Each year around 1,400 traditional teacher preparation programs place almost 200,000 teacher candidates in schools for a semester of student teaching, the arrangements for which involve a large cast of both program and school district staff. We looked at the ups and downs of student teaching in 134 institutions spread throughout the country — about 10 percent of all the colleges and universities that prepare teachers.
Novice teachers' student teaching experiences can have a major influence on whether they are competent or actually set children back. The experts we consulted were unanimous in their assessment that first and foremost, the student teacher must be placed in the classroom of an experienced teacher who is both highly effective (as measured by student performance) and capable of mentoring an adult. That makes sense: thinking about the analog in medical education, wouldn't you want future doctors placed for residency training with top-notch physicians?
Our report's findings address all aspects of the student teaching experience, from the manner in which programs provide feedback and evaluation of lesson plans or classroom management techniques to whether the institution fully debriefs teacher candidates on all aspects of their placement. However, our largest spotlight is reserved for answers to questions about the all-important process for selecting the best possible teacher to serve as the "cooperating teacher":
- Do institutions make it clear to everyone involved in student teaching that they seek cooperating teachers who are highly effective instructors and capable adult mentors? Or do they have only vague criteria for the role, or specify only that the teacher must have a few years of experience?
- Do institutions obtain meaningful information about the qualifications of potential cooperating teachers, or do they simply accept nominations from principals, no questions asked?
Look for our answers to these questions tomorrow, along with a wealth of other information on student teaching in the United States.
Senior Policy Analyst