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Faculty Advisor


Cooperating Teacher and Student Teacher Phases of Development

Joseph Caruso (2000) conceptualizes the phases of student teacher development during a field experience studied earlier with cooperating teacher development stages and identifies the following six phases for both stakeholders:

“The relationship between cooperating teachers and student teacher is central to the successful development of the student teacher’s self-image and emergence as a professional educator. A greater understanding of how each perceives the experience can be beneficial to both of them and to those chosen key players who have opportunities to interact with them and to nurture them during the (field experience).”  

The six phases are intended to assist cooperating teachers in reflecting about their roles as cooperating teachers. “Although the descriptions are somewhat general, they are intended to increase the understanding of the experiences of cooperating teachers and student teachers and to stimulate discussion of important issues in teacher preparation, development, and supervision among those who play a central role in the student teaching practicum.” (p 81)

The following is reprinted with permission from Caruso (2000). Minor changes have been made to fit ATA style.

Phase I: Anticipation/excitement for cooperating teacher; anxiety and euphoria for student teacher

Cooperating teacher: High expectations for their student teacher and of themselves; want to learn more about them, and pleased to have been chosen. Want to contribute to the profession; anxious about meeting student teacher expectations. Look forward to sharing expertise, exchanging ideas, and benefitting from a student teacher in their classroom.  

Student teacher: Anxious about being liked and accepted by cooperating teacher and students; high expectations for self. Concerned about whether they will be able to do the job; anxious about meeting job requirements set by faculty advisor; excited at prospect of teaching full-time. Feeling euphoric at end of first day.

Phase II: Confusion/clarity for both cooperating teacher and student teacher

Cooperating teacher: May be taken aback by student teacher who is unmotivated, disappointed in their placement or expresses feelings of not wanting to be a teacher. Uncertain or confused by teacher preparation field experience requirements because of diversity and number of field experience programs at various institutions. Unsure as to how much responsibility to give student teacher. Tries “reading” their student teacher’s attitudes, previous experiences, goals and interests. Requests clarity from faculty advisor of expectations.

Student teacher: Initially overwhelmed by the complexity of the classroom, unfamiliar names, faces and new daily routines. Ambivalent about when to plunge in or hold back. Experiences a sense of disequilibrium. Gains focus as limited responsibilities increase. Becomes familiar with curriculum; “reads” their cooperating teacher and learns more about expectations. Slowly develops a greater understanding of their classroom and the role of the student teacher. Forms impressions and attitudes about teaching and perceptions of cooperating teacher. Groundwork for working relationship is developing.

Phase III: Onstage/backstage for cooperating teacher; Competence and inadequacy for student teacher

Cooperating teacher: Models teaching for their student teacher; proud to be demonstrating effective teaching and caregiving. May experience stage fright and may feel judged by student teacher; feels like backstage parent and cheerleader simultaneously; observes student teacher at work, provides structure, ideas and resources. Pinpoints student teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. May feel discouraged if student teacher does not make expected progress, which may lead to contacting faculty advisor for support.

Student teacher: Competence and inadequacy for the student teacher, a period of ups and downs. While student teachers may experience triumphs in working with small groups or planning special events, and receive validation from their cooperating teacher, advisors and other student teachers, they may compare themselves to other more experienced teachers and feel inadequate. They may also experience problems with discipline and authority that chip away at their sense of competence.

Phase IV: Letting go/hanging on for cooperating teacher; New awareness and renewed doubts for student teacher  

Cooperating teacher: As student teacher makes greater progress, cooperating teacher encourages student teacher to assume greater teaching responsibility; Guides student teacher to take over class as a whole; cooperating teacher tends to feel protective of student teacher and bond between cooperating teacher and student teacher solidifies; cooperating teacher feels successful as a mentor. Some cooperating teachers may experience jealousy due to children demonstrating more affection/showing more attention to student teachers; cooperating teacher may fail to develop confidence in student teacher’s abilities and intensive work may be necessary with assistance from colleagues; cooperating teacher feels responsible and accountable to their students and may become frustrated and annoyed with student teacher. Cooperating teacher may be blaming himself/herself for the student teacher’s lack of progress. Letting go can be difficult, no matter how effective the student teacher is.

Student teacher: May experience a significant leap toward becoming a teacher or question their career direction. May experience a sense of disappointment with cooperating teacher who is not an ideal role model and who does not always display interest in working with student teacher; student teacher may feel caught in the middle between faculty advisor and cooperating teacher due to differences in teaching styles and direction, causing anxiety during faculty advisor visits. Less self-centred and more confident, student teacher devotes more attention to children’s needs; student teacher possesses a greater sense of security enabling a more objective analysis of their teaching and critical of self. Student teacher becomes more aware of imperfections in their cooperating teacher; student teacher may fantasize how they would do things—organize and teach classes differently; student teacher may question the curriculum and philosophy of the classroom and the program. Student teacher may feel lost or have doubts about themselves and teaching as a career choice; student teacher may blame themselves, the cooperating teacher, their faculty advisor or the children in the classroom; student teacher may work through these obstacles and be successful on occasion. The cooperating teacher–student teacher relationship may need to be severed and a new placement found.

Phase V: Coteacher/solo teacher for cooperating teacher; More confidence and greater inadequacy for student teacher

Cooperating teacher: Cooperating teacher and student teacher may become partners; however, cooperating teacher may retain hierarchical relationship if student teacher not ready to assume full-time teaching responsibilities. A collaborative relationship develops if there is a high comfort and confidence level and role reversals are commonplace; cooperating teacher and student teacher come to know and trust each other, work in sync and a natural rhythm to their teamwork occurs. If the student teacher has not gained the necessary competence, clearly does not have skills and abilities, cooperating teacher must get through the field experience, “rides out” and “endures” disappointment, and embarrassment by student teacher’s actions and/or words; cooperating teacher reluctant to leave student teacher alone with children. Cooperating teacher continues to guide student teacher and may suggest additional practice in a second field experience or career counselling options.

Student teacher: Knowing that the student teacher is on a positive path results in renewed energy and self-assurance as stability sets in. Feels comfortable even though cooperating teacher is not present in classroom; feels in charge and freer to express individuality and individual teaching style. Continues to experience some frustration when student teacher cannot meet the high expectations set for themselves (that is, failed lessons, management problems, comparing themselves to the cooperating teacher or other student teachers) resulting in a sense of diminishment and reduced self-confidence; some student teacher struggle with self-doubt, frustration and disappointment with ongoing failures (that is, faculty advisor or cooperating teacher’s feedback appears more negative than positive, hard work does not always equal successful experiences with the children). Diminished energy leads to an “endurance” phase where teaching as a career choice is questioned or student teacher is determined to try again.

Phase VI: Loss/relief for both cooperating teacher and student teacher

Cooperating teacher: May experience pride in their student teacher’s accomplishments as well as a sense of loss, although the field experience was a success; cooperating teacher may now serve as a mentor to the student teacher for years to come; may also feel a sense of gratitude and relief knowing the field experience is over—good to be on their own again; cooperating teacher may feel guilty and concerned if the student teacher has not succeeded. Cooperating teacher may question suitability as a cooperating teacher and may consult with other cooperating teachers.

Student teacher: Separation is difficult whether the field experience was successful or not; student teacher may feel guilty about not reaching set goals and may experience feelings of loss as they plan to leave their cooperating teachers and children, anxiety as student teacher returns to campus life, applies for jobs or reassesses career goals. Student teacher may feel disappointment in their unsuccessful field experience but also relieved that it is over.