ERIC Identifier: ED344873
Publication Date: 1992-05-00
Author: Kauffman, Dagmar
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education Washington DC.

Supervision of Student Teachers. ERIC Digest.

The student teaching field experience is an essential component of learning to teach and supervision plays an important role (Zahorik, 1988). During this time, the student teacher is assigned to a school-based cooperating teacher and a university supervisor, all of whom form a supervisory triad. Educators consider student teaching to be an important, highly valued experience. It is "critical to the development of preservice teachers' pedagogical skills" (Richardson-Koehler, 1988, p. 22). Seventy-seven percent of the university supervisors and 70% of the cooperating teachers support the notion that student teaching prepares students more than adequately for their first full-time teaching job (AACTE, 1991).

While university supervisors and cooperating teachers share the goal of preparing students to be effective teachers, they differ in their perspectives on the learning processes that take place. Emphasizing seminar work, 69% of university supervisors feel that students are adequately prepared for student teaching, compared to only 49% of cooperating teachers, who stress practical experience as an important factor in a student teacher's preparedness (AACTE, 1991).

The discrepancy between university supervisors' and teachers' perspectives, between theory and practice, has led some critics to doubt that the current practice of student teaching is effective (Evertson, Howley, & Zlotnik, 1984). They are concerned that student teachers simply model the behavior of their cooperating teachers and may not learn as much of the theoretical and general principles that would allow them to teach in a variety of classroom situations (Richardson-Koehler, 1988). Dewey (1904 in Zahorik, 1988) already cautioned that student teachers' close contact with the cooperating teacher may prevent them from developing reflective inquiry skills. While student teachers need exemplary models, they must also learn to become independent thinkers, grasping principles and developing new techniques.

Cleary (1988) suggests that this could be resolved by providing better supervision of student teachers; however, it is a complex process. This ERIC Digest considers the barriers to improved student teacher supervision, identifies approaches to overcoming such barriers, and describes collaborative efforts in which public school and university personnel are equal partners.


The concept of effective supervision is much debated and difficult to define (Boydell, 1986). Incongruent role expectations by cooperating teachers and university supervisors (Applegate & Lasley, 1986), lack of substantive communication, and lack of collaboration appear to be the main factors hampering the process (Bhagat, Clark, & Combs, 1989; Hoover, O'Shea, & Carroll, 1988).


The roles of cooperating teachers and university supervisors are ambiguous and not always clearly defined (Richardson-Koehler, 1988; Grimmett & Ratzlaff, 1986). Although the research literature (Zahorik, 1988) identifies different roles that supervisors assume, supervisors do not necessarily reflect on or communicate them. This likely leads to misunderstanding in interactions with their counterparts, particularly, if the university supervisor and the cooperating teacher assume different roles (Wood, 1989). Zahorik (1988) identifies three supervisory roles:

* behavior prescriptor--emphasizes students' acquisition of basic instructional skills and classroom management techniques;

* idea interpreter--presents beliefs about what classrooms and schools ought to be like and suggests ways to bring about change; and

* person supporter--promotes students' own decision-making and encourages them to think for themselves.

Despite these apparently well-defined roles, the cooperating teacher seems to be most influential because of his/her close interaction with the student (Richardson-Koehler, 1986; American Association, 1991). Some have suggested eliminating the role of the university supervisor, who exerts less immediate influence on the student teacher (Bowman, 1979 cited in Wood, 1989; Zahorik, 1988). Marrou (1989) and Wood (1989), however, stress the significance of the university supervisor's role as critical, but not as one that duplicates the observing and evaluating role of the cooperating teacher. Scholars have suggested the university supervisor's role as someone who acts as personal confident to the cooperating teacher and student teacher (Zimpher, deVoss, & Nott, 1980) or who manages the administrative, managerial, and technical aspects of supervision rather than the instructional or personal (Wood, 1989).


Lack of substantive communication and collaboration (Bhagat et al., 1989) complicates the supervisory process. Limited in their interactions by time constraints because of teaching and research responsibilities (AACTE, 1991; Hoover et al., 1988), university supervisors and cooperating teachers do not effectively communicate about their respective expectations of the goals of student teaching; the instructional approaches with which student teachers should experiment (Bhagat et al., 1989; Richardson-Koehler, 1988; Zahorik, 1988); or the purpose, policies, and practices that guide student teaching (Hoover et al., 1988). As a result, cooperating teachers and university supervisors often misunderstand each other, lack unity in front of the student teacher, and continue to teach and supervise the way they always have instead of working as a supervisory team (Moon, Niemeyer, & Simmons, 1988).


Depending on the perceived cause for the unsuccessful supervision of student teachers, efforts designed to overcome these barriers have included:

* training for university supervisors to reconceptualize their roles (Boydell, 1986);

* training for cooperating teachers to analyze their own teaching and supervisory techniques (Richardson-Koehler, 1988); and

* selecting and matching the triad members in a systematic way (Wood, 1989).


A prominent part of the recent reform agenda calls for cooperating teachers and university supervisors to work as equal partners and in projects that link universities and school districts (Kirchhoff, 1989). At the University of New Hampshire, cooperating teachers, building principals, and university supervisors work together. Cooperating teachers learn more about the theoretical side of teacher education and are better able to match supervisory styles to the developmental stages of the preservice teachers. Principals incorporate newly acquired knowledge into their role as instructional leaders. University supervisors use their new insights to work more collaboratively with the cooperating teachers as they share supervision responsibility (see Oja, 1988).

In 1989 Ohio State University, the local public schools, and the state education association initiated a program where fully released public school teachers share the supervision of student teachers with university supervisors. The university supervisor and teacher meet weekly to discuss student teachers' progress, communicating on a continuous basis and working as a team, linking theory and practice for the preservice teachers (see Zimpher, 1988; Kirchhoff, 1989).


The benefits of collaborative efforts are manifold and enrich each triad member. Student teachers have the opportunity to incorporate fully both the theoretical and the practical into their teaching. Additionally, the cooperating teacher and the university supervisor create a working relationship based on mutual respect and understanding for each others' expertise, perspectives, and roles.


References identified with an EJ or ED number have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should be available at most research libraries; documents (ED) are available in ERIC microfiche collections at more than 700 locations. Documents can also be ordered through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC. For more information contact the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036-1186; (202) 293-2450 or (800) USE-ERIC.

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). (1991). RATE IV: Teaching teachers: Facts & figures. Washington, DC: Author.

Applegate, J. H., & Lasley, T. J. (1986). Early field experience: A synthesis of role-perspective studies. Washington, DC: ERIC Document Reproduction Service. ED 310 065

Bhagat, D., Clark, C., & Coombs, G. (1989, March). A study of shared self-interests in a university-school partnership. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco. ED 307 668

Boydell, D. (1986). Issues in teaching practice supervision research: A review of the literature. Teaching and Teacher Education, 2(2), 115-25. EJ 344 609

Cleary, M. J. (1988). Thinking styles of supervisors and implications for student teaching. Teacher Educator, 24(1), 16-23. EJ 387 998

Evertson, C., Hawley, W., & Zlotnik, M. (1984). The characteristics of effective teacher education preparation programs: A review of the research. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, Peabody College. See ED 250 314

Grimmett, P. P., & Ratzlaff, H. C. (1986). Expectations for the cooperating teacher role. Journal of Teacher Education, 37(6), 41-50. EJ 350 075

Hoover, N. L., O'Shea, L. J., & Carroll, R. G. (1988). The supervisor-intern relationship and effective communication skills. Journal of Teacher Education, 39(2), 22-27. EJ 376 997

Kirchhoff, S. (1989, November). Collaborative university/school district approaches for student teaching supervision. Paper presented at the annual conference of the National Council of States on Inservice Education, San Antonio, TX. ED 314 389

Marrou, J. R. (1989). The university supervisor: A new role in a changing workplace. Teacher Educator, 24(3), 13-19. EJ 391 471

Moon, R. A., Niemeyer, R. C., & Simmons, J. M. (1988, April). Three perspectives on the language of supervision: How well do the university supervisor, cooperating teacher, and student teacher understand each other? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. ED 293 806

Oja, S. N. (1988). Some promising endeavors in school-university collaboration: Collaborative research and collaborative supervision in the University of New Hampshire five-year program. Paper presented at the Holmes Group Second Annual Conference, Washington, DC. ED 294 835

Richardson-Koehler, V. (1988). Barriers to the effective supervision of student teaching: A field study. Journal of Teacher Education, 39(2), 28-34. EJ 376 998

Wood, L. H. (1989, August). Maximizing the development of student teachers during student teaching. Paper presented at the summer workshop of the Association of Teacher Educators, Tacoma, WA. ED 312 237

Zahorik, J. A. (1988). The observing-conferencing role of university supervisors. Journal of Teacher Education, 39(2), 9-16. EJ 376 995

Zimpher, N. L. (1988). A design for the professional development of teacher leaders. Journal of Teacher Education, 39(1), 53-60. EJ 374 367

Zimpher, N. L., deVoss, G., & Nott, D. (1980). A closer look at university student teacher supervision. Journal of Teacher Education, 31(4), 11-15. EJ 235 491

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