Challenges Expressed by Cooperating Teacher Mentors When Working with Agricultural Education Student Teachers: A Delphi Study
Fritz, Carrie Ann, Mantooth, Lori Jean, NACTA Journal
The purpose of this study was to improve the agricultural teacher education program at the University of Tennessee. The objective of the study was to develop a prioritized list of cooperating teacher mentor challenges when working with agricultural education student teachers.
Cooperating teacher mentors (N = 20) who participated in the study were from Tennessee and were utilized as a panel of experts to identify challenges that cooperating teacher mentors face when working with agricultural education student teachers. Results of the study were obtained by utilizing a modified Delphi technique to reach group consensus (Helmer, 1983). Based on the cooperating teacher mentors' responses, consensus was reached on eight challenges. Some of those challenges included student teachers' discipline procedures, work ethic, time management skills, lack of knowledge in some curriculum areas, and preparing student teachers to take full responsibility of the classroom. Based on the research data generated from this study, the agricultural teacher education program at the University of Tennessee was restructured to assist in addressing cooperating teacher mentor challenges. In addition, potential professional development topics for cooperating teacher mentors were identified.
The National Standards for Teaching Education in Agriculture outlined a clear pathway for agricultural teacher education programs to follow (AAAE, 2001). Clearly, standard one stated the conceptual framework must be in alignment with processes, expected outcomes, and realities of teaching agricultural education. In addition, a linkage between the conceptual framework and contemporary issues in the field (problems of practice) need to be analyzed (e.g., needs assessment) and implemented to revitalize a program. Therefore, needs assessments must be a priority for teacher education programs to conduct and establish the areas of improvement for the future preparation of student teachers in agriculture.
Preparing future agriculture educators can be a rewarding but challenging task. To an outsider, the process appears to be simple; however, to the supervisor it is often an overwhelming and cumbersome task. The process of supervision does occur at all levels of an educational system. For example, there are teacher educators, superintendents, principals, mentor teachers, and cooperating teachers who supervise teachers in an educational system. However, what supervisory stakeholder has the most influence on the student teacher?
Cooperating teachers serve as one of the most influential individuals to student teachers (Norris et al., 1990; Roberts and Dyer, 2004). In addition, cooperating teachers serve as mentors, supervisors, friends, and colleagues. Schumacher and Johnson (1990) suggested the influence of the cooperating teacher can be a direct reflection on the student teacher's success. In addition to a cooperating teacher's influence, Martin and Yoder (1985) also identified the importance of a good working relationship with student teachers. Furthermore, Glickman et al. (2001), Glatthorn (1997), and Ralph (1998) recommended tailoring the supervisor-teacher relationship to meet the needs of the teacher.
Cooperating teacher mentors take on several responsibilities while supervising student teachers and those responsibilities can create many challenges and/or concerns. Previous research has revealed some concerns cooperating teachers face. Some major concerns previously identified are classroom management and student discipline (DelGesso and Smith, 1993; Sandholtz and Wasserman, 2001). Other areas of concern are communication between the university supervisor and cooperating teacher, time commitment, and insufficient input on student teaching expectations (Lelle and Kotrlik, 1987; Deeds et al., 1991). Furthermore, cooperating teachers expressed the need for teacher education programs to devote more time addressing student teaching issues (DelGesso et al. …