STEP strives to view this place as one where theory and practice meet and where, in turn, learning takes place. The links between theory and practice, university and school, experience and standards, are the links of learning.
Work at STEP rests on the fundamental belief that the goal of educational enterprise is the success of all students, and that this goal should organize the connected work of both researchers and practitioners. It is possible for teacher preparation programs to see the point where universities and school sites connect as a space where theory and practice face off.
These links of learning are forged in part at the level of candidate placement. Pairing candidates with cooperating teachers who reflect STEP's vision of teaching is a priority for the program. Instead of selecting cooperating teachers based on self-nomination or principal recommendations alone, cooperating teachers are selected with direct, first-hand knowledge of their classrooms and teaching practices. With solid input from the schools, STEP faculty and supervisors look for evidence that cooperating teacher practices are consistent with the STEP vision of teaching. This process heightens the probability that candidates are paired with cooperating teachers whose teaching practices reflect and reinforce what candidates are learning in STEP coursework. Two additional criteria for the selection of cooperating teachers are at least three years of teaching experience in their area of certification and a strong commitment and willingness to mentor and support teacher candidates.