Some of the most common concerns and legal aspects related to field experiences are found in the FAQs section. Cooperating teachers, student teachers, school leaders and faculty advisors alike are well advised to be aware of their roles and responsibilities in addressing these concerns.
Any discussion or reporting that evaluates the performance of a student teacher should be done in confidence. It should only involve the student teacher, the cooperating teacher and the university faculty advisor, unless other arrangements have been made with the agreement of all parties.
At times during a field experience, some questions or concerns may arise among a student teacher, cooperating teacher and a faculty advisor. Usually, these can be resolved through open and honest communication among the three parties. On rare occasions, other processes may be required to facilitate problem solving.
The most effective way of addressing a dispute between a student teacher and a cooperating teacher is direct communication. Sometimes clarification of views and expectations is all that is needed.
If it appears that an issue cannot be resolved between the student teacher and the cooperating teacher, then the university faculty advisor should be involved. Each university teacher preparation program has its own procedures for involving more senior faculty officials in a troublesome matter, so the parties at the school level should rely on such procedures if they themselves cannot resolve the matter. Please note that school leaders (principals) in Alberta have the right to request student teachers to leave the school premises, effectively withdrawing them from a field experience in that school.
Teaching assignment/workload issues
Differences of opinion may arise regarding the nature of the assignment and how much a student teacher should teach during their field experience. Universities, in consultation with the Association, have established guidelines that include gradual immersion and limited assignment. These guidelines should be followed.
Differences in teaching philosophy and/or approaches to teaching
Different views may exist about the nature of teaching and learning. These views need to be discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Teachers have arrived at ways of doing things that work for them, whereas student teachers are exposed to and are expected to explore various approaches to help them find their own “comfort zone” in the classroom. Student teachers need opportunities to explore a variety of approaches.
Matching student teachers to cooperating teachers
As much as possible, attempts should be made to match students and cooperating teachers in ways that bring together people who have common interests and expectations. It is the sole responsibility of the preservice teacher preparation program to provide appropriate placements for students in their program.
Student teachers are not legally permitted to act as substitute teachers because they do not possess the necessary teaching credentials to do so.
The Teaching Profession Act defines “teacher” as follows: (j) “teacher” means a person holding a permanent or temporary certificate of qualification as a teacher issued by the Minister under the Education Act. RSA 2000 cT-2 s1;2012 cE-0.3 s287
In the Education Act, teaching qualifications for employment are described below: 198(1) Unless otherwise authorized under this Act, a board shall employ as a teacher only an individual who holds a certificate of qualification as a teacher issued pursuant to this Act.
Additionally, the Association’s Teacher Education Certification Committee (TECC) position paper states: “To adhere to both legal and ethical requirements and to protect the interests of learners and society, school authorities must ensure that no person be permitted to commence teaching in a school in Alberta until issued an Alberta teaching credential. While in an emergency situation the use of a letter of authority as a teaching credential is sometimes used, the use of the letters of authority should not be expanded.”
The Association further supports this position within its TECC policy, under Certification Requirements (184.108.40.206), which states that: “School authorities should ensure that no one is permitted to teach in a school in Alberta without having an Alberta teaching credential.”
Although initially excited at the prospect of taking on the responsibilities of a full time certificated teacher, the student teacher may be unaware of the potential adverse outcomes and legal ramifications of this action as well as the possible detrimental effect this experience may have on their professional development.
Cooperating teachers need to be aware of the legal consequences, advise the student teacher and faculty advisor accordingly and advocate against the use of the student teacher as a substitute teacher with school administration. Please contact Teacher Employment Services at the Alberta Teachers’ Association for more information.