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2nd Workshop
Training of Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Europe

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12. Report on theme 5: Practical component of the training of teachers

By Mrs Mary Kingsley



(Information provided by the facilitators: Grazyna Walwak, Jadwiga Kuczynska- Kwapisz, Antonia Adamowicz-Hummel)

Practical training of teachers of the visually impaired at the college for special education in Warsaw - yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The reader for group five was an article written by the facilitators for the group, Jadwiga KUCZYNSKA-KWAPISZ and Grazyna WALCZAK, from the College of Special Education in Warsaw. Antonia ADAMOWICZ-HUMMELL, who also lectures at the College of Special Education in Warsaw, provided the English translation.

The founder of the College of Special Education in Warsaw, Maria GREGORZEWSKA advocated the combination of theory and practice. The college was founded on the principle of combining teacher training with research programmes and service provision. The founder, herself, was a researcher, teacher trainer and direct service provider.

The Polish authors Kuzma and Klapa (1993) state that activities constituting the educational process are complex and include cognitive, practical and emotional activities.

The inter-relation of the theoretical and practical aspects of teacher training for developing a teacher's professional skills.

Past history

The students at the college were given a very comprehensive induction programme which included information about both the college facilities and the city's cultural facilities.

During the first year of undergraduate study one day a week was devoted to visits and familiarisation with nursing sites and institutions of special education. In addition the first and second year students undertook practical placements in developmental psychology which consisted of observations in nursery and pre-school.

In the second year, the one week school practicum was held every month. The student stayed at a special education institution for the whole day, performing the duties of a teacher and house parent. The practica undertaken by the students formed a link between the institutes of special education and the college. Practica were an opportunity for graduates of the college to demonstrate their professional accomplishments to their former professors and younger colleagues.

The students who were in training at this time were teachers from special schools who had at least two years' experience in the field of special education. They studied at the college for two years; in the third year they returned to their schools and continued their studies by writing the thesis for their diplomas. The thesis was another way in which theory and practice was merged.
There was also another form of practical training for the students. They each received training in the three service clinics: prevention, psycho-educational and speech therapy. This type of practical experience was only possible in a small college and at this time the college had only 200 students.

Present Time

The number of college students has now exceeded 7,000. There are new programmes of training. There are 5-year full-time courses and 3- and 5-year part-time courses. There are also various post-graduate courses. The graduates from these courses are competent to work with clients of any age.

In Poland full-time studies are free. This leads to the situation where course administrators want an economy of scale and therefore encourage the professionals to run lecture courses for a greater number of students. This enables the course expenses to be lower.

The students on the courses connected with visual impairment still have the opportunity to acquire practical skills in two ways.

  1. Practical experiences determined by course curriculum
  2. Practice beyond those courses

The basic forms of course practice include:

The goal and scope of the practices are closely co-ordinated with the course competencies. The decisions relating to format and number of hours are decided by the course instructor.

These types of practica which have been presented are relevant to the, full- time 5-year courses, the part-time courses and the post-graduate courses. Ninety per cent of the full--time students have not worked before they come to the courses, nor have they any exposure to the issues of education either special or mainstream. Students on part-time courses usually have working experience but not necessarily in schools. The post-graduate students have masters' degrees, frequently in education or psychology or work with visual impairment or are familiar with issues related to visual impairment.

Future trends

The Polish education system is currently undergoing major change. As a result of these changes there are two distinct specialisations planned.

  1. Training in the rehabilitation of people with visual impairment
  2. Education of people with visual impairment.

Each of these specialisations will consist of 750 training hours and include 3 months of practicum in the second, third and fourth years of studies respectively.


There is no controversy regarding the combination of theory with practical experiences in teacher education. However a number of questions are raised regarding:

The authors concluded by expressing the hope that the seminar in Bratislava would
provide opportunities for discussion of these issues.

Appendix 1

An example of field class arrangement (observation of teaching and independent teaching)

Individual remediation for the blind and visually impaired children
Year IV, full-time program, 15 lecture hours, 30 lab hours
Goal of field practicum:
developing skills of planning and implementing individual remediation classes
Practicum site:
School for partially sighted children
students of Education of the Visually Impaired, children, school teacher, college teacher
Practicum plan:
  1. Observation classes, 2 x 2 hours
    • the teacher discusses children's strengths and weaknesses, presents the schedule for individual remediation classes
    • the students observe classes conducted by the teacher
    • they discuss the observed classes - the students are expected to answer the questions: have the lesson goals been accomplished? Were the materials and tasks selected appropriately, if no, then what needs to be changed? Has the pace of the class been adjusted to the capabilities of the child?
  2. Attempts at independent teaching, 15 hours - 1 hour per student
    • the student, with the help of the teacher, determines the goals of the lesson, develops lesson plan and reviews it with the teacher, prepares necessary materials and equipment, and conducts the lesson if approved by the teacher;
    • other students and teachers observe the lesson;
    • the lesson is discussed with regard to the above questions;
    • the teacher documents concrete comments presented at the discussion and signs the lesson plan.

Appendix 2

Program of a 2-week assistant practicum in a special education setting

Applies to full-time students, Education of the Visually Impaired

Practicum dates: September 15-28, 1997. Student is expected to participate in all forms of activities and in the times that oblige teachers. Student works 36 hours, which includes 6 hours for familiarisation with the site, its teaching and rehabilitation plans. The remaining 30 hours are observation classes and active participation in school and dormitory activities. Student is expected to submit a short report from the observed classes and document the hours in the practicum diary by writing down the topic, goals and actual course of classes, as well as their evaluation and comments. The observed classes should be discussed with the teacher or the house parent. For the student, the discussion should promote critical and thorough analysis of educational work.

Student receives credit for practicum if he/she meets practicum programme expectations and documents his own work.

Practicum hours should be confirmed by the institution, and the student receives an evaluation from the director or on-site supervisor. The evaluation should include information on student's accomplishments as well as his/her weaknesses. Student may include his/her opinion on practicum in the final part of the practicum diary. Practicum documentation should be submitted to the college supervisor within 14 days from practicum termination.

Practicum goals

In the course of practicum students should accomplish the following:

Appendix 3

Illustration of practical training at the College - a case study

Joanna Witczak was student at our College in 1994-1999. Before she entered the College she worked as a volunteer with disabled persons, including a troop of scouts with visual impairments. As a student she worked at the reader centre for the blind as a volunteer, and for two years she read to a blind student.
Her competencies as a college graduate include: teaching the visually impaired, working as house-parent, organising summer camps, social work, low vision therapy and orientation and mobility. She is qualified to work both with children and adults. She had 2500 hours of training over the five year period, including 970 of specialist training. This specialist training includes 200 hours of lectures, and 770 hours of labs. She had one month practicum at a summer camp; two weeks of assistant practicum at a residential school for the visually impaired where she primarily observed classes, and conducted a few independently; two weeks of methodological practicum when she conducted lessons under teacher's supervision. She attended several field trips and a special week-long, out-of-school session for the children from the Laski School for the Blind. She conducted orientation and mobility lessons at one-month summer rehabilitation camp, and 54 hours of low vision rehabilitation. Under the co-operation agreement with the Stockholm Institute of Education she spent two weeks in Sweden visiting institutions providing services to the visually impaired.

In June 1999 she defended her master's thesis entitled �Methods of solving difficulties in teaching children with low vision children. The thesis was prepared over two years. Joanna had to pay a number of visits four schools in various parts of Poland to collect the data. Having been an active and accomplished student, in her fifth year at the College she was offered a status of a student intern. This enabled her to participate in planning and implementing classes with the College students, especially laboratory classes. She was able to use College's resources to finalise her thesis.

In August of 1999 Joanna will leave for a three-month at he Peabody College of the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Upon her return to Warsaw she will be offered a position of assistant teacher at the College.

Appendix 4

Topics for discussion

  1. In what stage of the training process should practica be introduced, and what kind of practica should there be?
  2. Should a contract be signed between the student and the college stating mutual rights and responsibilities?
  3. Should practicum goals and competencies be listed and clearly defined?
  4. Who should evaluate the student in practicum?
  5. What evaluation criteria and methods should be used?
  6. How should practicum be documented - through reports, essays, case studies, developing educational materials?
  7. How should the student evaluate practica and self?
  8. Who should be paying for practica?


Mrs Emmy Csocsan, Germany
Mrs Grazyna Walwak, Poland
Mrs Jadwiga Kuczynska- Kwapisz, Poland
Mrs Antonia Adamowicz- Hummel, Poland
Mrs Tina Runjic, Croatia
Mrs Anne Koiv, Estonia
Mrs Riita Nissinen, Finland
Mrs Nathalie Lewi-Dumont, France
Mrs Elena Mendelova, Slovak Republic
Mrs Mojca Florancic, Slovenia
Mrs Stanika Dikic, Yugoslavia
Miss Mary Kingsley, United Kingdom


The group met to discuss the practical component of training of teachers of the visually impaired. The group started by introducing themselves and the institutions with which they were connected. The group was resolved to discuss and make recommendations regarding the block teaching practices or practica undertaken by individuals participating in training.




The participants came from a wide range of different types of institutions. Some of the students with whom the participants were working were studying at an undergraduate level; others were working at a postgraduate level. Some of the students were studying full-time; others were following part-time courses. Some of the participants of the workshop were involved in training that was being delivered under the auspices of a special school.


The group discussed the title of the theme for the group and there was a strong feeling that the title should reflect the student perspective of his or her training. Therefore the title was changed to "Practical Aspects of Training from the Students' Perspective"


As mentioned in 3. above the questions as set out in Appendix 4 of the reader provided the focus for the group discussion. This section of the report wilt focus on the eight questions in the appendix and in addition a supplementary question was raised which was discussed and will be reported.

4.3.1 When - in the training process- practice should be introduced, and what kind of practice should there be?

After some lengthy discussion by all the workshop participants it was agreed that there should be a practice in the first year, usually in the form of an observation practical. The workshop participants stipulated that it was dependent upon the system already functioning in the native country. There was a strong consensus of opinion that the practice soon as possible. In some countries however there is two years of theoretical work before the opportunity for practical work. For students who begin their practice in the first year, the practice should be in the form of observation. For the students going out for their first practice there is a need to be able to compare the theory that has been Iearnt in the class and seminar room and practice as found in the receiving institution.

4.3.2 Should a contract be signed between the student and the college stating mutual rights and responsibilities?

The group concluded that most of the colleges had a form of contract, which was already in existence between the students and the college.
There was in all systems an obligation to attend lectures. The students also have to fulfil other obligations. After considerable debate in paired discussions, it was felt that this question would have more relevance if it was rephrased as shown below.

4.3.2a Should a contract be signed between the school or other receiving institution and the college stating mutual rights and responsibilities?

In this amended question the school means the institution that is receiving the student on the practice placement. The college means the training institution.
The group considered this aspect most carefully and it was agreed that there should be a contract that is drawn up between the schools and the colleges. It should have a list of conditions that will be fulfilled on both sides.

4.3.3 Should practice goals and competencies be listed and clearly defined?

The group considered this aspect and concluded that there should be a list of competencies and goals that is given to the students before the practice. The group concluded that it was important that all students should have clear understanding of the expectations from the practice.

There was an agreement that the following details should be in place before the practice began.

Guide lines
Individual contracts, goals, and expected competencies

The group recommended that there should be a guidebook listing the competencies. The group then held a brainstorming session to consider the competencies that would be required in the guidebook. The group's attention was then focussed on the' Standards required for a Teacher of the Visually Impaired'. The second section that describes the abilities a teacher should be able to demonstrate was considered to cover the expected competencies that a student would be expected to display.
The group also recommended that students should undertake if possible a variety of placements in a range of different settings. There should be a range of different

The students must also know where to obtain information regarding equipment.

The group stated that students must be able to plan and teach in co--operation with another professional colleague.

4.3.4 Who should evaluate the student on practice?

The workshop group discussed the evaluation of the student when they were on practice. The different forms of evaluation were each discussed in detail.

Local supervisor

With block practices the student should have a 'local' supervisor. This individual would be an experienced practitioner in the field of the education of people with visual impairment.

"University" supervisor

The college, university or school or other institution which is responsible for training should also provide a supervisor. It was recommended that the university supervisor would visit at least once during the block practice.


This was considered a very important part of the block practice. The insight which students gain from self-evaluation was most important and there was no adequate substitute. Often the local supervisor could assist with the self-evaluation.

Pupil evaluation

The group discussed this, but came to no firm recommendation.

Peer evaluation

Evaluation by peers of the student was discussed and m very useful form of evaluation. It was felt to be useful if there were difficulties with the practice of the student. An occasion was cited when the student would not readily accept the opinion of the university supervisor, but accepted similar comments from her peers.

The workshop group made a firm recommendation that students must receive evaluation in the following forms:

Evaluation from pupils and peers was important but not essential to the successful completion of the block practice.

There was a recommendation that the guide book to block practices should incorporate the evaluation criteria. This would support the student in the practice and in their self-evaluation.

4.3.5 What should evaluation criteria and methods be?

The group discussed the criteria for a successful practice and then discussed the evaluation methods. The main methods were observation, self-evaluation and analysis of documentation.

Observation by Supervisor

The workshop group made a recommendation that every student should be visited by an external supervisor at least once, if this is not possible then other criteria apply and the use of video is recommended. If a teaching session is videoed, the use of the video must conform to the policy and practice as set down by the school. After the supervisor has visited the student, the workshop group recommended that a discussion about the lesson, or other observed activity, should take place within twenty-four hours of the observation. The group was concerned by the possibility that, occasionally, a particular ability, skill or competence is not demonstrated by the student because it is not possible in that particular placement. To prevent this occurring it is important that a contract is drawn up as mentioned in section 4.3.3. This according to the group should clearly state the expectations for the student from the practice.

Analysis of Documentation

The documentation prepared by the student for the practice must include lesson plans and sufficient documentation regarding the school or institution that was host to the student

4.3.6 How should practice be documented - through reports, essays, case studies, developing educational materials?

The discussion of this specific area was covered in the discussions of the previous sections. The recommendation from this section of the discussion was that a case study was a useful format for recording and assessment.

4.3.7 How should the student evaluate the practice and self?

The discussion in this session provoked as many questions as well as answers.
It was decided that the set of competencies at the beginning of the reader should form the basis of oral discussion with the supervisor. An important aspect of the evaluation was how the student considered that the practice has fulfilled the aims, which were set down at the beginning of the practice. The opportunity of a practice enables the student to be reflective regarding their individual teaching style.

It was recommended that a particular number of sessions should be evaluated in greater depth and more detail. The exact number of sessions to be decided by the individual institution.

It was thought that when there were conflict situations an external examiner should be brought in to decide on the definitive situation

The questions that were raised by the group for further consideration were,

4.3.8 Who should be paying for the practice?

lt is important that the local supervisors should be paid. The group then went on to debate the ethics of the students, paying the supervisor. The group thought that this could be open to abuse. It was thought that the institution where the practice was occurring could contribute to the expense by providing free accommodation. There was discussion as to which body should pay the students' expenses. The debate considered whether the referring institution or the institution that is sponsoring the training should pay the students' expenses.

It is recommended that if the external supervisors are not on the college or university's regular staff, then they should receive payment for the work and expenses should be reimbursed.

The group then spent some time discussing the use of simulation spectacles and resolved the following:

Use of simulation exercises.

The group felt very strongly that simulation exercises are very important particularly those involving the use of blindfolds or simulation spectacles. However the group does not claim that psychologically, emotionally or cognitively the use of simulation spectacles makes an individual, a person with a visual impairment. Simulation exercises are very powerful learning exercises.



  1. There was a strong consensus that observation practice should start as soon as possible after the beginning of the course.
  2. A contract should be drawn up between the receiving schools and the colleges. It should have a list of conditions that will be fulfilled on both sides.
  3. The group considered competencies and goals and concluded that there should be a list of competencies and goals that is given to the students before the practice. The group concluded that it was important that all students should have clear understanding of what they will be expected to achieve from the practice.
  4. Competencies expected should be as defined as in the reader.
  5. The student should undertake a practice in a variety of settings.
  6. Evaluation should be by 'local supervisor', 'university supervisor' and self-evaluation.
  7. Documentation of the practice should include case study material.
  8. Supervisors should receive payment from the university.

To conclude, the group participants gained a better personal understanding of the knowledge that was available. The group shared knowledge and each individual added to their own personal knowledge.

The students for whom we are all seeking to serve will gain a great deal from a more consistent approach across the participating countries.

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