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THE INTERACTIONS MATRIX: A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR EXPANDING INTERACTIONS AND DEVELOPING AUTONOMY IN FIELD EXPERIENCES

        The Interactions Matrix was developed through collaborative conversations between PreK-12 mentor teachers from Cedar Falls and Waterloo and UNI faculty and graduate students who are involved in the Professional Development School project. It represents a framework or map for how field experience students can expand their interactions and develop their autonomy though field experiences in the teacher education program. It also communicates a full range of opportunities to both mentor teachers and preservice teachers that can enhance the experience in mutually beneficial ways.

Understanding the Matrix

The horizontal axis describes an expanding interactions circle of impact. While many students experience a general progression from indirect interactions to relationship building to individual interactions to small-group interactions to whole-class interactions, others do not. The interactions are not intended to have any required linear sequence but rather should occur in ways that best meet the needs of the student and the teacher/classroom.

The vertical axis describes the level of student autonomy and amount of teacher support. While many students in early field experiences need a great deal of teacher support and direction in very early field experiences and in the beginning phase of many other experiences, the aim of the program is to facilitate increased autonomy to better prepare field experience students for the independent reflection and decision making required in student teaching and beyond.

Other Variables

In practice, the opportunities described in the Interactions Matrix are affected by many other variables:

Student Readiness: Field experience students vary greatly in their prior experiences, knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Thus, their paths through the opportunities in the Matrix will also vary. In all cases, however, students should expand their interaction experiences and develop some new autonomy to the degree possible and appropriate, in each of their field experiences.

Constraints of Curriculum and Content: The curriculum and/ot content of the field experience classroom may drive the need for more or less of the various interactions opportunities available at any particular time, which will impact the degree to which the field experience student can explore these opportunities.

Teacher Preference: Teachers sometimes have clear preferences about the roles a field experience student can and should play in their classrooms. While the university desires a wide variety of available interactions, it is ultimately the teacher who will decide what is appropriate for their classroom and for each field experience student.