Education Practicum and Portfolio Classes Connect Coursework With a Career

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UC Berkeley Extension’s Education certificates and teaching credentials don’t just build and strengthen your skills—they also provide additional field experience through a practicum or portfolio component, giving you a real-world application of lessons learned in class.

You work with with an experienced mentor in an educational setting, where you flex and adapt your educational approach or create a professional portfolio of your work. This hands-on experience is unique to UC Berkeley Extension.

Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers

The classroom is putting the theory into practice. In our minds, we go over scenarios but when you’re actually in front of students everything is unpredictable. What will the student say, what will they ask? The practicum is the application of what you’re learning as an educator.

— Angela Persaud, Designated Subjects Adult Education Teaching Credential (DSAE) mentor teacher


Why is field experience so important for educators, regardless of prior experience? According to Nithya Raghunathan, UC Berkeley Extension Education program director, the practicum experience allows education certificate and credential students to “become part of a community, get the feedback and support that they need” while better understanding student populations from kids to adults “in a safe environment where they get feedback.” In addition, the practicum is a way for those looking to enter the field to gain exposure. Says Raghunathan, “It’s a way to focus your interests and figure out if your passion is education or, equally important, if it isn’t.”

The mentor’s feedback—sometimes I would know when something wasn’t going right, but then other times there were  things that I had absolutely no idea were coming across the way they did. There was a lot of super useful feedback that I got. Other programs, they pour information into your head and you’re off on your own. Having this practical aspect is key to the UC Berkeley Extension programs being as successful as they are.

—Honora Mitchell, Graduate, Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) Certificate

The practicum incorporates “Teach the Teacher” or “Train the Trainer (TTT) approach.” This experiential learning model maximizes individual practice, development and feedback. TTT originated in the educational field and is now used widely in medicine, public health and business, among others, due to its effectiveness as a learning tool. As part of every UC Berkeley Extension education practicum course, certificate and credential students complete teaching demonstrations, which provide regular checkpoints to demonstrate their skills and get valuable feedback and support from instructors and fellow classmates.

The Education Portfolio

The benefits of professional portfolios for teachers has been a hot topic in the field of education in recent years, studied and explored in professional journals such as Young Children and Teacher Development, the latter concluding “... just how powerful a professional development and personal affirmation process the portfolio can be.” You can take a course to develop your own portfolio, where you distil and compile your coursework and field experiences into a portfolio that you can show to future employers. The portfolio serves to document experiences, including organized reflections, and provides evidence of teacher knowledge, skills and abilities. Students in the CLAD Through CTEL Certificate and Designated Subjects Career Technical Education Teaching Credential complete the portfolio as the culminating component of their program coursework. Students in the Designated Subjects Adult Education Teaching Credential also complete a portfolio as part of their practicum course, described above.

The most unique aspect of my practicum was putting together my teaching portfolio. For many teachers who are looking for jobs, a teaching portfolio is often recommended, if not required. Admittedly, because I was already teaching full-time, I questioned whether I really needed to put a lot of energy into this project. But, after compiling documents like my letters of recommendation, lesson plans and professional certifications, I discovered that this exercise had real value for me. It really does communicate who I am as a teacher.

— Mary Drain: 2016 Graduate, Designated Subjects Adult Education (DSAE) Teaching Credential

Learn More

This is the first in our series spotlighting the real-world experience provided through UC Berkeley Education programs. Read the next installments to find out more about students' experiences within specific education certificate and credential programs: