Teacher Education

Navigating edTPA With Dr. Lisa Barron [Podcast]

Navigating edTPA With Dr. Lisa Barron [Podcast]


Does your program or state participate in edTPA? The probability is pretty high. As more and more programs and states adopt edTPA standards, teacher preparation professionals are thrown into the proverbial deep end. 

To help you navigate those edTPA waters, we interviewed Dr. Lisa Barron. Dr. Barron prepares pre-service teachers for edTPA at Austin Peay State University, and also serves on the edTPA National Academy of Consultants. 

Lisa is a lovely guest, and she shares a lot of actionable advice for our listeners. So let’s get right to my interview with Dr. Barron.

Introducing Dr. Lisa Barron and Austin Peay State University

Thank you for joining us, Dr. Barron. Is it okay if I call you Lisa? (00:49 – 00:51)

Dr. Lisa Barron: Absolutely. Please do. That’s what I like better. (00:52-00:54)

So I noticed that you were, for a decade, you were a K-5 music teacher. And just to get to know you a little bit better, I wanted to know what was your favorite piece of music to teach? (00:55-01:05)

Dr. Lisa Barron: You know, what I love to teach was how stories and literature and music went together. That was my favorite thing, to take literature that they were studying in their classes and to put that to music or to use music as a way to let them get into the book or to the story. I just think making literacy a part of music was just such a fun thing to do, and I think it helped perhaps some of those students who might have struggled in just the actual reading of the book. But if they have music to open that door for them, it really helped make a difference. (1:06-1:49)

So I loved that and I loved working with classroom teachers to try to be collaborative. So it wasn’t just music we see an isolated related art, but it could be embedded into the classroom. So that was a real challenge to do, but I really enjoyed it. (01:50-02:07)

I also enjoyed introducing students to classics that they might not be aware of, but making it fun. Like the Nutcracker, all the music in The Nutcracker, and putting dances with that and then playing with instruments with that. So suddenly it wasn’t just this classical music that was unreachable or unapproachable, but it just made it fun. And then they would say, “Oh, I heard that on a commercial,” and then it becomes part of them. (02:08-02:37)

So those were the two things that I really, really enjoyed. I love teaching music, especially in elementary, because they were just all in. They didn’t have any reservations, they didn’t have any preconceived ideas. Most of the time, they didn’t already feel self-conscious about it. And so if I said, “Let’s get up dance with scarfs,” they were all about that. But as they get older, of course, then they start feeling self-conscious and then what are their friends going to say? And so anyway, it was a fun job. (02:38-03:11)

That does sound like a lot of fun. It makes me want to be a music teacher now. (03:12-03:13)

Dr. Lisa Barron: I know. (03:14-03:16)

So how did you make the leap from being a music teacher to higher education? (03:17-03:22)

Dr. Lisa Barron: So I went from music actually into administration. So I was an assistant principal at the same elementary school for two years. And during that time, I started getting advanced degrees, a masters and an educational specialist degree, and then went into an EdD program. And then during that time, I had been doing some adjunct work for Austin Peay State University, which is in Clarksville, Tennessee. And again, just one thing after another. (03:23-03:53)

Then a door opened that there was going to be a transition in a position. And so they were looking for somebody who could work with student teachers. But also, we were beginning at that time a brand new assessment called edTPA and they wanted somebody who could get on the ground floor of that with edTPA. And so it really wasn’t a grand scheme. It was just like I said, one door opened after another, and I just walked through. So it’s been a really, really fun transition in my career. (03:54-04:24)

And even though I enjoy teaching music, what I’m doing now just seems like what I was born to do. But it’s funny because when I was teaching music, that was what I thought, “I was born to do this.” So at every step, it’s just like I’ve been at the right place to really love my job. (04:25-04:41)

At every step, it's just like I've been at the right place to really love my job.—Dr. Lisa Barron . Share on X

For our listeners who don’t know much about your university, could you tell us a little bit about what it’s like at Austin Peay State? (04:42-04:49)

Dr. Lisa Barron: So Austin Peay is a university that is, like you said, in Clarksville, Tennessee. It’s located northwest of Nashville. And so most people know basically where Nashville is, northwest of that, actually on the Kentucky border very close to Kentucky, but about 50 miles northwest of Nashville. We have about 11,000 students and enrollment and it’s one of the fastest-growing universities in the state right now. (04:50-05:19)

Challenges in Teacher Preparation Programs

Now that you’ve been at Austin Peay State for a couple years, what have you noticed is the most daunting challenge that your program is facing? (05:20-05:27)

Dr. Lisa Barron: So I think, and this is a national trend and we talk about this on a regular basis, but the decline in enrollment in teacher preparation programs. And it’s a very startling, sobering data to confront. We can trace it back to the seventies because in the seventies, education was the number one declared major across all majors in the universities across the country. And now, it’s like four percent. And so the decline is startling. (05:28-06:06)

In the 70s, education was the #1 declared major in universities across the country. Today, it's about 4%. The decline is startling.—Dr. Lisa Barron. Share on X

And because of that, decline in teacher prep enrollment has, of course, had a huge impact on the number of teachers who were available in those school districts. And so these districts that we work with, and we work very, very closely with our area school districts, are facing a really severe teacher shortage. (06:07-06:30)

And so our challenge is to prepare enough teachers to meet the needs of our school districts. And so we’re doing everything possible to be innovative, to meet their needs in ways that we haven’t thought about before, providing accelerated options for teachers that are already teaching. Perhaps they want to add a special education endorsement or perhaps there’s a high school student and they want to go through in an accelerated fashion. We’re just trying to think of ways out of the box that we can provide teacher education for students who need it, who want to be teachers, and need to be out in the field teaching. (06:31-07:13)

We're trying to think of out-of-the-box ideas to provide teacher education for students who need it, who want to be teachers, and need to be out in the field teaching.—Dr. Lisa Barron Share on X

The Early Learning Teacher Residency Program

Have any of the out-of-the-box ideas that you’ve tried been pretty fruitful for you so far? (07:14-07:19)

Dr. Lisa Barron: So we have one that’s extremely promising. It’s called The Early Learning Teacher Residency (ELTR). We have partnered with our largest school district, which is in Clarksville. It’s called Clarksville Montgomery School System. And in partnership with them, we are providing completely free tuition, free books, no fees, and free tutoring to a cohort of 40 who are committed and want to teach in the lowest socioeconomic schools in the district. (07:20-07:55)

Wow. (07:56)

Dr. Lisa Barron: And so they have a cohort of 20 recently graduated high school students and then 20 people who have been currently serving as teacher aides or educational assistants in the classroom. So these recent high school graduates, the recent ones who were already working as aides, formed the 40 cohort. They have all been hired as educational assistants in the five highest needs schools in a district. (07:56-08:25)

Wow. (08:26)

Dr. Lisa Barron: And then, in addition to that, they’ve pulled the highest performing teachers in the district, the top of the 5% of all teachers, and they’ve put them in those classrooms with these students. So the students (we call them teacher residents) are working all day as educational assistants, getting paid full salary for that, full benefits, working with a master teacher. (08:26-08:54)

And then in the afternoons, they come to Austin Peay and take classes. And those classes are offered at eight-week courses. And so they’re going to be able to completely finish their requirements for their degree, which will be a K-5 and special education license, they’ll finish that in three years instead of four. It will be completely paid for, completely free. They receive tutoring, they receive child care, all the things that they need, and then they are guaranteed to walk right into a job and be hired as soon as they graduate. (08:55-09:30)

So that’s 40 right there that’s going to be going straight back into the school district. We’re starting another cohort in the fall with the same model, but these will be for middle school, and so middle school math and science, because that’s where the need is right now with our middle schoolers. (09:31-09:48)

So that’s one way that we’re trying to impact the teacher shortage, at least with this one school district. We’re working with our other school districts in maybe doing a model, use this as a model, but maybe doing a different version of this. But it’s been very exciting to see everybody come together. (09:49-10:13)

We're trying to impact the teacher shortage, at least with one school district.—Dr. Lisa Barron Share on X

Part of my role, I’m a director of teacher education, but I’m also a director of teacher education and partnerships. And so we really tried to have honest conversations with our school district partners for them to tell us what they need, what we are doing that is working, and what we are doing that is not working. (10:14-10:32)

Another part of my job that I’m extremely passionate about is edTPA and to be able to lead my students, my teacher candidates through edTPA, but also to work with our faculty in learning how to embed it efficiently and effectively into their classwork and to their courses so that it makes sense. So it’s not just this isolated assessment we do at the end, but it’s embedded throughout the courses and throughout our curriculum. So that’s also a very rewarding thing, and then on top of that is our partnerships. (10:33-11:12)

edTPA Implementation

You serve on the edTPA National Academy of Consultants and you’ve even published a volume entitled A Practical Guide for edTPA Implementation. So for listeners that are in the early stages of implementing edTPA, what would be a piece of advice that you would give to them? (11:42-12:00)

Dr. Lisa Barron: Yes. And so as a part of being an academy consultant, I have the joy of working with universities across the country who are just starting to wrap their minds around what is edTPA and where do we begin? And so we have that conversation with them a lot. (12:01-12:20)

I think the very first step, as a university that is looking to implement edTPA, is to get the right people on board. Find those people in your faculty who are willing to invest the time, have a positive attitude and positive energy toward it, and then provide that small group with the resources they need. I think trying to launch it so that everybody is on board at the same time, that’s probably not going to happen. (12:21-12:52)

The first step for a university looking to implement #edTPA is to get the right people on board.—Dr. Lisa Barron. Share on X

There’s a book called Good to Great by Jim Collins, and he talks about getting the right people on the bus. So you have to be strategic about how you’re going to launch it. And some universities don’t have the luxury of choosing or having the time to do that thoughtful implementation. But if you do have time, that’s what I would suggest. Find the right people, and then gather the resources. (12:53-13:20)

Advice for Piloting edTPA

And edTPA has a wealth of resources that are available now, beyond just the handbooks. There are all sorts of resources for academic language, there are resources about just making good choices—that’s literally what the resource is called. How does a candidate just make the right choices of which classroom to choose or which content focus to write about? There are guides according to the content that they could look at. (13:21-13:53)

But I think it’s important from the faculty standpoint, know the handbook, know the resources. And they don’t have to know it perfectly. I think some of the universities become paralyzed, some of the faculty become paralyzed because they’re reluctant to launch it with their students until they feel really comfortable with it. And I just tell them, “You just got to, at some point, just jump into the deep end of the pool.” Just jump in and start with a small group of candidates, not with your whole program, but just a small group, maybe one content or maybe a few students from different contents. But start with maybe 10 students and just do a pilot. And through working with those 10 students, not only are the faculty going to learn more about edTPA, but they’re going to learn what works best for them. What works best in a small program versus a large program is different. If you’re an online program as opposed to a face-to-face, there’s just a lot of variables. So you just have to learn what works best for you. (13:54-15:06)

At some point, you just have to jump into the deep end of the pool. Just jump in and start.—Dr. Lisa Barron #edTPA Share on X

I like that. It’s very practical advice and it seems like it would work. Pilot with your most enthusiastic and willing teachers and just give them the resources and jump in. (15:07-15:16)

The Benefits of edTPA

So for those listeners who it’s not required for them to do edTPA, could you explain some of the benefits of it? Maybe preach the good word of edTPA to know why it’s so great, why they should want to adopt it? (15:17-15:30)

Dr. Lisa Barron: So the great thing about edTPA, and I’m unashamedly a supporter of edTPA. We started edTPA spring of 2011 and it didn’t become consequential for our university for years after that, but we jumped in. We were an early adopter. One of the things that I personally love and appreciate about edTPA is that is it was built on the shoulders of the National Board. But I’m a National Board-certified teacher in music, so I know what I had to demonstrate and what I had to provide as evidence and artifacts as a National Board teacher. (15:31-16:08)

Now, we are asking our pre-service teachers to really think like a National Board-certified teacher. We are asking them, instead of developing a generic lesson plan, to show and provide evidence that they can provide a lesson plan that is based on the needs and strengths of their students. It’s very student-centered. (16:09-16:33)

We are asking our #preserviceteachers to really think like a National Board-certified teacher.—Dr. Lisa Barron Share on X

And so all the way through, through the three, task planning, instruction, assessment, it’s all about the students, the P-12 learning. When I hear my students, my candidates, my teacher candidates talk about their edTPA, talk about the students in their classrooms, they’re not talking like a pre-service teacher. They are talking like an educator who is talking about how do I meet the needs of my students, what strategy can I use, what research-based theory can I implement? (16:34-17:05)

I think it gives our candidates something really rich to discuss with their future employer. I tell our candidates, “When you’re interviewing, you better talk to your future employer about how you know you can engage students in instruction, that you know you can use data to inform instruction because you have the data to prove it. You did it in the edTPA.” (17:06-17:31)

And I think it’s a rigorous assessment. I think it’s something that requires time and commitment and a big effort on their part. But when they’re through, they can say they have achieved that status as completing edTPA. (17:32-17:48)

It's a rigorous assessment. It's something that requires time, commitment, and effort. But when candidates are through, they can say they have completed #edTPA.—Dr. Lisa Barron Share on X

I think what’s made our program stronger in that it’s helped us focus on things that perhaps we had not focused on before. It’s helped bring a common language between the college education, the arts and science faculty in that we’re all working on the same rubric, so we’re using the same language across contents and across majors. I don’t know. I just can’t say enough about it. (17:49-18:14)

I think sometimes it gets a bad rap because it is a national assessment and it’s nationally scored. But for us, that’s a good thing because we can compare our scores to scores in the state and scores in the nation. And sometimes, we think we are doing a really good job, but then we see our scores as compared to other national scores and we think, “Well, we could tighten this up, this area. We could tighten up this.” And so I think it speaks to our desire for constant program improvement and it helps us have the data to know where we need to put our efforts to improve our program. (18:15-18:54)

The Magic Wand Question

One of the last questions I’m going to ask you, we ask all of our guests, and it is, if you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in teacher education in the United States, what would it be? (18:55-19:07)

Dr. Lisa Barron: Well, I guess one thing, it would be related to two things actually. It is pay. I would pay teachers more. They work so hard and they deserve more than oftentimes they’re getting paid. In addition, I would find a way to pay our student teachers while they’re going through student teaching. (19:08-19:30)

If I could wave a magic wand, I would pay teachers more. Teachers work so hard and deserve more than they're oftentimes getting paid.—Dr. Lisa Barron Share on X

That’s one of the great things about our teacher residency program, is that they are being paid as teacher residents. They’re getting a salary and benefits. But many of our students can’t afford to take a semester off to go into student teaching. If they had some kind of pay during that time and then if they were promised a better salary when they went into teaching, I think it would make a difference with people who are choosing education as a career. (19:31-19:57)

Lightning Round

And then finally, at the end of each of our podcast episodes, we do a lightning round with our guests. So I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and you just need to respond with one word or one-sentence answers. Are you ready? (19:58-20:11)

Dr. Lisa Barron: I’m ready. (20:12)

Last book you read and enjoyed? (20:13)

Dr. Lisa Barron: Brene Brown. I had to look at it. Braving the Wilderness. I really love Brene Brown. (20:16-20:21)

Favorite conference to attend? (20:22)

Dr. Lisa Barron: edTPA National Conference. (20:24)

Your most trusted edTPA resource? (20:26)

Dr. Lisa Barron: The edTPA website. Yeah. It’s a website. I’m the worst at this, so don’t play games with me. I’m the worst. (20:30-20:40)

Well, that was the last one. You did great! The torture is over. (20:41-20:48)

Well, I just wanted to thank you so much, Lisa, for joining us on the Teacher Education podcast. (20:49-20:53)

Dr. Lisa Barron: Thank you. (20:54)

We appreciate you taking the time and sharing your expertise, especially with edTPA and partnering with schools. I’m sure that our audience has learned a lot and can implement some of the ideas and the things that you’ve talked about. So thank you so much. (20:55-21:08)

Dr. Lisa Barron: Thank you very much. (21:09)


That’s it for today. Don’t forget to subscribe. If you like what you heard, please rate and review this podcast to help others find us. The Teacher Education podcast is brought to you by GoReact. This episode was hosted by me, Hillary Gamblin, and produced by Danielle Burt, Joseph Winter, and Jordan Harris. Chad Jardine is our executive producer. Guests on the podcast are expressing personal opinions for informational purposes only. They’re not acting as official representatives for their universities or organizations.