Cooperating Teacher as Model and Coach: What Leads to Student Teachers’ Perceptions of Preparedness?

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Published: 
January 1, 2020

Source: Journal of Teacher Education. Volume: 71 issue: 1, page(s): 41-62

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the authors take an in-depth look at reports of how cooperating teachers (CTs) engage in their mentoring roles during student teaching, and their influence on preservice student teachers (PSTs).
This study considers the dual, complex roles held by CTs as both models of effective instruction and coaches who facilitate beginning teacher development. More specifically, the authors ask:
What aspects of CT as model and coach are related to PSTs’ self-perceived perceptions of preparedness to teach?

To answer this question, the authors draw on unique data about CTs who mentored student teachers across the entire Chicago Public School (CPS) district during the 2014-2015 academic year. They surveyed CTs and their PSTs about their mentoring, and linked the survey data to administrative data on CTs and the schools in which they work.
These data provide a districtwide perspective on the mentoring practices CTs use, and their intended versus actual impact on PSTs during student teaching.

Method

Data
The authors administered pre- and post-student teaching surveys to registered PSTs during the 2014-2015 school year, and post-student teaching surveys to their CTs.
Toward the end of each term, the research team sent post-student teaching surveys by email to all registered individuals.
The authors administered CT surveys at the end of the fall and spring terms.
They then linked CTs and their survey information to CPS personnel and evaluation data, including information about their schools.

Sample
Of the study’s initial population of 1,066 CTs who worked with student teachers in the 2014-2015 school year, 583 (55%) worked with a student teacher who completed both a pre-and a post-student teaching survey. Of these 583 CTs who make up the primary analytic sample, 500 could be linked to district personnel data about CT characteristics and qualifications, and 390 could be linked to CT survey data.
These CTs taught in 204 different placement schools and with PSTs from 44 teacher education institutions.

Results

Do PSTs Feel Better Prepared When Their CTs Model Effective Instruction?
The results suggest that PSTs’ feelings of preparedness were mostly unrelated to the study’s proxies for the quality of instruction modeled by CTs, with a few notable exceptions.
Only in the case of PSTs’ feelings of preparedness for classroom environment were CTs’ observation ratings significant predictors. Specifically, PSTs felt better prepared for classroom environment when their CTs received stronger observation ratings overall, in instruction, and in classroom environment.
The authors also found that the more favorably PSTs perceived the instruction modeled by their CTs, the better prepared they felt to take on the responsibilities of teaching themselves.

Coaching (CT perspective): Do the Kinds of Coaching That CTs Report Providing Predict PSTs’ Perceptions of Preparedness to Teach?
The authors expected that CTs’ perceptions of the kinds and quality of mentoring they provided PSTs would be related to how prepared PSTs felt.
However, this was generally not the case.
They found no evidence that domain-specific instructional support, frequency of feedback, or collaborative coaching that CTs reported providing predicted how prepared PSTs felt to take on their own classrooms.
CTs’ perception of the Adequacy of Feedback and Autonomy and Encouragement they provided were also mostly unrelated to PSTs’ feelings of preparedness, with a few exceptions.
Unexpectedly, the authors found some evidence that PSTs felt less prepared in Instruction the more that CTs reported allowing PSTs to make their own instructional decisions.

Coaching (PST Perspective): Do the Kinds of Coaching That PSTs Report Receiving Predict PSTs’ Perceptions of Preparedness to Teach?
Although CTs’ reports about the coaching they provided PSTs were mostly unrelated to PSTs’ self-perceived preparedness, PSTs’ reports of the coaching they received were consistently positively and significantly predictive.
The more positively that PSTs perceived their CTs’ coaching practices— in terms of Domain-Specific Instructional Support, Frequency and Adequacy of Feedback, Autonomy and Encouragement, Collaborative Coaching, and Job Assistance—the better prepared they felt to teach across instructional domains.

Discussion
In this study, the authors take a districtwide look at the type of mentoring CTs provide through the lenses of being an exemplary model of instruction for PK-12 students and being a coach who is intentionally targeting the growth and ongoing development of the PST.
In doing so, they begin to advance measurable conceptions of two key roles of a CT—as a model of effective teaching and a coach who is attending to the growth and development of their PST.
In the end, they find evidence that aspects of both roles contribute positively to PSTs feelings of preparedness to teach at the end of their preparation.
Most surprising, perhaps, in their findings, is that frequently called upon qualifications such as CTs’ tenure, years of teaching experience, National Board Certification, and degree status, as well as VAM scores, were unrelated to PSTs’ feelings of preparedness.
These findings are in stark contrast to most current policies being advocated for CT selection.
That said, observation-based, more direct measures (PSTs’ perceptions of CTs’ instructional effectiveness and CT observation ratings) were associated with PSTs’ perceptions of readiness.
This is the first direct evidence suggesting that PSTs feel better prepared when their CTs are rated as exemplary instructors using observational data.

As with the CT as model analyses, the authors find that whether or not CT coaching predicts PSTs’ perceptions of preparedness depended upon the measure used.
Rather than varying based on a given facet of coaching, what mattered most seemed to be whose perspective was represented; specifically, PSTs’ feelings of preparedness were positively related to their own perceptions of the coaching they received but were mostly unrelated to CTs’ perceptions of the coaching they reported providing.
PSTs felt better prepared across instructional domains when they reported that their CTs provided stronger domain-specific instructional support, more frequent and adequate feedback, higher levels of autonomy and encouragement, stronger collaborative coaching, and better job assistance.
On the contrary, CTs’ self-perceptions of many of these same facets of coaching were mostly unrelated to PSTs’ feelings of preparedness.
The authors note that a central implication is that efforts to recruit CTs who can model effective teaching and who are effective coaches both have some merit.
However, individuals who are responsible for recruiting CTs should be discriminating about the criteria they use.
When identifying CTs who can serve as effective models, they should consider more direct, observation-based measures of CTs’ instructional quality as opposed to professional qualifications or VAM scores alone. When identifying effective coaches, they should consider PSTs’ evaluations more than CTs’ self-evaluations.
Aspects of both CT as model and coach matter.

Updated: Jul. 22, 2020
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