Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Self-Awareness and Enactment of Supervisory Stance: Influences on Responsiveness toward Student Teacher Learning

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Self-Awareness and Enactment of Supervisory Stance: Influences on Responsiveness toward Student Teacher Learning

Article excerpt


Effective teacher education is the first step in preparing quality teachers for our schools, and ensuring strong supervision is a necessary component of the teacher education process. Providing student teachers with access to knowledgeable others, such as supervisors, can structure support systems that encourage effective practices.

However, based on the existing literature, the research and writing on student teacher supervision is a dated body of work (Steadman, 2009). Extensive research last flourished in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This research focused primarily on cost and logistics of offering supervision through the university and on the social relationships among student teachers, supervisors, and classroom teachers (Hoover, O'Shea, & Carroll, 1988; Richardson-Koehler, 1988; Zahorik, 1988).

Some research was conducted in the 1990s on supervisory experiences as they related to changes in attitudes and beliefs of student teachers. Overall, these studies found that little relationship existed between belief change and the involvement of the supervisor in the process of learning to teach. Howey (1994) discussed how the traditional supervisory experiences fail to address the actual attitudes, beliefs, or understandings of the student teachers, instead focusing primarily on observable behaviors. Borko and Mayfield (1995) found that little change in attitudes or beliefs of student teachers was deemed attributable to their work with the university supervisor over the semester. Other research, however, suggests supervisors do play a role in the development of student teachers (Friebus, 1977; Zimpher, DeVoss, & Nott, 1980). Friebus (1977) found that the university supervisor either superseded or was a close second to mentor teachers in influential areas, such as "'coaching' the student teacher, and in 'providing legitimation' for the student teacher" (cited in Zimpher, DeVoss, & Nott, 1980, p. 12).

Zimpher, DeVoss, and Nott (1980) determined that the university supervisor offered another perspective for reflective feedback that limited the tendency to simply recreate the mentor teacher's instruction and philosophy. In addition, the supervisor provided constructive and critical feedback to help the student teacher reflect on success and grow as a professional. A few pieces of recent research have started to examine supervisors as key in the teacher education process, looking at them as ones with a stake in the process, influenced by context, the educational climate, and professional development opportunities (Bates & Burbank, 2008; Bates, Ramirez, & Drits, 2009; Ralph, 2003; Steadman, 2009).

These studies have focused primarily on larger educational issues and not on concepts such as supervisor stance, a phrase we have coined and that we will further develop in this research. A stance is a supervisor's professional knowledge, perspective, and conceptualization about how student teachers learn to teach in the classroom context. Stances include issues such as how learners learn, what effective classroom instruction looks like, and how to prepare teachers to meet the needs of diverse learners. The studies cited above left us to wonder what it was about the supervisors' practice that facilitated growth by the student teacher.

There has been little attention to the stances that supervisors take and how they influence supervisory practice in helping beginning teachers learn to teach though some work has been done on the conceptualizations of practice by the supervisors of practicing teachers (e.g., Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 1995). Attention to the supervisor's stance, its origins, and its development, could have a clear impact on a student teacher's learning opportunities and could result in substantive improvements to the process and experience of student teaching. We lack the knowledge to improve field-based components of teacher education without considering what our supervisors offer our teacher candidates and how this impacts their learning opportunities. …

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