Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 37, No. 4, September 2011, 537–550.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The aim of the study was to ascertain what skills were reinforced or developed by local cooperating teachers via the process of supervising student-teachers in the Cayman Islands and Saint Kitts-Nevis.
A qualitative instrumental case study was employed.
The participants were four cooperating teachers who had recently completed the supervision of student-teachers between January and June 2010 for the University College of the Cayman Islands Teacher Education programme.
Furthermore, the participants also included four cooperating teachers from St Kitts-Nevis who were willing to assist the authors by participating in a number of interviews.
All eight cooperating teachers have served in the capacity for the past three years, and were experienced/seasoned teachers with an overall average of 20 years of teaching experience between them.
The findings reveal that skills cooperating teachers developed or reinforced were categorised as essential teaching, mentoring, collaborating and strategic.
Essential teaching skills
The authors believe that lesson planning is a skill that is essential to the practice of teaching.
This skill and this belief were reinforced by cooperating teachers in our study.
Evaluating was another essential teaching skill reinforced by participants.
The skill of modelling best practice was also reinforced by participants.
Participants also reinforced instructional skills such as teaching according to their students’ learning styles.
Four participants pointed out that they had reinforced certain skills indispensable to mentoring student-teachers.
This involves allowing student-teachers to feel free to share their thoughts and taking seriously the students’ thoughts and recommendations.
Knowing how and when to give feedback, and what type of feedback to give to student-teachers was another mentoring skill reinforced.
A mentoring skill that was both reinforced and developed by participants was giving instructional support.
Another mentoring skill reinforced was counselling.
This involves giving support such as listening to the various concerns voiced by student-teachers and advising him or her.
Only one participant highlighted the fact that she reinforced the collaborative skill of planning and working together.
Furthemore, one participant highlighted the fact that she reinforced strategic skills.
This includes the ability to know what actions to take or not to take that will help the student-teacher accomplish his/her goals.
In St Kitts-Nevis where the teaching practicum is scheduled for 10 weeks, cooperating teachers have some time to be exposed to current best practices that they can use to improve their instruction.
The authors argue that teachers should be recognised for the dynamic role that they play in the education of the nation’s teachers.
Particularly in the Cayman Islands, there is the need to develop a policy to guide this initiative. The policy should outline benefits, rewards, and a means of measuring how cooperating teachers have developed professionally and personally from the experience.
Secondly, this study suggests the need to provide opportunities to encourage cooperating teachers to engage reflectively with their teaching.
This would result in them taking greater responsibility for their own professional growth by deepening an awareness of their practice set within their unique particular socio-political contexts.
The authors conclude that carrying out the role of cooperating teachers had some positive effects on the majority of the respondents who participated in the study.
There were clear reports of the various kinds of skills reinforced or developed.
The authors recognise that cooperating teachers have a sense of satisfaction and personal achievement on the conclusion of the teaching practicum exercise but it should not stop with these affective dimensions.