Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Rethinking Field Experience: Partnership Teaching versus Single-Placement Teaching

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Rethinking Field Experience: Partnership Teaching versus Single-Placement Teaching

Article excerpt

Over the past 15 years, teacher education has come under growing criticism. Part of the response to this criticism in both the United Kingdom and in North America has been to increase the amount of time students spend in the field and to expand the role of mentor teachers as teacher educators (Kyriacou & Stephens, 1999). For teacher education students and teachers alike, teacher education is thought of as being synonymous with time spent in the field, particularly student teaching (Bullough, Kauchak, Crow, Hobbs, & Stokes, 1997). Indeed, across the board, the value of school experience to teacher education is, as Johnston (1994) suggested, "accepted almost on blind faith" (p. 199). Recognizing the powerful influence school context plays on beginning teacher development, at the same time, effort has been directed toward forging professional development schools: Better schools create better teachers and better teacher education (see Patterson, Michelli, & Pacheco, 1999). Despite recognition that not all school experience is educative (Zeichner, 1990), these developments have taken place within a dearth of research. "Little is known about the effectiveness of the various models for the delivery of field experience programs. All too often, models for student teaching ... are developed out of convenience or tradition" (Guyton & McIntrye, 1990, p. 517). The same conclusion holds for field experiences generally.

There is a growing need for experimentation with configurations of field experience and for the generation and study of new models to determine their effectiveness.


Like other teacher educators, we find ourselves immersed in a never-ending round of program development efforts. In our recent deliberations, we came to doubt the value of some well-established practices, particularly the value of soloing in student teaching. Goodlad (1994) observed that teacher education has long been characterized by the values of individualism; teacher education students make their way through their programs on their own. In response to this issue, as in many other programs across the nation seeking to establish a "shared ordeal" (Lortie, 1995), student cohorts were formed at our university. Yet, cohorts have not proven to be an unqualified success (Bullough et al., 1999). Concern remained that more could be done to maximize the educational value of the much-praised (by mentor teachers) increase in the amount of time spent in schools. We desired means of enhancing beginning teachers' understanding of learning to teach as a collegial and shared enterprise. A residual question arose from the long-established commitment of the university to professional development schools (PDSs): How might we increase the positive impact of the program on mentor teachers--and on children, because our aim is the simultaneous renewal of schooling and of teacher education?

While struggling with these questions and related issues, a proposal gradually began to take form around the concept of partnership teaching. We wondered about the value of teaming multiple teacher education students (preservice teachers) with a single mentor teacher. The literature addresses the value of peer feedback and evaluation on student teacher learning: "Risk taking becomes easier in equal peer relationships than with a person in authority" (Hawkey, 1995, p. 181). Feelings of greater support are also commonly noted. We thought that mentor teachers might benefit not only from an "extra pair of hands" in the classroom (Bullough et al., 1999) but from the opportunity to rethink their practice with two dedicated aspiring elementary school teachers instead of one. But, we also thought that partnership teaching might dramatically increase a mentor teacher's workload.

Four sets of research questions were formed: (a) Does placing teacher education students in a partnership arrangement encourage a collaborative conception of teacher development among beginning teachers? …

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