Feedback, Conversation and Power in the Field Experience of Preservice Teachers

Article excerpt

This article utilized information collected through a questionnaire distributed to preservice teachers in a Faculty of Education in Canada and in Scotland. The purpose of the questionnaire was to gather data about the field experience of preservice teachers. Preservice teachers in both countries articulated the need for positive, helpful feedback from the supervising teachers. The issue of whether the field experience should ideally be an apprenticeship, a time to innovate or a combination of both was also explored. The article underscores the importance of the supervising teacher in ensuring that the field experience: provides an experience based on the students' readiness and willingness to innovate or follow a set pattern; develop a positive relationship with the preservice teacher; and provide the type of helpful feedback that will enable preservice teachers to become effective classroom teachers.

The field experience of preservice teachers or the time that preservice teachers spend in classrooms has been found to be a significant factor in the education of most teachers (Griffin, 1989). "The importance of observing exemplary practice has long been recognized as a critical component in educating teachers. Student teaching has traditionally been the capstone experience, and for many candidates, student teaching represented their first exposure to the classroom setting during their professional training" (Arends & Winitzky, 1996, p. 542). Central to this experience is the role that the supervising teacher plays. The supervising teacher totally controls the life of the preservice teacher during the field experience. The supervising teacher is responsible for assigning teaching tasks, providing resources and evaluating the preservice teacher. The amount and type of feedback provided by the supervising teacher plays a very important role in the development of the preservice teacher.

"For many reasons related to contexts and persons, the quality of field experiences varies. For some preservice teachers, all the time spent in field experiences will be meaningful and educative; for others, that may be true only some of the time; still others may have several difficult or frustrating field experiences. There are no guarantees. There is no magic formula for a successful field experience even if the best of planning and preparation take place. Like all human endeavors involving relationships, the cooperating teacher-preservice teacher relationship is fraught with complexity and idiosyncrasies. For example, there may be differences in how you and your cooperating teacher perceive your roles; you may have different expectations for the time you are together; you may differ in teaching styles, philosophies, and approaches to education; and there are personality factors and contexts in which you may find yourselves at odds." (Knowles & Cole, 1994, p. 157, 8)

The supervising teacher and the feedback provided by this teacher are significant factors in determining the value of the field experience. The preservice teacher relies on the feedback from the supervising teacher for constructive criticism and guidance. Preservice teachers often experience frustration as a result of receiving inadequate feedback (Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann, 1987; Griffin et al., 1983; Richardson-Koehler, 1988). The degree to which the supervising teacher is willing to encourage the preservice teacher to be innovative also impacts on the experience. The following study addresses supervising teacher feedback and evaluation, and the issue of innovation versus apprenticeship.

Problem Statement

This study examined the field experience (time spent in classrooms) of preservice teachers and specifically probed the impact of the supervising teacher on the preservice teacher. Preservice teachers were asked the following three questions related to the field experience.

1. Check off one of the categories listed below to describe the impact of the placement teacher (supervising teacher) on the quality of the school experience and then write your thoughts to further describe that impact. …

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