Review of evidence: Features of effective Associate Teachers in programmes of initial teacher education (Summary Report) 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. We were tasked to:
- Identify and summarise the key features of quality adult mentoring and support linked to evidence about which features make the most difference
- Identify and summarise the key roles and responsibilities of associate teachers that support quality experience for student teachers on practicum
- Identify and summarise the key skills and knowledge that are central to effectiveness in the associate teacher role.
We were also tasked to identify and summarise evidence-based methods for building relational trust with all players – student teacher, mentor, other ITE staff, other school staff and students.
Author(s): Mavis Haigh [University of Auckland] and Helen Treventhan [University of Otago]
Date Published: November 2017
Summary of roles/expectations/key skills of effective associate teachers
Associate teacher (AT) 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 (STs), 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 ST and this may present a challenge for associate teachers which has to be managed.
Although there are wide-ranging expectations of associate teachers their activities linked with supporting student teachers to become quality teachers can be grouped into two main categories - Assistance and Assessment. Assistance 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. Assessment for and of ST 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. ATs are likely to be involved in assessment that is both formative and summative and contribute to credentialing discussions
Being an effective associate teacher
An associate teacher who is effective in the assistance role will:
- develop a supportive, learning-focussed relationship with the student teacher
- provide a safe emotional environment for the student teacher, and work to develop mutual respect and trust
- provide time, access to resources and teaching opportunities
- collaborate with the student teacher to develop their repertoire of technical skills
- foster a student teacher’s inquiry stance
- assist the student teacher to make links between campus and school-based learning
- be familiar with the ITE programme
- accept difference and flex to allow student teacher growth
- facilitate effective communication and engage in positive professional conversations
- help student teachers to gain access to the profession
- demonstrate respect for their profession
- assist student teachers to develop adaptive expertise
- encourage and support teaching as inquiry
- be open to learning from, and alongside, student teachers.
An associate teacher who is effective in the assessment role will
- engage in transparent formative and summative assessments with the student teacher.
- model the range of purposes for assessment for the student teacher.
- negotiate the process of assessment with the student teacher.
- see disagreements about assessments as an opportunity to initiate professional learning for the student teacher (and the associate teacher).
- see everyday practice as an opportunity for assessment for learning; will encourage the student teacher to take an inquiry stance into their practice.
- be knowledgeable about the impact of feedback and feedforward on student teacher learning.
- know how to run mentoring conversations that reflect the values of mutual respect and valid data. He/she will regularly check on the quality of their practice of mentoring conversations.
- be aware of his/her priorities associated with making judgments about student teachers’ practice, and guard against a tendency to make judgments based on ‘gut feeling’ rather than evidence.
- be able to defend their judgments about the student teacher to the student teacher, the university supervisor and colleagues who have been associated with the student teacher during the practicum in order that they, together, reach robust defensible positions.
- understand their contribution, negotiated with the university, to the formalised assessment processes involved in certification / credentialing of student teachers.
An effective associate teacher will also:
- understand the tensions inherent in his/her dual roles of assistance and assessment and work towards managing this tension in transparent ways.
- engage in professional learning around the role.
Summary of relational trust and the practicum
- Relational trust is the foundation of effective mentoring
- There must be trust in the relationship between the players when one person’s efforts requires that others will play their part
- Trust creates an environment in which people are willing to take the risks necessary for learning to occur
- Relational trust is a social process, thus elements of the school’s social context will impact on a student teacher’s learning
- Relational trust fosters collaboration and promotes professional growth
- A practicum context featuring high relational trust would involve
- strong university-school ties;
- a high level of alignment regarding expectations of student teacher learning between ITE provider and school;
- a student teacher-centred learning environment;
- engagement of the principal in practicum organisation and practice;
- a strong school-community;
- an experienced and knowledgeable associate teacher body who have chosen to become involved in student teacher education;
- all members of the community being consciously explicit about their role in the ST learning.
- Both associate and student teacher have to be actively engaged in building this relationship
- Both partners must acknowledge their limitations and be open to the views of the other partner in the learning process.
- Establishing sound professional relationships enables the AT and ST to together explore new activities and pedagogies (Anthony et al., 2015). This is also more likely when Visiting Lecturers take time to build trust with student teachers (Fayne, 2007),
- Treaty anchored relationships of partnership, participation and protection are contended as central features of effective Maori medium ITE
- Two Kaupapa Māori principles with particular pertinence to building professional relationships and trust are Tino Rangatiratanga – The principle of self-determination and Whānau – the principle of extended family structure.
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