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FAQ: Field Experience

  • Q: What is a field experience?

    A field experience is an important component of most EDU courses and involves students going into a pre-K-12 classroom. This component must be completed satisfactorily in order to pass the course. There are three to four elements to the field experience depending on the course. They are:

    1. Classroom observation
    2. One-on-one and/or small group tutoring
    3. Personal reflection
    4. Teaching a class (not required in Level I courses)

    The field experience is an essential part of Rio Salado's Educator Preparation Program
    because it provides practical, hands on experience. The number of field experience hours required varies by course (3-30 hours). The focus of each field experience is based on the objectives of the course. Each field experience will be documented and monitored by the course instructor and Mentor Teacher. Click for a review of field experience and hours.

  • Q: Do Rio's Educator Preparation students need to obtain fingerprint/background clearance before enrolling in a course with an in-person field experience?

    In-state students must apply immediately through the Arizona Department of Public Safety for an IVP fingerprint clearance in order to participate in any classroom field experience. A Fingerprint clearance packet may be obtained by contacting the Arizona Department of Public Safety at: Department of Public Safety, Application Clearance Card Team, 2320 N. 20th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85005, (602) 223-2279.This process can take 7-9 weeks. On the application, students must indicate that they are applying for an Identity Verified Prints (IVP) Fingerprint Clearance Card.

    Out-of-state students are responsible for complying with their home state fingerprint or background clearance requirements. If there is no fingerprint requirement, students must secure an Arizona IVP Fingerprint clearance card. When applying for an Arizona Teacher Certificate all in-state and out-of-state students must provide a valid Arizona IVP fingerprint clearance card issued by the Arizona Department of Public Safety

  • Q: Who are the Outreach Specialists?

    The Outreach Specialists are a group of individuals at Rio Salado College who acts as the liaison between the school and the student to obtain field experience placement approval. The Outreach Specialists will work to verify the classroom where students will be completing their field experience has the appropriate setting (specific to their content area) for you to complete the course requirements. In addition, the Outreach Specialists will be your point of contact should you have issues with the school or assigned Mentor Teacher during your field experience.

  • Q: Who is the 



    A Mentor Teacher or a teaching professional is the teacher of record in the classroom and supports students through the field experience. The Mentor allows students the opportunity to learn from and work in his/her classroom, provides constructive feedback about teaching skills and strategies, and offers suggestions and ideas to help students succeed in the teaching profession.

  • Q: How do I set up the field experience?

    Students are required to submit an online request for Field Experience placements within seven days of the course start date.  Candidates within the Teacher in Residence/Intern Program are not required to make an official request but should note the modified requirements listed below.   Any student who has concerns or needs assistance with the online request process may contact their Outreach Specialist at 480-517-8140 or at 

      • Log into Online Student Field Experience Request Process and click on the Educator Preparation Program application on the left-hand side of the document.  This page will take you directly to the My Field Experiences Default page. 
      • Click on the Field Experience Request Tab and complete the steps as outlined in the program.
      • Rio Salado personnel will formalize the request with the appropriate district personnel and final confirmation may take up to 21 business days.
        • Requests are submitted on Tuesday of each week - therefore the 21 business days does not begin until an official request is submitted to the district.
      • Failure to submit a request online within the first seven days of the course will result in removal from the course.
      • Intern candidates are not required to utilize the online request process as the approved contracted position will meet the guidelines for completion of a Field Experience assignment.
      • In rare instances TIR candidates may be unable to observe a certified classroom teacher at their place of employment based on the course requirements.  Should an instance such as this arise, it is the candidate’s responsibility to contact Outreach Specialist within the first seven days of the course to discuss options for observing a certified teacher in another district/school

     Students cannot begin field experience hours until the request has been formally approved.  Once approved it is the student's responsibility to schedule the days and hours of the field experience with the school and mentor.

    Q: What information do I need to provide the Outreach Specialist to arrange a field experience placement?

  • Students are required to provide the Outreach Specialist with three school choices and to include any additional information that will affect the placement. Students may also request a Mentor. When students have completed a request with an Outreach Specialist, they will receive an email to their RioLearn email account confirming that their field experience request has been received. This does not mean that the field experience has been approved. Some schools/districts may require that students complete additional paperwork/background check before they can begin their hours.

    It is the student's responsibility to complete the required paperwork and submit it to the school/district before their placement can be approved by the school/district and Rio Salado College. Failing to complete the forms required by the school/district may jeopardize your placement.

    Please note that districts/schools receive requests from other institutions for field experience and student teaching placements, so the school and/or mentor elected may not be available. If a district/school does not approve a placement, students must accept this decision. This decision is final. The Outreach Specialist will automatically move on to the student's alternate school choices. If by the third choice there is no availability, Rio will identify an appropriate placement concerning the student's request and content area.

    If a student refuses to accept the placement, the student will forfeit the placement, will not be placed at another choice, and will fail the course. The student also jeopardizes the ability to select a district/school in the future. All forfeits will be documented in the student's file.

  • Q: How soon can I expect field experience placement approval?

    Rio Salado needs a minimum of 21 days to arrange placement. Students should request the field experience placement no later than Lesson 3 of their course. However, we recommend contacting the Outreach Specialist during the first week of class to ensure enough time to fulfill the placement.

  • Q: Once my field experience placement is approved, when can I begin?

    Once your field experience placement has been approved by Rio Salado and the partnering school/district, you will receive a confirmation email in your RioLearn account. The confirmation will include:

    1. Name of the approved school where you will complete your field experience hours
    2. School address and telephone number
    3. Name of your assigned Mentor Teacher  
    4. Contact information for your assigned Mentor Teacher
    5. May contain special instructions from the Outreach Specialist

    Begin by contacting the assigned Mentor Teacher within 48 hours to work out a set schedule to complete the field experience hours by the end date of the course. It is vital that students adhere to the set schedule as to not cause any disruptions to the K-12 classroom or the Mentor Teacher's lesson plans. If students are unable to attend a date during their set schedule, students must notify their Mentor. Students can do the field experience portion as quickly or as slowly as they want within the 14-week course. However, they cannot begin the field experience until the completion of the 3rd Lesson in each course. If a student accelerates the content portion of the course to finish it sooner than 14 weeks they still have 14 weeks to complete the practicum.

  • Q: As an Educator Preparation student, what are my responsibilities?

    While completing field experience hours at a partnering school/district, it is important to remember that students are a guest at that school and should observe these guidelines:

    1. Follow all school rules and policies
    2. Dress in a professional manner
    3. Demonstrate consistent punctuality – follow the schedule you have set with your Mentor Teacher
    4. Accept and respect the Mentor Teacher's authority
    5. Model positive behavior
    6. Turn your cell phone off/vibrate as to not disrupt the Mentor Teacher's instruction. Remember you are there to observe, assist, and tutor.
    7. Complete and provide the Rio Salado Field Experience Verification form to the Mentor Teacher with an envelope addressed to:  

    Rio Salado College
    Attn: "Your Instructor's Name"
    PO Box 63310
    Phoenix, AZ 85082-3310

  • Q: How do I complete the field experience requirement if I do not live in the state of Arizona?

    It is the student's responsibility to identify an accredited school site that is willing to participate with Rio Salado College in providing the field experience. The student furnishes this information to the Outreach Specialist who in turn contacts the school, verifies that the mentor teacher holds a state recognized teaching credential, and arranges the student field experience following Rio Salado Educator Preparation Program policies and guidelines.

  • Q: If I am already teaching, can I use my own classroom for the field experience?

    It is important for Rio Salado College to approve the student's classroom site for this requirement. Please contact the Outreach Specialist to obtain approval. If approved, the student may use their classroom to fulfill 2/3 of the field experience hours required. However, observation of a certified teacher in his/her classroom is still required.

  • Q: What if I am in the Military and want to do a field experience at the Department of Defense School or overseas?

    These requests require additional time and effort so the sooner the student can submit their information the better. Overseas students must identify whether their school is a Department of Defense School or an American School and through what agency the school is accredited. If the school is a DoDDs school there are additional requirements that must be met. Field experience and student teaching placement may take up to 12 weeks. If this applies to you, please complete the following forms and contact the Outreach Specialist for more information: Forms

    Q: When can I do my field experience if I have a set schedule at work and will have trouble getting time off during school hours?

  • It is the student's responsibility to arrange time to do a field experience. The Outreach Specialist will attempt to find schools that can accommodate a person's schedule. In addition, students may be able to do the practicum year-round, as some schools do not break for the entire summer. There are also some evening school options available. Possible suggestions include: 1 hour before work in the morning, during lunch hour, etc.

  • Q: Can I use substitute teaching to meet the field experience requirements?

    You may be permitted to use a long-term substitution assignment (at least four weeks in the same classroom) to meet portions of the field experience requirement. Utilizing the long-term substitute assignment for the field experience will have to be approved by the school/district. In addition, the school Principal/Administrator will need to be responsible for completing the field experience verification evaluation. Rio students will still be required to complete the observation hours under a certified teacher at that school. Please contact the Outreach Specialist to obtain approval for a long-term substitute assignment for your field experience.

  • Q: I have been subbing/teaching for X number of years. Can I test out of some of the classes?

    Substitute teachers and teachers holding emergency certificates have not received formal educator coursework. Therefore, though someone may have been subbing for several years, they need to take each class to understand the theory, logic, and methods of teaching.

  • Q: Can I complete field experience hours at the same school my child attends or the same school a relative is employed at?

    Schools/Districts have indicated they will not approve a field experience placement if a Rio student has a child that attends the same school or a relative who works there. In addition, school/districts may decline a placement for reasons such as: disruption of classroom instruction, favoritism towards classrooms/students/child, biased Rio student field experience evaluations, etc.

  • Q: What forms need to be submitted to Rio Salado College to verify my field experience hours?
    All field experience forms can be found in Lesson One or Three of the educator prep course. Please look for a blue box titled "Signature and field experience Assignment." Listed below are the necessary forms needed to complete to successfully document field experience hours and pass the course:
    1. Student Observation Critical Thinking Form (submit answers in RioLearn)
    2. Tutoring Reflection Form (submit answers in RioLearn)
    3. Field Experience Verification Form (to be mailed to your Instructor)
    4. Signature Assignment (submit answers in RioLearn)
    5. Teaching Evaluation Form (submit in RioLearn, only for Level II methods courses)
  • Q: Does the Mentor Teacher receive a stipend?

    Yes, the certified  Mentor Teacher whose classroom students will utilize for observation and tutoring will receive a stipend for supporting the growth of a Rio Salado College student in their classroom. Rio students will be asked to provide the Mentor Teacher the Mentor Teacher
    Payment information that is highlighted in each educator preparation course with a field experience.

    However, if the Rio student is emergency certified, a Teacher-In-Residence student, serving in a long-term substitute assignment, or employed at the school or district where the field experience will be completed, the Mentor Teacher will not receive a stipend.

  • Q: How many times am I allowed to utilize a Mentor Teacher  for my field experience hours?

    Rio students cannot utilize a Mentor Teacher  more than twice. Rio Salado College would like for educator preparation students to be able to observe a variety of teachings styles while completing field experience hours.

  • Q: I am also attending another educational institution that requires me to complete field experience hours. Can I combine the field experience hours?

    Students cannot overlap or use the same hours for two different field experience requirements. Please ensure that all hours are annotated for the specific field experience in progress. Do not combine the hours or use the same hours for two different classes. If a student violates this policy they will be asked to redo their entire field experience.