Opening the Black Box of Field Experiences: How Cooperating Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices Shape Student Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices

Nov. 01, 2012

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 28, No. 8 (November, 2012) p. 1196-1205.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to describe how six preservice science teachers learn to teach over a year and explain their learning by documenting their field experiences, teacher education courses, and their changing beliefs and practices.

The authors used ethnographic methods to collect data throughout one school year, mapping a trajectory of teacher learning and socialization.
Data were collected through three sources commonly used by ethnographers: participant observation, ethnographic interviewing, and artifacts, such as email correspondence, assignments from courses, or formal evaluations.


The findings reveal that teaching practices were strongly influenced by the cooperating teachers.
Initially, all six interns attempted to re-enact lessons they witnessed their cooperating teachers teach.
The interns attempted to use CTs’ words or phrases, even if they do not yet understand how to use them most effectively, or borrow strategies for relating to students, even if they do so awkwardly.

Later, the interns independently implemented instruction that emphasized key instructional or relational strategies as the cooperating teachers, regardless of whether or not they were experiencing success.
Interns who were successful also shifted their beliefs to match their mentors.
However, the strugglers, who failed to successfully master their cooperating teachers’ practice, never acquired the outer levels of behavior that the reproducers did and never experienced the corresponding shift in more inward levels.

The authors suggest that attention to beliefs and identity that are separated from the development of an emerging and aligned behaviors may not have much influence and that the pathway to changed beliefs and identities may begin with opportunities to enact a practice.

Updated: Nov. 06, 2014