Principals' and Cooperating Teachers' Expectations of Teacher Candidates

By Bigham, Sarah G.; Hively, Dorothy E. et al. | Education, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

Principals' and Cooperating Teachers' Expectations of Teacher Candidates


Bigham, Sarah G., Hively, Dorothy E., Toole, Georgiann H., Education


Introduction and Related Literature

No in-school intervention has a greater impact on student learning than an effective teacher (National Council on Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2010). In order to prepare effective teachers for the complexities of today's classrooms, NCATE's Blue Ribbon Panel urged that teacher education programs be rich in clinical practice and partner with school districts to share responsibility for the development and support of productive new teachers. University supervisors and cooperating teachers should be skilled, reflective practitioners who are able to assess candidate performance, with student achievement at the center of all interactions.

Field experiences, especially student teaching, are integral parts of preparation for successful teaching and classroom management during student teaching and beyond (Grossman, Schonfeld, & Lee, 2005). Student teaching, following hours of in-classroom fieldwork, continues to be the linchpin of teacher preparation programs. Student teaching facilitates transference of theory to practice while developing classroom management skills and the understanding of the needs of students and school community. In addition, Cuenca (2011) maintained that student teaching provides teacher candidates with the opportunity for constructivist learning of teaching based on their experiences teaching and the dilemmas they experience in the student teaching classroom.

Following a comprehensive review of related literature, Clarke, Triggs, and Nielsen (2014) concluded that cooperating teachers who have teaching experience, expertise as classroom teachers, and a commitment to professional learning make good mentor teachers. Placement of student teachers with certain teachers signals the status of those individuals as expert teachers in the learning community (Cuenca, 2011). They are the designated gatekeepers of the profession.

School personnel do not typically interview teacher candidates prior to their acceptance as student teachers. Although cooperating teachers evaluate the teaching performances of teacher candidates, rarely do they or their principals have the opportunity to contribute to the design of teacher education programs. However, cooperating teachers and principals have expectations of and for teacher candidates who are placed in their schools for student teaching. According to Barney and Hughes (2008), these expectations may include operating honestly with cooperating teachers, dressing professionally, interacting with cooperating teacher and other staff members, knowing the school handbook, coming to school prepared and on time, using students' first names, and teaching creatively. Principals consistently discussed the importance of education majors spending as much time in classrooms as possible. Educational research has confirmed that a combination of practical and academic training for future teachers is a vital aspect of teacher retention (Freedman & Appleman, 2009). Abernathy, Forsyth, & Mitchell (2001) reported that principals valued and concurred with the attributes identified by the cooperating teachers: ability, skills, and reputation. Kelly (2010), when supervising teacher candidates during the student teaching experience, concluded that cooperating teachers had high expectations for student teachers' honesty and personal/professional ethics. Teachers in high-need schools have also suggested that future teachers have increased training in high-need schools, diverse students, and with students living in poverty (Dagenhart, Petty, & O'Connor, 2010).

The purpose of this study was to further examine public school partners' expectations of beginning teachers, including the attributes that cooperating teachers value most highly in a student teacher, and the qualities that principals consider most important when hiring a new teacher. This examination provides a basis for identifying public school teachers' perceptions of factors contributing to successful student teaching, and for exploring the possibility that these educators have expectations similar to those of school principals regarding the knowledge, skills, and experiences new teachers should have. …

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