Cooperating Teacher Resources
“The Cooperating Teacher should be looking at these and giving feedback. The lesson should meet the Cooperating Teacher's expectations. Clinical Instructors look for the different components, but the Cooperating Teacher should know what the Student Teacher will be teaching and whether or not it will be meet the intended objectives and standards.” – USD #383 Elementary school Clinical Instructor
Cooperating teachers need to make an effort to share their “teaching philosophy, classroom rules, procedures and routines, arrangement of the classroom as a foundation for solid curriculum planning and implementation” on behalf of the student teacher at the start of the practicum experience or internship.
Lesson planning will vary by age of student instruction and content area. However, there are several tenants to effective planning. Cooperating teachers can “assist novice teachers by working with him/her to identify specific content and outcomes,” allowing them to reflect of what are the “important topics or concepts” that need to be addressed in planning.
One of the most important duties you have as a cooperating teacher is observing the student and communicating what you observed. Informal observations can occur anytime (classroom, hallway, lounge). Formal observations occur when you sit in the classroom with the specific intent of observing. Take notes as to what you see and hear, or use a data collection form that helps you organize your observations. It is recommended that you conduct one formal observation per week. When you meet with the student teacher to discuss your observations, use the evidence you gathered while observing. Evidence is the factual reporting of events. It might include student teacher and student actions and behaviors. It might also include artifacts prepared by the student teacher, students, or others. It is using professional judgment and capturing what is seen and heard. Use the data you collect to support the conclusions you share with the student teacher in the conference following the observation.
Classroom Observation Guide
During the first two weeks of school, most student teachers benefit from guided observation tasks, which help them become oriented to the students, teacher, and classroom. The student teacher should observe and interact with students as directed by the mentor teacher and answer as many of the following questions as possible. When the student teacher has completed the observation process the student teacher and mentor teacher should conference to determine the accuracy of the student teacher’s observations and conclusions.
- How does the mentor teacher make students feel welcome on the first day of class? How does the mentor teacher involve students during the first week of class so that students feel as though thy are a part of the class?
- How does the mentor teacher reduce student anxiety and fear during the first days of class?
- How does the teacher get to know the students before they arrive in class and during the first days of class?
- What are the classroom and school rules for students? What is the role of the student teacher in classroom discipline and management?
- How does the mentor teacher positively reinforce desired student behaviors in the classroom?
- How does the mentor teacher make sure that the students understand what has been taught?
- How are groups established? Why does the mentor teacher group students?
- Which students appear to be leaders in the classroom? How do you know?
- Which student have good verbal skills? How do you know?
- Which students seem to learn quickly and easily? How do you know?
- Which student appear to be socially skilled in the classroom? How do you know?
- Which students appear to be shy and reticent? How do you know?
- Which students appear to have difficulty getting along with others? How do you know?
- Which students need extra help to understand and participate appropriately? All the time or only in certain subjects? What do these students do when they are frustrated? How do you know?
- Which students appear to need more attention (positive or negative) from the mentor teacher and the student teacher than others? How do these students get the attention they want? How do they react if they do not get the attention they want? How do you know?
- What other interesting or unexpected things have been observed?
Morehead, M. A., Lyman, L., & Foyle, H. (2009). Working with student teachers: Getting and giving the best. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.(p. 53)
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.)
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.
Cooperating teachers and university supervisors evaluate student teachers using two approaches. The first is a checklist of 23 items. The student teacher is rated using a set of rubrics and assigned a number from a low of 1 to a high of 7. The number checked is based on a description given in the set of rubrics. This process is explained in greater detail on pages 15-19 of this handbook. The second part of the evaluation is a narrative, much like a letter of recommendation, that gives the evaluator’s assessment of the student teacher’s abilities.
It is recommended that the cooperating teacher and student teacher complete the rubric checklist midway through the student teaching experience as a FORMATIVE assessment only.
For this evaluation it is best to have the student teacher complete the form as a self-assessment. The cooperating teacher should do the same and together establish learning goals for the remainder of the semester.
During the last week of the student teaching experience, the cooperating teacher and university supervisor should complete separate evaluation checklists and write separate evaluation narratives of the student teacher. Then the results are shared with the student teacher.
Text and Online Resources
- 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.
- Morehead, M. A., Lyman, L., & Foyle, H. (2009). Working with student teachers: Getting and giving the best. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
- Ten Things to Know About Mentoring Student Teachers
(Kappan magazine article)
- Ongoing Training for Mentors (PDF)
(from Education Northwest)
- Cooperating Teachers' Role in Learning to Teach in and from Practice
- Better Teacher-Candidate Mentoring Targeted
(Education Week article)
- Mentoring Cooperating Teachers – Dilemmas
(PDF from Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, IA)
- Engaging Cooperating Teachers in the Improvement of Student-Teaching Experiences of English Education Majors at Illinois State University
(from Illinois State University)