Non-Authoritative Approach to Supervision of Student Teachers: Cooperating Teachers’ Conceptual Metaphors

Feb. 01, 2012

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 38, No. 1, February 2012, 67–82
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of the current study was to examine how cooperating teachers engaged in the supervision of student teachers conceptualised mentorship.
This study also examined how cooperating teachers cognitively framed and gave meaning to their supervising role and work.

The study was interested in the illumination of the major concepts employed by cooperating teachers concerning the supervision of student teachers.


Research questions
To achieve this goal, two research questions guided the study:
(1) What metaphors concerning supervision of student teachers did the cooperating teachers utilise in their everyday language of supervision and mentoring?
(2) What central concept of effective supervision of student teachers did the cooperating teachers’ metaphors share?

Sites and participants
Thirteen teachers from three urban elementary schools in Ohio in the USA were invited to participate in this study, all of whom served as cooperating teachers for a local university teacher education programme.

They had between two and 30 years of teaching experience.
Prior supervision experiences varied from one to 12 student teachers.
Eleven participants were female and two were male.

Data collection
Samples of language use by the teachers were collected through a series of semi-structured interviews conducted in December 2002 and April 2005.


Twenty distinct metaphorical concepts were found in the data.
These 20 metaphors demonstrated three categories that indicated relationship issues between the cooperating teacher and the student: ‘interpersonal relationship’, ‘power sharing’ and ‘tension and conflict’.
All three categories concern how mentors and mentees communicate, think and feel within the context of an experience that is viewed as shared.

Interpersonal relationship pertains to the affective and communicative aspects of the interaction, the shared experience between people regarding questions of trust, respect, comfort and friendship (Gore 1991).
Within the notion of interpersonal relationships, it is imperative that the cooperating and student
teachers make efforts to listen, comprehend and appreciate one another.

Power sharing indicates the extent to which the teacher is willing to share authority and control in the classroom with the student.
The cooperating teachers in this study assumed that they had a more advanced level of practical teaching knowledge than the students.
In most instances, power sharing involved the teacher’s willingness to allow and even support the student in implementing their own suggestions, thereby decreasing the cooperating teacher’s direct control over classroom space and procedures.

Tension and conflict is obviously related to interpersonal relationship and power sharing.
It carries the specific meaning of involving a practical disagreement, a difference of opinion, and often an increased level of stress within the relationship of the cooperating teacher and the student.

This article will confine its analysis to six prominent metaphors that stand as suitable representative examples of the overall data: ‘supervision as a journey’, ‘supervision as giving’, ‘cooperating teacher as a container’, ‘cooperating teacher as a flexible entity’, ‘student teacher as a family member’ and ‘cooperating teacher as a builder’.


All of the metaphors found in this study centre on the concept of horizontal mentoring relationships that engender a balance of power.
Each metaphor indicates that cooperating teachers primarily frame their mentorship roles and activities within this open and collaborative approach.

The metaphors converged into a central concept of a non-authoritative approach to supervision of student teachers that embraces relationship issues raised by the participants and provides successful learning experiences for student teachers.

The teachers in the study generally attempted to develop what they perceived to be an equal, partnership-like and non-authoritative relationship with student teachers under the assumption that such a relationship best promoted the students’ effective professional learning.
In the study, the teachers frequently viewed a power-sharing approach as a positive contribution to the mentor–mentee relationship.

Updated: Nov. 13, 2013