Review of evidence: Features of effective Associate Teachers in programmes of initial teacher education Publications
The authors were commissioned by the Ministry of Education on behalf of the New Zealand Normal School Principals Association to produce a review of the role of the associate teacher in initial teacher education. Both of the authors have had a professional practice and research interest in the practicum (professional experience) component of initial teacher education over many years.
Author(s): Mavis Haigh [University of Auckland] and Helen Treventhan [University of Otago]
Date Published: November 2017
Mavis Haigh, Ph.D. (Waikato) is an Associate Professor in the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice at The University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her research interests include professional/clinical practice in Initial Teacher Education, especially the role of partnership between the university and professional sectors, and assessment within the practicum; the work of teacher educators; and science teacher education. As a monitor for the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand she reviews initial teacher education programs across the country. Helen Trevethan, Ed.D. (Otago) is a senior lecturer at the University of Otago College of Education, New Zealand. Her research interests are largely focused on the professional practice of teaching, mentoring, beginning teaching, and science education. Helen is a monitor for NZQA and the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and is also involved in initial teacher education programme reviews.
The complexity of associate teacher roles
Associate teacher roles are complex and multi-faceted given that associate teacher – student teacher relationships are situated in complex contexts reflecting the national educational policy of the time, the particular socio-economic, educational and organisational contexts/arrangements of the school and those of the initial teacher education (ITE) provider. They will also reflect the philosophical, pedagogical and procedural expectations of the placement school and ITE provider, programme requirements for the student teachers, and the professional and personal dispositions of the associate teacher and student teacher. This complexity means that associate teacher roles may be expressed differently in different contexts and at different times. In addition, associate teachers combine the role of classroom teacher with mentoring a student teacher and this may present a challenge for associate teachers which has to be managed, with many seeing their associate teacher role as an additional task. It is hardly surprising then that there may be a mismatch between the expectations of ITE providers, associate teachers and student teachers regarding the enactment of the associate teacher role.
As indicated in the methodology section of this report we carried out an extensive search of recent (2007-2017) academic literature focussing on the practicum and more specifically the role of the school-based associate teachers. Additional earlier, but seminal, literature known to the authors and the results of focussed searches in major teacher education journals and of known academics active in the area were added to the list of items drawn from the general searches. We found a number of reviews of literature linked to the practicum and a few more specifically focussing on the role of associate teachers. To the features identified in these reviews we have added additional roles that were the specific focus of smaller scale studies in order to build a comprehensive list of expectations.
Many of the research reports were small scale explorations of student teachers’ wide-ranging expectations of associate teachers and the degree to which these expectations were met. We did not find any study with higher numbers of participants that focussed specifically on the role of the associate teacher, though some studies with higher numbers of participants have canvassed student teacher perceptions of the practicum, including their views of the support their associate teacher had provided. A considerable number of studies focussed on assessment within the practicum and the tensions arising from the duality of support and evaluation.
A confounder of our quest to reach consensus regarding the roles of associate teachers is the variability in the language used by internationally situated reviewers and researchers but we sought understanding of their meaning through careful reading of the articles. We have included a section on terminology in this report.
Summary of expectations of associate teachers
Although there are wide-ranging expectations of associate teachers we have grouped their activities linked with supporting student teachers to become quality teachers into two main categories. These we have labelled as Assistance and Assessment. Categorisation, by its very nature, tends to separate activities which are, in reality, closely integrated and holistic, and any simple listing gives little indication of the necessary features of high quality associate teacher practice. It is also important to remember that the role practised by an associate teacher may be different for student teachers at different stages of their programme and will likely reflect the learning needs and styles of the individual.
This category encompasses those aspects of the AT role frequently labelled as supervision or mentoring as well as those where the associate is providing the student teacher with access to resources and facilitating their entry into the profession.
Being a supervisor includes being a(n): encourager; guide; effective communicator; modeller of practice (teacher of children, planning of teaching episodes, use of student data); counsellor (both professional and emotional, therapist); manager of relations; advocate of the practice of teaching, engaged in coaching, scaffolding and instructing. It may involve team teaching, or carrying out an inquiry with the student teacher.
Providing access includes: welcoming the student teacher; explaining the context of practice; providing resources (time, materials, students, professional knowledge); inviting the student teacher into their professional thinking, knowledge (e.g. relationship of educational theory and practice) and experience; creating learning situations; being an advocate/negotiator for the student teacher; socialising the student teacher into the school/profession; seeking and providing information; organizing and leading.
Assessment for and of student teacher learning includes: being an observer; providing feedback (verbal and written); helping students to develop their portfolio of practice; encouraging reflective practice; becoming a critical friend; making decisions as to readiness to teach; being a gatekeeper to the profession. Associate teachers are likely to be involved in assessment that is both formative and summative and contribute to credentialing discussions
A number of researchers have asked the question: Are advocacy, mutuality, and evaluation incompatible mentoring functions? We will address these tensions within the report.
Becoming and being an effective associate teacher
Given the complexity and demands of the associate teacher role it is hardly surprising that Becoming a Teacher in the 21st Century (Ministry of Education, 2007)1 proposed that “the knowledge, skills, and disposition required of associate teachers be specified and formally recognised as the basis for determining a teacher’s qualification for the role of mentoring student teachers” (p.7). This report contributes to this specification.
We acknowledge the help of colleagues as we prepared this review, especially thanking Bev Cooper, Lexie Grudnoff, Vivienne Mackisack, and Phil Spriggs.
- New Zealand Ministry of Education. (2007). Becoming a teacher in the 21st century: A review of initial teacher education policy. Wellington, N.Z. : Ministry of Education.
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