require class time for a semester and a quarter, follow: 1) Language and Literacy (L&L), which integrates three traditional courses, reading methods, language arts methods, and children's literature, is nine credit hours. 2) Curriculum and Instruction (C&I), which integrates general elementary methods and technology, is six credit hours. 3) Social Studies methods, which has been expanded so that further study of and experience with diversity could be given its place in teacher preparation, is four credit hours. 4) Science methods, which has a constructivist focus, is three hours. (Math methods is required prior to entering the YLP.)
Efforts are made by the instructional team members of each course to integrate course content and field based assignments to the greatest degree possible.