Academic journal article Education

Great Expectations for Student Teachers: Explicit and Implied

Academic journal article Education

Great Expectations for Student Teachers: Explicit and Implied

Article excerpt

In preservice teacher education universities strive to devote a considerable portion of the curricula to clinical experiences in K-12 schools. From the beginning of coursework in education are interwoven classroom experiences intended to expose potential teachers to what lies in store. However, the culminating student teaching experience plays a primary role in shaping preservice teachers' values, beliefs, and teaching skills (Darden, Scott, Darden, & Westfall, 2001; Koskela & Ganser, 1998). Student teaching has been the capstone of teacher preparation for nearly a century (Ganser, 1996). All fifty states require a student teaching practicum, testifying to the significance of the experience. Henry (1989) attributes this to the novice teachers' need for (1) experience in an actual teaching setting, (2) emotional involvement, (3) personal and professional growth, and (4) one-on-one teaching encounters (pp. 74-75). Therefore, maximizing the degree of guided immersion in the field is reported to be predominant in the quest toward becoming an educator.

Student teachers spend far more time with their cooperating teachers than with university supervisors. Therefore, the mentor teacher has much greater influence on the outcome of the mentorship. Student teachers verify that the influence of their host teachers was paramount (Borko & Mayfield, 1995), and veteran teachers also testify to the impact of their own cooperating teachers during their preservice experience (McIntyre, Byrd, & Foxx, 1996). Clearly the exchange between mentor and mentee has the potential to provide a rich opportunity for guided growth.

However, the influence of a cooperating teacher extends beyond classroom instruction (Pellet, Straye, and Pellet, 1999). The host teacher models professional behavior in his or her interactions with parents, administrators, other faculty, and support staff. Clothing selection, grooming, conduct, language, and reliability also demonstrate expectations for the student teacher. Thus, it is the responsibility of the host teacher to ensure that the student teacher be acculturated into the field, learning not only formal classroom techniques, but also the myriad of other more subtle awarenesses reflective of a professional.

In our study of the expectations for the student teacher in the practicum experience cooperating teachers identified a multitude of expectations of student teachers beyond simple classroom practices. Participants for this study were 28 (5 male and 23 female) public school teachers, who had served the previous semester as cooperating teachers for two Midwestern regional universities. Represented were 10 elementary, 7 middle school, and 11 high school teachers from a range of disciplines, including speech, physical education, English, science, music, special education, math, high school business, family and consumer science, and elementary education.

Two primary sources provided data for this study. A demographic survey was completed, followed by interviews with each of the cooperating teachers at the completion of the student teaching experience. The interviews were conducted using an interview guide for consistency. The 20-30 minute interviews were tape recorded and later transcribed for analysis.

Teacher education programs from the two sponsoring Midwestern regional universities reflected in this study both provide cooperating teachers with packets of information outlining their expectations for the student teaching experience. Twenty-two of the 28 cooperating teachers attested that the university's expectations were clearly outlined. A high school English teacher suggested that if there is any confusion, the fault does not rest with the university. She said, "Many times it's our fault because we don't contact the university and find out more about their student or what they want us to do." Communication between the host teacher and the university supervisor is integral to providing a quality experience. …

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