Co-teaching as a clinical model of student teaching : perceptions of preparedness for first year teaching
College of Education faculty members at the University of Central Missouri found that public school teachers and administrators from surrounding schools were reluctant to hand over classrooms of students to novice teachers for student teaching. With high stakes accountability for test scores, teachers voiced their need to be present in the classroom, particularly during spring semester of statewide testing (Diana, 2014). The university adopted a co-teaching model of student teaching to prepare its teaching candidates for the first year of teaching while allowing the cooperating teacher to stay in the classroom throughout the student teaching term. The problem-of-practice addressed in this study focuses on the need to determine if a co-teaching student teacher model provides university students an adequate amount of clinical experience and preparation to support a successful first year of teaching. The purpose of this study is two-fold: 1) analyze the perceptions of former and current student teachers, cooperating teachers, and university supervisors on the co-teaching model of student teaching and 2) assess the model's effectiveness in preparing student teachers for their first year of teaching. To this end, the research questions are as follows: Research Question 1. What are the perceptions of University of Central Missouri current and former student teachers on the co-teaching student-teaching model's ability to prepare student teachers for their first year of teaching? Research Question 2. What are the perceptions of University of Central Missouri university supervisors on the co-teaching student-teaching model's ability to prepare student teachers for their first year of teaching? Research Question 3. What are the perceptions of cooperating teachers on the co-teaching student- teaching model's ability to prepare student teachers for their first year of teaching? The research questions were answered through an analysis of the data collected via a quantitative survey followed by a qualitative interview. The quantitative survey asked respondents to rate items on a Likert-type scale (Fink, 2013) as to how well they perceived the co-teaching model of student teaching prepares student teachers to meet Missouri Teaching Standards. The qualitative survey asked respondents to discuss their perceptions of how well the co-teaching model of student teaching prepares student teachers for their first year of teaching based on their personal experience. The responses indicated that the co-teaching model scored higher in first year teacher preparation by elementary teachers and elementary supervisors than by secondary teachers and supervisors. Responses also indicated that student teachers and cooperating teachers perceived the co-teaching model as more positively preparing student teachers for their first year of teaching than do university supervisors. Additionally, responses indicated that the co-teaching model of student teaching closely aligns to the Gradual Release of Responsibility theory of learning (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) with the co-teaching model of student teaching strengths as follows: extensive modeling by a More Knowledgeable Other (Vygotsky, 1978), extensive professional reflection and immediate feedback, a narrowing of focus, professional collaboration, and building of confidence in the student teacher. Due to the student teacher never solely taking over the classroom responsibilities in a co-teaching model of student teaching, the model's barrier for preparing student teachers for their first year of teaching centers on the student teacher not receiving a fully realistic teaching experience in a classroom without a co-teacher. On this basis, it is recommended that universities and school districts adopt the co-teaching model of student teaching to provide a strong base of teaching background for the student teacher through the Gradual Release of Responsibility. The student teacher should also receive two to three weeks of sole classroom responsibility and all the duties in that role as to provide a realistic experience of teaching without a co-teacher present. Further research could synthesize the perceptions of the same group of participants in this study regarding a model similar to the one recommended.
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