Cooperating Teachers Facilitating Reflective Practice for Student Teachers in a Professional Development School

By Ross, Donna L. | Education, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Cooperating Teachers Facilitating Reflective Practice for Student Teachers in a Professional Development School


Ross, Donna L., Education


Examining teaching practice through a reflective lens has gained acceptance in the last decade in teacher education and beginning teacher induction programs. The implementation, however, can be very different from the theory. Reflection is not a skill most teachers bring with them when they begin the profession, in fact many highly experienced teachers are novices at reflective practice. Initial attempts at reflection are generally little more than descriptions of classroom practice. For most teachers, moving beyond descriptive thought and writing requires training and a supportive environment (McCorkel, Ariav & Ariav, 1998; Stanley, 1998). When teachers have challenging workloads and colleagues who are not reflective it is difficult to carve out the extensive time and energy commitment required to develop reflective strategies (Stanley, 1998). In addition, reflection can be emotionally painful as teachers confront issues and weaknesses in their practice. Without the support and training of skilled reflective practitioners, it is not unusual for teachers to revert to more shallow, descriptive thoughts.

Early in the reflective practice developmental process there needs to be time to explore and try out new ideas. There should be opportunities to investigate the value of writing, videotaping, and talking with colleagues as sources of evidence for reflection. A skilled reflective practitioner can mentor a novice by modeling strategies, sharing writings, and providing emotional support and encouragement. Ideally, this mentoring process will begin during the teacher education program. A cooperating teacher, who is skilled in reflection, can introduce a student teacher to the culture of reflective practice while in a structured, collegial, and supportive environment.

Learning to Reflect: Cooperating Teachers and Student Teachers

Field placements such as student teaching are considered by many to be the capstone experiences in preparing to teach. In fact, McIntyre and Byrd (1996) believe that considerable focus should be paid to strengthening the field placement component of most teacher education programs. The importance of field placements or student teaching is so highly valued that many school districts have initiated internship programs in which future teachers assume responsibility for the classroom before or during their methods classes (e.g., Sandlin, Young, & Karge, 1992).

Research suggests that the supervised student teaching experience allows future teachers to "try-on" different teaching styles and define their role as a teacher (Holt-Reynolds, 2000), understand the needs of diverse student populations (Rosen & Abt-Perkins, 2000), become reflective practitioners (Dinkelman, 2000), develop classroom management skills (Snyder, 1998), and link assessment to instruction (Campbell & Evans, 2000). The teaching style of the cooperating teacher, including the level of reflection practiced, strongly influences the development and future teaching of the novice student teacher. The level of skill in reflective practice is, however, rarely a consideration in the selection of cooperating teachers.

Research suggests that one of the best places for student teachers to practice their craft is within a Professional Development School (PDS). PDS' were first designed in the late 1980's to explore innovative practices in teacher preparation and instructional practice (Darling-Hammond, 1989). Laboratory schools, K-12 schools operated by universities, were in existence for decades to serve as research facilities and venues for teacher preparation programs. However, the changing social and political climate made these self-contained schools increasingly disconnected from the other schools located in the same community (Prince, 1991). PDS partnerships arose out of the mutual need of school districts and universities to improve teacher preparation and student learning. …

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