Panel Paper: Cooperating Teacher As Model and Coach: A District-Wide Portrait

Friday, November 3, 2017
Wrigley (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kavita Kapadia Matsko1, Matthew Ronfeldt2, Hillary Greene2, Joshua Klugman3, Michelle Reininger4 and Stacey Brockman2, (1)National Louis University, (2)University of Michigan, (3)Temple University, (4)Stanford University

Student teaching, a longtime cornerstone and key clinical experience of teacher preparation, has recently become the subject of multiple reform and policy debates. Cooperating teachers (CTs) are one of the most acknowledged and yet least understood contributors to student teaching experiences. Despite being viewed as key partners in teacher preparation, we know surprisingly little about who CTs are, the kinds of mentoring they provide, or their effects on preservice student teachers (PSTs). In this study we take an in depth look at CTs, their mentoring roles during student teaching, and their influence on PSTs’ perceptions of readiness to teach.

Growing calls for attending to CT quality often assume that being an experienced or effective teacher is a sufficient prerequisite for being a good mentor. For instance, many states place minimum requirements on CTs in terms of years of teaching experience or tenure. Yet there is little empirical evidence that experienced or effective teachers make better mentors. In fact, it is possible that being an effective teacher of P-12 students is less important to effective mentoring than being able to provide quality feedback or offer a balance between autonomy and support. Thus, this study considers the dual roles held by CTs as both models of effective instruction and coaches who facilitate beginning teacher development.

This study draws on data from online surveys administered to (i) all PSTs registered in 2014-15 to student teach in Chicago Public Schools and (ii) their CTs. PSTs completed both pre- and post-student teaching surveys, including questions about the mentoring they received and how instructionally prepared they felt in different areas of teaching. PST survey data were linked to CT survey data and district administrative and evaluation data on CTs and their schools. Our main analytic sample consisted of 583 CTs who could be matched to PSTs with both pre and post survey information. We constructed Rasch measures about PST perceptions of preparedness and CT mentoring. Two-level, multilevel regression models were used to estimate PSTs’ post-student teaching preparedness as a function of measures for CT modeling and coaching, pre-student teaching preparedness, and PST, CT and program covariates.

Compared to non-CTs in the district, CTs had better district evaluation scores and better qualifications. In addition to being promising models of teaching, both PSTs and CTs agreed that, on average, CTs provided helpful and extensive coaching; although CTs perceived their coaching practices more favorably than PSTs. Finally, PSTs felt better prepared to teach in some domains of instruction when their CTs received stronger district observational evaluation ratings and when they thought their CTs modeled more effective teaching; and when PSTs reported stronger CT coaching in terms of instructional support, feedback, and balancing autonomy with encouragement. An implication of this study is that CT recruitment should target teachers who are not only instructionally effective but who are also skilled coaches.