Koerner & Rust Exploring roles in student teaching placements

Koerner, M., & Rust, F. O. (2002, Spring). Exploring roles in student teaching placements. Teacher Education Quarterly, 29(2), 35-58.


Summary: This qualitative study used an open-ended questionnaire to ask student teachers, cooperating teachers, and university supervisors to describe the characteristics and roles of what constitutes “good” student teachers, cooperating teachers, university supervisors, and student teaching placements. The study used a grounded theory approach through constant comparison as the data analysis approach. It found some common characteristics of student teachers, cooperating teachers, and university supervisors as well as some discrepancies, which may be helpful in understanding relationship dynamics. The authors argue that while relationships are important, a re-focus on “best practice” to elevate the quality of professional discourse in the triad is perhaps an even more important and necessary component to preservice teacher growth and development.

Research Questions: None articulated, but the purpose seems to be discerning multiple perspectives on what constitutes good student teaching experiences


Methodology: Grounded theory, qualitative


Methods: Open-ended questionnaire


Data Analysis Technique: Constant comparison


Participants: 7 university supervisors, 21 student teachers, 21 cooperating teachers



  • Student teachers care more about the personal characteristics of cooperating teachers than cooperating teachers or university supervisors.
  • All three agreed that cooperating teachers should be good mentors and supervisors.
  • Student teachers feel university supervisors should be their advocates. Cooperating teachers feel university supervisors need to be good communicators.
  • “Mentoring activities comprised the largest set of responses concerning a good student teaching supervisor and the largest subset of responses describe supervisors as coaches, mentors, guides, and role models” (p. 49).
  • Cooperating teachers must focus first on their students and second on their student teachers whereas university supervisors’ primary responsibility is the education of the student teacher.
  • University supervisors are expected to be encouraging and caring.
  • “Our data seem to indicate that general knowledge of best practices are rarely drawn upon by either the university supervisor or the cooperating teacher” (p. 54).
  • “Cooperating teachers are acknowledged first as teachers of children and second as teacher educators” (p. 55).
  • Mentoring, hwoever, belongs primarily to the university supervisor who, our data suggest, are seen by both student teachers and cooperating teachers as liaisons in the student teaching experience. As liaisons, supervisors could influence the development of new teachers and the practice of experienced teachers in powerful ways” (p. 55).
  • “This split conception of the student teaching role extends to descriptors of a good student teaching placement raising the importance of the psychological climate that characterizes the setting. Student teachers need to feel a part of the school and like members of the professional corps” (p. 55).
  • “Relationships are important for developing trust and establishing confidence and effective communication, but a general re-shaping of teaching practices will require an explicit commitment on the part of teacher educators to raise the level of discourse within their programs through shared professional development with cooperating teachers and university supervisors” (p. 56).