Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 39, p. 66-76. (April, 2014).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study explored the implementation of partnership-based joint observation and related tripartite dialogue (JOTD) of student teachers as part of field experience, from the multiple perspectives of student teachers, supporter teachers and tutors.
The participants were 100 student teachers (in third and fourth year of the programme), 116 supporter (cooperating) teachers and 14 tutors (university teacher educators).
The qualitative and quantitative data were collected using semi-structured interviews and questionnaires.
The findings indicate that student teachers, supporter teachers and tutors involved in this study were generally positive about their experiences of joint observation and related tripartite dialogue (JOTD).
Limited evidence suggested that some tutors benefited from the opportunity to gain more familiarity with the supporter teachers and their classroom context.
While joint observation did not entail an increase in the number of observation visits tutors made to schools, it allowed structured tripartite dialogue with student teachers and supporter teachers thereby providing opportunities for double scaffolding of student teacher learning and a better appreciation of dialogue.
Equally, the presence of both tutors and supporter teachers in a classroom during joint observation could be argued to have offered an improved, more focussed way of integrating academic, pedagogical and practitioner knowledge and skills when scaffolding learning during the dialogue.
While supporter teachers were keen to see that their observations mirrored tutors’ observations, it is important to highlight the virtue in contradictory views between supporter teachers and tutors due to, for example, diverse experiences of teacher education.
In general, JOTD could be said to have helped in aligning expectations and the nature of feedback student teachers received.
Through such activities, a community of practice was beginning to emerge in which student teachers take up their legitimate peripheral participation role.
This appeared to have created a developmentally supported and supportive learning environment for student teachers.
As the findings further suggest, there may be situations which require some level of flexibility in the implementation of JOTD without necessarily disturbing the spirit of collaborative partnership.
These situations need to be sensitively understood and navigated at all times, and may include situations where personality clashes between student teachers and their supporter teachers exist which may be alleviated by the use of both dyadic and tripartite dialogues. Equally, it may be necessary where student teachers may be having academic difficulties that a differentiated joint observation and dialogue format would provide more effective support.
As identified within the findings, local staffing issues can present logistical challenges for enhancing collaborative partnership especially with regards to implementing uninterrupted joint observation and tripartite dialogue for all student teachers on field experience.
This suggests that innovative ways need to be explored to address the demands associated with this complexity.
This may entail identifying a selection of designated schools in which student teachers requiring more support could be placed so that they might receive appropriate support through JOTD during field experience.
Equally, it may be that not all supporter teachers or tutors are suitable to be enlisted to support student teachers during field experience.
Only those who have developed appropriate expectations and also share the underpinning rationale of teacher preparation may have to be recruited to the supervisory role.
However, the findings from this study have shown that mutual trust, and the valuing of each other’s contribution to a student teacher’s learning, had not fully emerged.
In some cases, the supporter teacher felt validated if their viewpoint matched that of the tutor.
Ideally, supporter teachers and tutors who support student teachers need to continue to engage with relevant CPD in mentoring, so that they are able to use appropriate skills and techniques to provide high quality support.
Supporter teachers in schools may value and demand formal recognition of the mentoring role in form of certification, and be allocated time for mentoring student teachers.
This may empower them to view the supporter teacher role as part of their formal development activities, other than seeing the role as an add-on with no consequence.
In conclusion, the findings from this exploratory study suggest that student teachers, supporter teachers and tutors had a range of views about their experiences while implementing JOTD.
While their experiences were generally positive, partners also expressed views highlighting some of the complexity in developing and implementing JOTD as a workable operational structure to support enhanced collaborative partnership.
As such, some strategies which may contribute to overcoming some of the outstanding impediments have been suggested.