Academic journal article Education

The Effect on Student Teachers of the Teaching Behaviors of Cooperating Teachers

Academic journal article Education

The Effect on Student Teachers of the Teaching Behaviors of Cooperating Teachers

Article excerpt

Introduction

Cooperating teachers play a significant role in the professional development and preparation of student teachers. When compared to class time, the student teacher spends more time with the cooperating teacher than any other individual instructor throughout the duration of the degree program. Roughly 1/3 (33%) of the student teacher's time of a teacher education program is spent with the cooperating teacher while the remaining 2/3 (67 %) is spent taking courses from twenty or more college professors who come from the different academic units prescribed for the undergraduate degree. Analyzed numerically, a student teacher spends eight hours a day, five days a week for sixteen weeks, which comes to a total of 1280 hours of student teaching experience. This overwhelming amount of time the student teacher spends under the tutelage of a cooperating teacher, makes the influence of the latter very critical.

Besides the immense number of hours put into the experience, we also need to recognize the nature and quality of the work in which the student teacher is involved. Usually such work would include: 1. observing the cooperating teacher teaching, 2. helping the cooperating teacher to perform routine administrative duties, 3. learning classroom discipline and management strategies, and 4. learning to each lessons. The student teacher also spends a lot of time working with the cooperating teacher planning weekly schedules and lessons, and discussing and getting feedback on teaching performance. In fact, during this close working relationship with the student teacher, the cooperating teacher is able to shape and influence the student teacher's thought processes and pedagogical choices (Medley, 1977; Comb, 1965; Copeland, 1980). The student teacher completes the teaching assignment with a perception of teaching which is different from what she/he had at the onset of the assignment. They get to understand and appreciate the relationship between "theory" and "practice." Student teachers learn from the cooperating teacher, the teaching strategies and discipline techniques which work effectively in our contemporary schools. This learning process underscores the need for college supervisors and teacher educators to continue to study the classroom behaviors of cooperating teachers so as to improve not only teaching, but to understand the classroom behaviors of beginning teachers.

The purpose of this study was to identify the behaviors and effective classroom practices that student teachers were learning from cooperating teachers. The author's decision to examine the issue from the perspectives of the student teacher was based on the fact that very few studies exist in the literature which try to link beginning or first year teachers' teaching styles with what they learned from cooperating teachers during student teaching. Moreover, it was the author's belief that student teachers could provide substantive information on effective behaviors of teachers. Student teachers' perceptions of effective practices and behaviors of cooperating teachers certainly will provide additional insights into the existing research findings on the qualities of effective teachers. It is therefore the objective of this study to identify the teaching behaviors and qualities of cooperating teachers that student teachers perceive as unique and which they believe would have a long-lasting impact on their own teaching.

Research Method

The data for this study was gathered from student teachers enrolled in the elementary and secondary education degree program in one of the state system universities in Pennsylvania from Fall 1992 through Spring 1994 (four semesters). The study sample consisted of fifty randomly selected student teachers. Of the fifty respondents, 60% were female (N=30) and 40% were male (N=20). The student teachers taught in classrooms which represented all grade levels (K-12).

A questionnaire was distributed to the students by the researcher. …

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