The student teaching experience is the most important curricular stage in the preparation of of a future teacher. The quality of your feedback and guidance is crucial in the development of the student teacher's instructional skills and behaviors. "Because the ability of the coooperating teacher to interact with and support the student effectively is crucial to the outcome of the student teaching process, the cooperating teacher's supervision approach will affect the student teacher directly." (p.1)
In addition to meeting with the cooperating teacher to plan instruction, student teachers need frequent opportunities to discuss their progress, problems, and means to improve their teaching. "A primary focus should be on instructional assistance rather than instructional evaluation. The purpose should be to increase the student teacher competence levels by assisting and guiding student teacher improvement." (p.3) Student teachers will expect more than positive comments and will feel cheated if specific sugestions for improvement are not available. Daily informal conversations are suggested to share immediate observations, and well structured weekly conferences to discuss instructional progress as well as set goals for the coming week.
Many cooperating teachers chose to schedule the weekly conferences after school or in the evenings to avoid disruptions from students and both the cooperating teachers and student teachers to catch their breath. Unless a video-tape review is part of the conference (which is a good idea), some cooperating teachers prefer to hold these conferences either at a resaurant or in their home, as they find the more relaxed atmosphere conducive to discussion and communication. The manner in which these conferences are scheduled is completely up to you, but it is essential that they do occur.
A suggested structure for the conferences are as follows:
- The cooperating teacher asks the student teacher to reflect on their progress, achievements, and instructional needs, followed by the coop's notes to the student teacher.
- When possible the cooperating teacher and student teacher review a video of the teaching. (this is highly suggested). The student teacher analyzes and interprets the observations with the help of the cooperating teacher to determine future goals.
- The cooperating teacher and student teacher decide on appropriate approaches to reach goals for future improvements in instruction and plans for the next observation on the basis of the conference.
Based on a paper by Drafall, Lynn. (1991) Improving Communication with Student Teachers; and dissertation by Burrack, Frederick (2001), University of Illinois.