Characteristics of Highly Effective Cooperating Teachers: A Study of Their Backgrounds and Preparation

Feb. 28, 2009

Source: Action in Teacher Education, v. 30 no. 4, (Winter 2009) p. 67-83.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present study investigated the effectiveness of cooperating teachers at four sites where several of the factors associated with effective supervision were present. The purpose of this study was threefold: first, to develop a tool to measure supervisory effectiveness based on effective supervisory practices identified in the research and literature; second, to discriminate between the highly effective and less effective cooperating teachers; and, third, to identify background and intervention variables associated with the effectiveness of the cooperating teachers.

Research Design

The study used a pragmatic sequential mixed-methods design.
In the first stage of the research, information was gathered through interviews and artifact collection about cooperating teachers' supervisory preparation, practices, and perceptions. Data from each teacher were then qualitatively analyzed for evidence regarding the indicators of effectiveness identified in the literature. Teachers whose practices evidenced a high usage of the recommended practices were classified as highly effective; those whose practices evidenced sparse use of recommended practices were classified as less effective. In the second stage of the research, researchers used ex post facto methods to used ex post facto methods to identify background and intervention factors associated with their effectiveness levels.


13 pairs of cooperating-teacher-student-teacher from four sites participated in the study. All sites were located near a large mid-western university and had more than 3 decades of teacher education partnerships with the university. All sites had a long-term center coordinator for field experiences-that is, a university faculty member who coordinated all placements and supervision. All cooperating teachers were tenured, and most had worked with multiple field-experience students. At three of the four sites, a mentoring workshop for cooperating teachers had been offered for the past four summers.

According to the results, three factors consistent in the highly effective group.
These factors were (1) being midrange in number of teaching years, (2) having supervised more than five earlier field experience students, and (3) having closely collaborated with the university supervisor. However, the most powerful association for high effectiveness was the graduate-level preparation in supervision. Four of the five most effective teachers in this study had master's degrees in teacher leadership, and all had taken course work on systematic observation and feedback, as well as conferencing skills. This deep preparation was associated with an ability to articulate beliefs behind practices and use practices congruent with those beliefs. 

Updated: Jul. 15, 2009