The challenge for school-based teacher educators: establishing teaching and supervision goals

November, 2019

Source: Teacher Development, 23:5, 609-626

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The aim of this study was to investigate school-based teacher educators’ goals when they teach pupils and supervise student teachers and to identify how teachers in the role of supervisors understand university expectations.
The following research questions were established:
(1) What are the goals set by school-based teacher educators (SBTEs) to promote pupils’ development?
(2) How do SBTEs perceive university expectations of them as supervisors of student teachers?
(3) What kinds of goals do SBTEs establish for supervising student teachers during in-school training?


This study was conducted as part of research focused on the assessment of school-based teacher educators’ teaching and supervising competence.
Based on purposeful sampling, 16 teachers (15 women and 1 man) were selected from previous studies (Salo et al. 2015; Uibu et al. 2017).

Data collection
Semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data. Topics were chosen and research questions were established according to the results of earlier studies (Salo et al. 2015; Uibu et al. 2017) and the aims of the present study.
The first part of the interview included questions related to SBTEs’ teaching goals and teaching practices proceeding from them.
In the second part, the questions were focused on SBTEs’ perceptions about university expectations.
The aim of the third part was to explore how SBTEs understand their goals of supervising student teachers.
At the end of the interviews, teachers were given the opportunity to elaborate on some of their previous answers.

Findings and discussion
School-based teacher educators whose responsibilities include educating pupils as well as assisting students on their way to becoming teachers should be able to establish well-grounded teaching and supervising goals to meet the required university expectations of them as supervisors.
The study revealed that SBTEs mainly focused on pupils’ cognitive development and had problems pursuing social development goals.
It also appeared that SBTEs did not perceive clearly what universities expected from them as supervisors and, therefore, relied rather on their personal perception and experience than a clear knowledge of their supervision goals.
SBTEs’ main goal in model lessons for student teachers was to establish good teaching models.
With regard to the cognitive development, teachers focused on goals defined in the National Curriculum for Basic Schools (2011/2014).
Many teachers described subject-related knowledge and skills, e.g. how to implement knowledge into real-life situations, and analyse and solve problems.
Teachers tend to focus on pupils’ knowledge because they are of the opinion that supplying pupils with this knowledge gives them the opportunity to teach effectively (Lim and Chai 2008).
On the other hand, to develop pupils’ cognitive skills it is necessary to initiate problem-based learning and discussions in the classroom (Ford and Wargo 2012; Teague et al. 2012).
These goals were also emphasised by some teachers in the current study.
Accordingly, teachers skilfully described different goals of cognitive development.
This may be caused by the high expectations prevailing in Estonian society that pupils should achieve very good results in international benchmarking (see OECD 2014, 2016 for Estonian students’ results).
However, apparently, knowing the goals established by a curriculum does not always mean that teachers follow and achieve these goals in the teaching process (Hong and Vargas 2016).
Some inconsistencies in teachers’ goal setting for pupils’ development were revealed.
While teachers demonstrated good knowledge when explaining the cognitive development goals of pupils, they were less confident when describing the social development goals and relied more on their personal opinions and value judgements.
The second question was how teachers perceive university expectations of them as supervisors during in-school training.
The study revealed that many of the SBTEs are not prepared well enough to supervise students as well as that there is lack of instructional materials for supervising.
The reasons why universities do not sufficiently support SBTEs may be the common notion that supervisors as experienced teachers will be able to cope with supervising on their own.
The lack of precise guidance material issued by universities in Estonia is systematic of the tendency to increase the responsibility of supervisors in the training process of future teachers.
If universities do not adequately support SBTEs, the quality of in-school training may be reduced (Hodgson 2014).
This study also shows that the expectations of universities and the notion of SBTEs on supervision may not coincide.
Teachers are of the opinion that universities expect them to give mainly positive feedback to student teachers by supporting their self-reflection skills.
However, SBTEs think that sometimes more criticism is needed in the process of supervising students.
The teachers who were well aware of the principles of feedback considered that it is not always possible to carry them out in practice, as pointing out only the positive would not sufficiently support the development of students.
The main reason why SBTEs saw problems in feedback may be due to the lack of cooperation with university supervisors.
The dissonance between the notions of universities and SBTEs could be caused by the fact that universities focus more on formal institutional cooperation with schools and pay less attention to teachers who supervise students.
Hodgson (2014) agreed that universities do not always take into account the need of SBTEs to receive feedback on their work as supervisors, as well as to improve their supervision skills.
In response to the third question, the authors found that the teachers’ main goal for supervising was an establishment of teaching models for student teachers.
Earlier studies have indicated that teachers expect student teachers to follow their example (Van Velzen and Volman 2009); however, the current study revealed that teachers did not presume that students would conduct lessons in the same way they had.
According to White (2014), SBTEs expect that student teachers analyse SBTEs’ model lessons from the critical point of view and, when teaching, apply knowledge that they have acquired at university.
Although the SBTEs who participated in this study supported the independence of student teachers when they were teaching, they were unhappy that the subject-related knowledge of students acquired at university was not always good enough and consequently students lacked the skill of establishing teaching goals.
However, SBTEs also had difficulties in establishing teaching goals.
Contrary to previous studies (Uusimaki 2013), half of the SBTEs did not think that they were responsible for improving the subject-related knowledge of students.
They were worried about their pupils’ learning and the quality of lessons during in-school training, not so much for the student teachers’ further development.
The authors note that the results of this study demonstrated that SBTEs’ goals for teaching pupils or supervising student teachers are comparable with regard to both pupils’ and student teachers’ readiness to apply knowledge into practice and gain cooperation skills.
Teachers seemed to be convinced that cooperation helps them to ensure a supportive learning environment and fill in the gaps in students’ knowledge and teaching skills (Van Velzen and Volman 2009).
Interpreting similarities in teachers’ perceptions of their teaching and supervision goals may help teachers find a balance between their teaching and supervising.

Hodgson, J. 2014. “Surveying the Wreckage: The Professional Response to Changes in Initial Teacher Training in the UK.” English in Education 48 (1): 7−25. doi:10.1111/eie.12028
Hong, J., and P. Vargas. 2016. “Science Teachers’ Perception and Implementation of Inquiry-Based Reform Initiatives in Relation to Their Beliefs and Professional Identity.” International Journal of Research Studies in Education 5 (1): 3–17.
Ford, M. J., and B. M. Wargo. 2012. “Dialogic Framing of Scientific Content for Conceptual and Epistemic Understanding.” Science Education 96 (3): 369–391. doi:10.1002/sce.20482
Lim, C. P., and C. S. Chai. 2008. “Teachers’ Pedagogical Beliefs and Their Planning and Conduct of Computer-Mediated Classroom Lessons.” British Journal of Educational Technology 39 (5): 807 −828. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00774.x
National Curriculum for Basic Schools. 2011/2014. “Riigi Teataja.” Accessed 1 November 2018.
OECD (Organisation for Economic “Co-operation and Development). 2014. “TALIS 2013 Results. An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning.” Accessed 10 February 2017. doi:10.1787/ 9789264196261-en.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2016. PISA 2015 Results (volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education. Paris: OECD Publishing. Advance online publication. doi:10.1787/9789264266490-en.
Teague, G. M., V. A. Anfara Jr., N. L. Wilson, C. B. Gaines, and J. L. Beavers. 2012. “Instructional Practices in the Middle Grades: A Mixed Methods Case Study.” NASSP Bulletin 96 (3): 203–227. doi:10.1177/0192636512458451
Salo, A., K. Uibu, A. Ugaste, and H. Rasku-Puttonen. 2015. “The Question about Effective Teaching: Educational Students’ and School-Based Teacher Educators’ Beliefs about Effective Teaching Practices.” Procedia − Social and Behavioral Sciences 191: 2203–2212. doi:10.1016/j. sbspro.2015.04.295
Teague, G. M., V. A. Anfara Jr., N. L. Wilson, C. B. Gaines, and J. L. Beavers. 2012. “Instructional Practices in the Middle Grades: A Mixed Methods Case Study.” NASSP Bulletin 96 (3): 203–227. doi:10.1177/0192636512458451
Uibu, K., A. Salo, A. Ugaste, and H. Rasku-Puttonen. 2017. “Beliefs about Teaching Held by Student Teachers and School-Based Teacher Educators.” Teaching and Teacher Education 63: 396–404. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2017.01.016
Uusimaki, L. 2013. “Empowering Pre-Service Teacher Supervisors’ Perspectives: A Relational-Cultural Approach Towards Mentoring.” Australian Journal of Teacher Education 38 (7): 42–58. doi:10.14221/ajte.2013v38n7.1.
Van Velzen, C., and M. Volman. 2009. “The Activities of A School-Based Teacher Educator: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration.” European Journal of Teacher Education 32 (4): 345– 367. doi:10.1080/02619760903005831
White, E. 2014. “Being a Teacher and a Teacher Educator – Developing a New Identity?” Professional Development in Education 40 (3): 436–449. doi:10.1080/19415257.2013.782062 

Updated: Aug. 09, 2020