Effective Student Teacher Supervision in the Era of No Child Left Behind

By Bates, Alisa J.; Burbank, Mary D. | The Professional Educator, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Effective Student Teacher Supervision in the Era of No Child Left Behind


Bates, Alisa J., Burbank, Mary D., The Professional Educator


Abstract

This research study addresses the issues and challenges for university supervisors of providing supervisory feedback in the accountability climate of No Child Left Behind. Several findings are detailed in the case below and include the following: (a) Feedback on individual learning needs of students differed between informal written observations and the formal feedback provided on midterm and final evaluations; (b) the supervisor's perception of a teacher candidate's success influenced the degree to which the feedback aligned with performance standards; (c) within the context of culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms, supervisory feedback included attention to individual learning needs when teacher candidates were viewed as successful by the supervisor; and (d) for those candidates who struggled in their teaching, adherence to specific standards took precedence over the individual needs of students in the classroom.

Introduction and Theoretical Framework

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Pub. L. 107-110, NCLB) revised the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and has been described by some as among the most far-reaching piece of legislation affecting education in the United States in the past 30 years (Hardy, 2002). The tenets of NCLB establish standards for the evaluation of children in K-12 classrooms, the educators working in their schools, and the staff affiliated with service delivery (e.g., paraprofessionals). Attention to issues of teacher quality through NCLB has resulted, in part, on an increased focus on the preparation of teachers and the experiences they have in increasingly diverse schools and classrooms. It has further focused the efforts of teacher educators, including university student teaching supervisors, on the current reality and challenges of NCLB policies and practices as they are implemented in the public schools. Without a doubt, NCLB has had a significant impact on the practices of university supervisors, whether realized or not.

Historically, student teacher supervision has been seen as a low status, peripheral occupation within colleges and programs of teacher education, typically completed by adjunct faculty or graduate students (Slick, 1998). Additionally, the supervisor is commonly seen as an outsider interfering in the public school classroom and serving only an evaluatory role in the relationship with cooperating and student teachers (Slick, 1998). Much debate exists over the effectiveness of the university supervisor and the relative value of the role in student teacher learning (Bowman, 1979; Boydell, 1986).

Richardson-Koehler (1988) suggests that the university supervisor is in the unique position to raise the discourse of feedback provided to student teachers. Zeichner and Liston (1985) found four different types of discourse used between student teachers and university supervisors during postobservation conferences: factual, prudential, justificatory, and critical. Justificatory and critical stances allow student teachers to continue to grow beyond simply what happened to their decision-making processes and rationales for their instructional actions. These approaches encourage the development of teachers who are capable of becoming independent and thoughtful decision makers. Grant and Zozakiewicz (1995) advocate for a supervisor who will:

... listen and support their [student teachers'] work, while challenging students to think, grow, and act as multicultural educators. As with children in schools, supervisors need to accept and get to know each student teacher and their cultural background, educational knowledge, and unique experiences. (p. 271-272)

Such a personalized approach to supervision is complicated to implement but further supports the development of teachers who are responsive to student needs while modeling this process in action (Bates, 2005). However, Hawkey (1997) writes, "It is not clear whether the student teachers are learning what is intended from their interactions with different personnel" (p. …

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