Queen’s ConEd students describe communication issues with Practicum Office

Student alleges administrator called students “annoying” in a zoom hot mic incident last year

Students are stressed about getting in-person school teaching experience.
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Concurrent Education (ConEd) students blame the Faculty of Education for the student’s inability to secure practicum placements mandated by the programme. They also allege unprofessional behaviour by staff.

Students in the first three years of the ConEd programme describe facing challenges finding and securing practicum placements, combined with challenges communicating with the Practicum Office.

Second and third-year ConEd students explained the Practicum Office had an unclear policy requiring candidates to take non-traditional practicums—which are conducted outside the typical classroom setting in schools. 

READ MORE: Teacher candidates struggle to find placement opportunities 

Brianna Priffer, ConEd ’25, said some students believed the Practicum Office would place them in a school. This led to students feeling they were “screwed over'' when they found out non-traditional placements were required. 

“When you're looking for non-traditional settings, the Practicum Office isn't very good at telling you how to find those places, so you ended up Googling,” Priffer said in an interview with The Journal.

According to students, fourth and fifth-year ConEd students require classroom placements for Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) certification purposes, and COVID-19 made it difficult to attain such placements. Students felt frustrated with how the process was outlined to everyone.

“To do our practicum, we pay $700. I take issue with the fact they’re forcing us into these placements that aren’t serving us as educators [...] I’m doing the exact same placements that I’ve been doing as a high schooler who wanted to get into the program,” Lily*, ConEd ’25, said in an interview with The Journal.

Students said the Practicum Office lagged when communicating with students, leaving many confused and disappointed. 

“The [practicum] office was very hostile and aggressive with their communications. It was really hard to get communications going with them, and trying to call them wasn't working as well,” Byrd*, ConEd ’24, said in an interview with The Journal

Byrd was not placed in a practicum placement as a third-year student and had to apply for a deferral before the last possible day of being placed. 

She described the process as unclear and was upset by the lack of guidance. Byrd and other students said the role of EDU boards—publicly funded school boards—also remained unclear when it came to placements.

“It's all dependent on how quickly they communicate back. I tried to email [the Practicum Office] about [deferrals], because I was worried that I wouldn't get a placement in time. They didn't give it to me because they were like, ‘we're still working on your EDU placements,’” Byrd said.

According to Lily, the Practicum Office gave students ultimatums on the rare times they responded to their emails and calls, making students increasingly stressed. Priffer said she was also frustrated by the lack of clear answers.

“The timing of how long it takes to get a response was a really big issue I had. I found if there was a question that was, I guess, tricky to answer, it wasn't answered in a straightforward manner. I didn't appreciate that,” Priffer said. 

Lily said she was afraid students who weren’t placed in practicums would have to complete online modules like those offered during the peak of the pandemic.  

“The modules are something quickly slapped together—thrown together. These modules are lazy, and they're supposed to replace an experience that's vital for us,” Lily said. 

Lily said she lost confidence in the way the Practicum Office is dealing with students. Lily said students feel uncomfortable speaking to some staff in the Practicum Office. 

“Last year, Stephanie Barnaby—the head of the Practicum Office—came to our class. She didn't turn her mic off and she started talking about how annoying she finds ConEd students, and then her mic turned off,” Lily said. “That was just something that was never addressed.” 

“Then she went from being an academic advisor to the head of the Practicum Office. You can just imagine how uncomfortable that makes students feel.”

Lily felt her position as a woman of colour contributed to her negative experiences with the Practicum Office. Lily said the staff in the Practicum Office are homogenous, leading to uncomfortable interactions. 

“Every single person who works in the Practicum Office is a white woman. There's no diversity, there's no representation. As a person of colour there are some environments in which you feel hyper conscious that you're a person of colour,” Lily said. 

“I don't feel respected at all. The fact that I'm the only coloured person interacting with a group of white women who are in power is such an important thing in my education.”

Lily brought up the fact that student teachers teach all students, regardless of cultural background. Lily believes the Practicum Office should showcase this diversity. 

All three students said they wished the Practicum Office could provide more concrete solutions and support to students. 

“Be more respectable in your communications and actually make students feel comfortable coming to you with issues [...] when students don't feel safe and comfortable going to their advisors, that's a problem,” Lily said. 

In a statement to The Journal, the University said the Practicum Office placed approximately 1,700 teacher candidates in placements across Ontario. 

“In the event that a candidate is not able to be placed during a particular placement, various programming adjustments are made on a case-by-case basis to ensure that all requirements are met and candidates are able to graduate on time,” the University said. 

The University highlighted students are always welcome to make an appointment with a practicum office assistant

The University did not address the student’s allegations of Barnaby’s behaviour or the feeling of a lack of diversity in the office.   

*Name changed for fear of retaliation

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