Providing Continual Feedback for the Student Intern
“Have realistic expectations. Don't expect them to know everything the first week. Encourage initiative, but tell them what they could be doing or what you would like for them to do.”
– USD #383 Elementary school Clinical Instructor
- Fostering Reflection – Often you can “avoid telling” by asking specific questions. By asking the right questions, encourage your student teacher to think about how student learning can be improved, how student behavior can be changed, and how instruction can be optimized. Probing for a deep understanding of the lesson’s successes or deficiencies. Target questions to goals that are achievable.
- Daily conferences should occur at a routine time. Set aside some time before school, after school, or during a planning period to touch base with the student teacher about the schedule, planning, conversations about questions or concerns the student teacher might have, as well as informing her/him about meetings, e-mail, or professional development opportunities, etc.
- Weekly conferences should be established to discuss planning, goal setting, and reflections on lessons. This should be about an hour in length.
- Summative conferences should occur at the midway point and at the end of the student teaching experience using the specified university forms
Feedback Through Conferencing
“A student teaching notebook can be a helpful tool for back and forth conversation. Always listen, use a clipboard… don't sit down at your desk, be an observer.”
– USD #383 Secondary school Clinical Instructor
Student Interns are in need of continual feedback at each stage in their teaching practicum. Much like one would guide their classroom students through instruction on a concept the teacher wishes them to master, a student intern needs to develop strength in areas of classroom practice, such as instructional pacing and behavior management to name a few. Reflection on their relative effectiveness can be achieved through cooperating teacher feedback. This can come in the form of a simple dialectical journal where teacher and intern communicate through questions or comments or in a more formal format of conferencing.
Conferring with the student teacher about your observation is crucial. The ultimate purpose of conferencing is to enhance teaching performance and therefore have a positive impact on student learning. Be specific and set goals with the student teacher so that instructional progress can be made. List strengths of the lesson along with specific suggestions for improvement. Student teachers want as much timely feedback as possible. Conferences are extremely important in establishing open communication between the cooperating teacher and student teacher. Most problems and concerns can be solved with open communication. Be honest, but show understanding and compassion toward the student teacher. It is best to confront issues and concerns with immediate attention. Emphasize student learning first. The teacher’s behavior is important, but student learning is the purpose of teaching. If you are uncomfortable addressing the student teacher with concerns, immediately contact the university supervisor or clinical instructor if you are teaching in a professional development school.
Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers (1980) indicate that an effective conference includes the following characteristics. It is:
- Based on observations
- Based on objectives
- Agenda driven with key questions to help the student teacher reflect
- Conducted with honesty, compassion, and openness
- Professional, not social
- Classroom lessons addressed and observation data evaluated
- Reflection on the lesson modeled and practiced (Note: Though reflection is good and very important, student teachers usually need more directing and “telling” than do experienced teachers.)
- Suggestions offered for improvement (Student teachers often give thoughtful input for their own improvement)
- Summarized with set goals and timeline
A Conference Outline
Following are a series of questions you might ask your student teacher in a planning conference prior to teaching a lesson or in a post-conference after you observe a teaching episode. They are written in the future tense as they would be asked for a pre-conference. For a post-conference the same questions would be phrased in the past tense.
Step 1. Questions about the learning goals for students
What are the goals of the lesson? How did you come by them? Why are they important for students?
Step 2. Questions about assessment/achievement
How will you know if the students achieve the learning goals? How will the achievement be assessed? What should the students know and be able to do as a result of achieving the learning goals?
Step 3. Questions about the actual lesson
What activities, instructional materials and resources will be used? What student groupings will help them acquire the knowledge and skills? How will instructional activities be sequenced to support individual learning goals? (Adapted from Wiggins & McTighue.)
Feedback Through Coaching
Coaching Throughout the Student Teaching Experience
Success can be reached when the cooperating teacher creates routines that provide a platform for discussion and foster the development of a working relationship. These routines include, but are not limited to:
- Daily Interactions – The cooperating teacher should aim to spend 20-30 minutes per day to discuss plans, provide feedback on teaching, and make suggestions. Teams at the elementary level usually prefer to meet at the end of the day, while those at the secondary level prefer to meet during daily preparation hours.
- “Coaching” – During the daily meetings, the team should commit to focusing primarily on giving and receiving feedback and to planning. The time is not meant to be used for preparation.
- One-to-one – It is best if the daily sessions can occur uninterrupted and in private. Student teachers are more likely to open up and be receptive to the ideas presented during these meetings.
- One goal – The cooperating teacher should attempt to communicate positive observations in addition to talking about areas of need. Mentors/coaches should be prepared to talk in detail, though, about one challenge, and make suggestions for improvement.
During the lesson, the cooperating teacher might consider questions such as:
- What is the purpose of the lesson? What will the students know and be able to do?
- How did the student teacher engage the students?
- How was the information communicated to the students?
- Were directions clearly stated?
- What techniques or strategies were implemented?
- How did the student teacher check for understanding throughout the instruction?
- How did the students practice the new skill?
- How were the students assessed?
- Did the assessment/evaluation match the lesson’s objective?
- What was the student teacher’s level of preparation and readiness?
- What were the strengths of the lesson?
- What could be done to increase the effectiveness of the lesson?
Responses to these questions in turn can provide the basis for the subsequent coaching session.
Further, when the cooperating teacher provides specific directions in addition to the verbal comments, student teachers are far more likely to implement the suggestions and achieve success in reaching daily goals.
Hurwitz, S. C., Enz, B. J., & Carlile, B. J. (2006). The student teaching experience: A developmental approach and coaching the student teacher. Kendall Hunt Publishing.