The Role of Legitimacy in Student Teaching: Learning to “Feel” Like a Teacher

Apr. 15, 2011

Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Volume 38, No.2, Spring 2011

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the author investigates how student teachers perceive legitimacy conferred by their cooperating teachers.

The participants—Melissa and Nicole—are two female student teachers at the end of an elementary teacher preparation program at Southern College, a small private college in the Southeast.
Each participant is paired a cooperating teacher.
The author employed a qualitative case study methodology.
A variety of data were collected, using: observations, field notes and a series of four semi-structured field interviews.


The findings reveal that during the teaching apprenticeship, legitimacy and acceptance into the community of teaching is central to student teachers if they are to effectively learn to teach.
Throughout Melissa’s and Nicole’s student teaching experience, legitimacy played a significant role in tapping into the professional identity forming that is characteristic of this experience.
The legitimacy granted by teachers played a significant role in tapping into the affective and personal dimensions that are crucial when learning to teach.
As this study illustrates, the ways in which cooperating teachers provide access to the lived experience of teaching are consequential.
Being more than just a conduit for conveying the knowledge of teaching during the student teaching experience, cooperating teachers must be conscious of the moves they make and the access they provide student teachers to the work of teaching and teachers.

Unfortunately, many teacher education programs fail to prepare cooperating teachers for the difficult and complex work of field-based teacher education.
Given the complexities of learning to teach, preparing cooperating teachers, not merely using them, seems like a worthwhile strategy to advance the quality of teacher education and the overall student teaching experience.

Updated: May. 23, 2017