Watson Chronicle


Programs for P-12 Students

Ed Lab Transitions to Virtual Learning for Students, Elementary Age Children

Friday, September 04, 2020

Since 1985, the Betty Holden Stike Education Laboratory has given future teachers the opportunity to work with children in a supervised setting on campus before beginning field placements in local schools. In the Ed Lab, Watson students practice the methods and theories they’ve studied in their courses by teaching children in a one-on-one tutoring environment. The experience helps students learn to develop lesson plans, work with parents and customize their plans to each child’s unique needs and goals.

Following school closures in March, the Ed Lab transitioned to a fully online learning environment.

“The Ed Lab supported forty students over the summer as they completed coursework and lab work using Zoom,” said Ed Lab Director Brian Brinkley. “It was a very successful pilot and, this fall, we are providing a semester-long online tutoring field experience for 110 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate elementary education programs at the Watson College.”

The Ed Lab team said the transition has brought some challenges, but the experience has been very positive overall.

“We have definitely seen technology inequity at work with internet connections, device limitations and varying comfort levels with the use of technology, but students have shown tremendous perseverance,” said Ed Lab Instructor Traci Bellas. “We keep reminding our students that they are learning to teach, not learning to teach online. Despite the challenges, they are showing up and giving their best. They are committed to their tutees and becoming their best teacher selves.”

Ed Lab Coach Courtney Townsend said the Ed Lab team works collaboratively to provide a thriving online platform and in-depth coaching for WCE’s future teachers, and they have found some silver linings.

“The majority of our communication with students is now written; through email, assignment submission and lesson plans,” she said. “We have seen some phenomenal teaching examples that we are continually sharing with one another, and an indirect benefit has been that the written communication provides easy reference points for both the Ed Lab team and the students to reflect back on.”

Ed Lab tutoring is the first applied learning experience for many Watson College students. Participants this semester include undergraduate students enrolled in WCE’s elementary education program, 35 students enrolled in WCE’s Master of Arts in Teaching program in elementary education, and 20 extension students, who would usually be supported through UNCW’s Onslow Extension Ed Lab located on the Coastal Carolina Community College campus.

“Students are making great strides in learning to teach this semester. All 110 have contacted parents, written lesson plans and begun tutoring. They are not only discovering new online strategies but are beginning to see how this will all translate to any kind of teaching they will ever do,” Brinkley said. “All learners need clear objectives, engaging instruction, effective feedback and time to grow, whether they are elementary-aged, future teachers or the coaches and instructors who are guiding them. We are all learning together. Every day, the Ed Lab team is working to help our students become the teachers they want to be.”

For more information about Watson’s unique Education Laboratory, visit the Ed Lab website.