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Field Teaching Lecture Notes


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Robert Heiny submitted a new blog post:

Field Teaching Lecture Notes

A Learners' View (ALV) Is Of Choices On the Shortest And Fastest Path To Learning, The Oxygen Of Social Life.


With students attending the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), we formed ways in 1967 to use tools of educators in non-school settings to accelerate, increase, and deepen (AID) learning.

UNC was the first state university in the United States. In the late 1960s, it was still identified by alumns as The Shining Light on the Hill, and by locals as progressive institution. An identifiable Town and Gown separation existed, for some with a smile and with a sneer for others. It provided the largest payroll in the immediate the area. The adjacent North Carolina Research Triangle Park was growing between Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. This area offered an uncommon intellectual community in the midst of remnants of social segregation. Howard Lee, a self-identified African-American served as Mayor of Chapel Hill, the first non-caucasian mayor in the South since Reconstruction.

In 1967, desegregation events of historic proportions were reported daily in news accounts and in networks of community rumors. Some UNC-CH students and faculty were monitoring these events. A few identified themselves as having taken part in the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington and heard Martin Luther King, Jr. give the speech, I Have A Dream.

1967 was also the start of desegration of Chapel Hill and surrounding community public schools. In September prior to the beginning of school, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in a field South of town. The White Citizens' Council was meeting to schedule armed school bus escorts to protect their daughters, (a local member and community leader told Heiny). The council included other prominent community leaders in business and in the justice system.

In Fall, 1967, Ann Sanford started the effort that became Field Teaching. She asked faculty member Robert W. Heiny to supervise her student teaching requirement for a master's degree in special education at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She had over a decade of classroom teaching experience and wanted to expand her practice into non-school settings. She asked if Heiny would help her identify a community setting and monitor her progress in it. She pointed out that Heiny's ethnographic study of disabilities in the community was the best fit available for her to accomplish her objective.

Sanford obtained permission from the parents of an elementary school age boy who was performing far below school expectations. She tutored him, sometimes on the curb in front of his home.

Within days, Bonnie Cook requested similar support for similar reasons. She was an experienced speech therapist in schools, in the same master's program as Sanford, and wanted to expand her range of practice to non-school community settings.

A grandmother asked Cook to teach her three grandbabies to read, write, etc. before they went to school. Grandmother said she knew that they would not learn to do so in school. Grandmother was liviing with her grandchildren and their mother in a house on a tobacco farm a few miles out of town.

Other undergraduate and graduate students requested similar support and began their own projects.

Cook coined this operation Field Teaching and what faculty and students did as Child Advocacy. The project continued with that name and similar efforts until 1975. In 1976 it morphed into a manpower development project at Brandeis University.

Early field teachers included 35 undergraduate and graduate students from special education, recreational therapy, psychology, religious education studies, and pre-medicine studies. They received authorization to work with learners from learners' parents, one family and one problem at a time.

They tutored and instructed students on street curbs, on front stoops of houses, in a tobacco shed, in an abandoned house, in a public school multipurpose room and a principal's office reception area, in homes, in hospital waiting rooms, and in a laundramat, among other community venues.

Field teachers used direct instruction, demonstrations, guided learning, unison choral responses, prompt feedback, gentle persuasion, dust on floors as places to write, rocks and sticks as manipulatives, recording and playback devices to assess progress, and other on-the-spot material to complete a task in a way that increased learning rates of learners.

Informal feedback from students who participated in project indicated it caused them to adjust their career line in order to give priority to practices that increased learning promptly and rapidly. Field teachers became classroom teachers, a college dean, a college president, a professor of sociology, state and federal government employees, a member of an institute that prepares and offers professional development services for judges. RWH

Related Reading

  1. Field Teaching
  2. Child Advocacy
  3. Child Advocacy Lecture Notes

Related Resources

Cunningham, J. J. & Heiny, R. (1972). Field teaching: A social history. Peabody Journal of Education, 49, 97-103.

Cunningham J. J. Field teaching: A means for educators to work in non-school settings. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, Washington, and March 1972.

Cunningham, J. J. The field teacher as social researcher. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association on Mental Deficiency, Minneapolis, May 1972.

Heiny, R., Cunningham, J. J., & Stachowiak, R. (1975). Final Report: Field teaching training program: A report of one year of planning and prototype activities. Nashville: George Peabody College.

Stachowiak, R. (1972). Book review: Critics of Society: Radical Thought in North America. Peabody Journal of Education, 49, 247.
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