Alberta Teachers' Association logo in colour, all one line.


Cooperating Teacher

A female teacher talking to a student teacher at a desk.


The cooperating teacher is a vital link in a successful field experience triad that also includes the student teacher and the university faculty advisor. This section explores the requirements, roles and responsibilities involved in ensuring a successful personal and professional experience for all participants.

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.


The Province of Alberta Education Act outlines specific requirements that must be fulfilled by a teacher, when requested by a principal or the board.

In Alberta, the Education Act specifically outlines that at any time during the period of time that a teacher is under an obligation to the board to provide instruction or supervision or to carry out duties assigned to the teacher by a principal or the board, the teacher must, at the request of the board,

  • participate in curriculum development and field testing of new curriculum,
  • develop, field test and mark provincial assessments, and
  • supervise student teachers.
Voluntary Participation in Field Experience Programs

The Association deviates from the Education Act in its belief that teachers’ participation in field experience programs should be voluntary.

As its position paper on teacher education and certification (ATA 2017) states,

The Association represents teachers on bodies that determine and implement criteria and procedures for the recruitment and selection of cooperating teachers. The Association is obligated to ensure that classroom teacher involvement in field experience programs remains on a voluntary basis and that conditions for teacher participation are satisfactory.

Alberta Selection Criteria for Cooperating Teachers

The Association’s position paper on teacher education and certification (ATA 2017) also outlines the selection criteria for cooperating teachers:

Cooperating teachers for field experience programs should be selected on the basis of the following criteria: (1) a bachelor of education degree or its equivalent and a permanent Alberta teaching certificate; (2) three or more years of successful teaching experience; (3) ability to project a favourable image of the teaching profession; (4) ability to establish and maintain good interpersonal skills and to apply mentoring, communication and supervisory skills effectively; (5) ability to analyze and evaluate teaching and learning skills effectively; (6) willingness to participate in meetings, consultation, seminars and other activities related to field experiences involvement; and (7) possession of active or associate membership in the Association.

Cooperating teachers play a pivotal role in initiating student teachers into the life of a professional classroom teacher. The guidance provided by cooperating teachers is critical in supporting and challenging student teachers to put the theory learned in preparatory programs into practice. Furthermore, cooperating teachers use their professional judgment and knowledge to evaluate student teachers.

Working with student teachers allows cooperating teachers to reflect on their own practice, to discuss emerging and established educational theories, to model effective teaching strategies and to become a guide in the student teacher’s professional journey.

Cooperating Teacher and Student Teacher Phases of Development

Cooperating teachers for field experience programs should be selected on a criteria.

Joseph Caruso (2000, 81) writes,

The relationship between cooperating teacher 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].

He has conceptualized six phases of development for both the student teacher and the cooperating teacher during a field experience. The six phases are intended to help cooperating teachers reflect on their roles.

Read a summary of Caruso’s full article: Cooperating Teacher and Student Teacher Phases of Development.

At the heart of the practicum experience is the relationship between cooperating and student teacher.