In 2018-2019, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) sought proposals from Virginia institutions of higher education to develop projects aimed at supporting Clinical Faculty Programs that assist pre-service teachers and beginning teachers to make a successful transition into full-time teaching.  The MidValley Consortium was awarded a grant that closed the continuum of mentorship from early field experience to student teaching to new teachers.

The MidValley Early Field Experience Mentorship (MEFEM) Project began its committee meeting work in September, 2019.  The following is a brief summary of the work completed based on the VDOE Clinical Faculty Grant award.

The MidValley Early Field Experience Mentorship Project (MEFEM) was designed to increase the number of highly effective mentors available to prepare preservice teachers, and seek to impact instructional performance and professional dispositions in teacher candidates in participating school divisions. The MEFEM project worked towards this goal by: 1) deepening evidence-based content pedagogy usage among already expert clinical faculty and their early field experience mentees, 2) improving preservice learning experiences by maximizing the clinical experience, and 3) creating accessible, web-based modules to be used by all eight Superintendent’s Study regions.  To accomplish these purposes, MEFEM identified and supported selected Clinical Faculty (CF) in several divisions in Region 5 – Valley and Region 4 – Northern Virginia to further their mentoring of teacher candidates in identified critical shortage areas.  MEFEM built upon and deepened the expertise of clinical faculty served through previous VDOE-supported MidValley Consortium projects.

The MidValley Consortium is an established collaborative of four Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) and seven school divisions in Superintendent’s Region 4 and 5 where consortium student teachers are placed. This MEFEM project capitalized on the MidValley Consortium’s already strong cyclical recruitment and retention of experienced teachers through the clinical faculty process. That is, This project sought to increase the number of school division-based clinical faculty equipped to mentor teacher candidates during early field experiences and to further support the continuum of mentor/mentee relationships.

Begun in 1988, the MidValley Consortium (MVC) is a collaboration of four colleges and universities and seven school divisions in the Shenandoah Valley.  The MidValley Consortium prepares approximately 100 new clinical faculty and hold refresher workshops for approximately 150 experienced clinical faculty annually.  The Consortium currently has a cadre of 650 active Clinical Faculty among the seven participating school divisions.  Consortium members include the Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs): James Madison University, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, Mary Baldwin University and the Local Education Agencies (LEAs): Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Page County Schools, Harrisonburg, Staunton and Waynesboro City Schools.  MEFEM collaborated directly with these divisions during the initial development and implementation year, and ensured plans for sustainability within these divisions in ensuing years through the development of web-based modules.  Moreover, since the modules are web-based, they will be accessible to divisions in all eight of the Superintendent’s Regions in Virginia. 

Based on previously VDOE-funded mentor programs, the Consortium at its own expense continues to provide bi-annual in-person training to support clinical faculty to work with both student teachers and new teachers across Regions 4 and 5.  This same pool of active clinical faculty served as the participants in the development of the MEFEM project.

Current MVC basic Clinical Faculty training prepares classroom teachers to join a cadre of clinical faculty who are exemplary models of effective teaching and strong mentors for preservice teachers during the student teaching experience.  These clinical faculty support preservice teachers using effective feedback with an assessment tool based on the InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards and Learning Progressions ( and the Virginia Performance Standards (VDOE, 2011). The 2015 MidValley Mentorship Project provided clinical faculty with a new training experience to further expand their skills to better mentor and coach beginning teachers in critical shortage areas.  This deepening of clinical faculty capabilities in instructional mentoring and coaching skills focused on understanding the new teacher experience, developing successful mentoring relationships, mentoring conversations, the feedback loop, instructional coaching and video coaching, and sustaining the relationship.  In 2016, the MidValley Mentor + Mentee program developed a curriculum to further the collaborative learning relationship of mentors and second year teachers by reinforcing effective mentorship and coaching strategies with cutting edge instructional techniques to develop best practices in content pedagogy.  Topics for this training included goal setting, agents of change, learning intentions, analyzing student work, and ethical decisions, focusing on the big four of behavior, content knowledge, direct instruction and formative assessment (Knight, 2007).

MEFEM closed the continuum of mentorship which currently extends to student teachers and new teachers.  Early field experience mentorship is the opportunity to excite and induct learners into the field to prevent early attrition during teacher education programs.  There are different tools needed to work with candidates at this stage as compared to after they completed their course work and are in their culminating experience.  The MEFEM project ultimately developed eight web-based modules to prepare clinical faculty to understand the needs of candidates during early field experiences and enable them to adapt the mentorship tools they already possess.

The MidValley Consortium is a partnership between the following school divisions, colleges, and universities.

James Madison University

Bridgewater College

Eastern Mennonite University

Mary Baldwin College

Augusta County Schools

Harrisonburg City Schools

Page County Schools

Rockingham County Schools

Staunton City Schools

Shenandoah County Schools

Waynesboro City Schools