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A New Student Teaching Model for Pairing Interns with Clinical Teachers

Teresa Washut Heck

Co-Director of the Academy for Co-Teaching and Collaboration
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Editor's Note:This blog post was co-written with Dr. Nancy Bacharach, the Principal Investigator and Project Director of the Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant. She is a professor in the Department of Teacher Development at St. Cloud State.

Most of us have vivid memories of our student teaching experience. Whether these images are positive or negative, they played a significant role in preparing us to become teachers. The old model of student teaching often had the teacher candidates spending their initial weeks as silent observers, gradually assuming the role of teacher, leading up to "full responsibility" in the classroom. Clinical teachers rarely assisted or vacated the room, letting the candidate learn his or her craft alone.

Student Teachers are Isolated and "Inadequately Supported"

Since the 1920s, this model of student teaching has remained relatively unchanged (Guyton & McIntyre, 1990). Today, abundant evidence suggests that learning to teach in isolation does not effectively prepare teacher candidates, nor does it benefit P-12 students. A key report by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (2010) found clinical preparation to be "poorly defined and inadequately supported" (p.4). Although clinical experiences are the most highly valued part of teacher preparation, NCATE showed that clinical experiences are often the most ad hoc element of many teacher preparation programs.

Other practical reasons for revising the old model exist. Securing high-quality student teaching placements is difficult, in part because clinical teachers resist the traditional expectation that they exit the classroom, especially during the term when state-mandated NCLB tests are given (Ellis & Bogle, 2008).

Co-Teaching Offers More Support and Flexibility

Co-teaching in student teaching is defined as: "Two teachers (a clinical teacher and a teacher candidate) working together with groups of students; sharing the planning, organization, delivery and assessment of instruction, as well as the physical space" (Bacharach, Heck & Dank, 2004). This co-teaching model of student teaching allows P-12 students increased opportunities to get help when and how they need it. It affords teachers an opportunity to incorporate co-teaching pedagogy, grouping students in ways that are not possible with just one teacher.

Strategies of Co-Teaching in Student Teaching

Strategy: Definition:

  • One teach, one observe: One teacher has primary instructional responsibility while the other gathers specific observational information on students or the (instructing) teacher. The key to this strategy is to focus the observation on specific behaviors. Both the teacher candidate and the cooperating teacher are able to take on either role.
  • One teach, one assist: One teacher has primary instructional responsibility while the other assists students with their work, monitors behaviors or corrects assignments, often lending a voice to students or groups who hesitate to participate.
  • Station teaching: Station teaching occurs when the co-teaching pairs divide the instructional content into parts. Each teacher instructs one of the groups. The groups then rotate or spend a designated amount of time at each station. Independent stations are often used along with the teacher-led stations.
  • Parallel teaching: Parallel teaching occurs when the class is divided, with each teacher instructing half the students. However, both teachers are addressing the same instructional material, using the same instructional strategies and materials. The greatest benefit to this method is the reduction of the student-to-teacher ratio.
  • Supplemental teaching: Supplemental teaching allows one teacher to work with students at their expected grade level while the other teacher works with those students who need the information or materials extended or remediated.
  • Alternative (differentiated) teaching: This teaching strategy provides two approaches to teaching the same information. The learning outcome is the same for all students; however, the avenue for getting there is different.
  • Team teaching: Team teaching incorporates an invisible flow of instruction with no prescribed division of authority. Using a team-teaching strategy, both teachers are actively involved in the lesson. From the students' perspective, there is no clearly defined leader -- both teachers share the instruction, are free to interject information, and are available to assist students and answer questions.

(From Changing the Face of Student Teaching Through Co-Teaching. Bacharach, N., Heck, T.W. & Dahlberg, K., 2010.)

Benefits for Interns and Their Students

Through co-teaching, candidates are provided with modeling, coaching and feedback as they develop their teaching skills. Co-teaching allows clinical teachers to model good teaching and work collaboratively with candidates, helping them understand the complexities of the teaching profession. When co-teaching, clinical teachers remain in the classroom. This sustained contact with candidates allows for immediate feedback and continuous mentoring. The co-teaching model has been used at all grade and content levels, and works with any curriculum adopted by a school district.

The research we conducted at St. Cloud State University compared co-teaching and traditional student teaching models using the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) and the Woodcock Johnson III-Research Edition (WJIII-RE). These resources helped us determine academic achievement of K-6 students in reading and math. In each of the four years, there were statistically significant improvements in reading and math scores for students in a co-taught classroom as compared to classrooms using the traditional model of student teaching. Co-teaching dramatically enhanced SCSU ability to place teacher candidates, increased the number and quality of cooperating teachers interested in hosting a teacher candidate, and demonstrated enhanced learner outcomes (Heck & Bacharach, 2010).

How to Implement Co-Teaching

In order to implement a co-teaching model of student teaching, universities and their school partners must establish a common language and plan for implementation. Buy-in from university administrators and faculty, as well as partner school district administrators and faculty, must be obtained. Participants should receive training and support throughout the process.

Changing the pedagogical structure of student teaching is a proven innovation that enhances the practice of today's educators and the preparation of tomorrow's teachers while improving student learning.


Bacharach, N., Heck, T. & Dank, M. (February, 2004). Co-Teaching in Student Teaching: A case study. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Teacher Educators, Dallas, Texas.

Ellis, J. & Bogle, D. (2008, November). Placement: An unforeseen casualty of No Child Left Behind. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Regional Association of Teacher Educators, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Guyton, E. & McIntyre, D. (1990). Student teaching and school experiences. In W. Houston (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (pp.514-534). New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing.

Heck, T. & Bacharach, N. (2010). Mentoring Teacher Candidates Through Co-Teaching: Collaboration that makes a difference. St. Cloud, Minnesota: St. Cloud State University.

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (2010). Transforming teacher education through clinical practice: A national strategy to prepare effective teachers. Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning. Washington, D.C., NCATE.

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TODD SENTELL's picture
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"


Very early on the morning of the day a new intern teacher came in for a look-see, I found Mr. Warbird alone in his classroom with a moist face, a pale face, and shaking hands. He was also sort of talking to himself when I walked in.

I asked Mr. Warbird what was wrong and he told me something that you tell only another teacher who won't laugh at you while you also have a moist face, a pale face, shaking hands, while you sort of talk to yourself. Mr. Warbird told me that the kids were driving him crazy ... seriously driving him totally crazy ... and that he didn't know if he could take it any more.

It was very early on a Monday morning of a week where we didn't get out early on Friday. A week of no field trips. A full and solid week of action. The kind of week that feels like an anvil is resting on your forehead by Tuesday mid-morning snack time.

Mr. Warbird seemed pretty agitated for the rest of the day. A bunch of times, Mr. Warbird had to go to the other side of the building to the faculty work room to make copies. Copies he should have made early this morning instead of sitting there moaning and wringing his hands, or better, yesterday afternoon after school let out. You know, when unagitated teachers prepare for the next day so they can stay in class and milk the education magic for every single second.

But then came 5th period. That's when Mr. Warbird teaches algebra to a bunch of guys who don't want to be taught algebra not one bit. To be fair, they really don't want to be taught anything. About ten minutes into class, which involves Mr. Warbird screaming at his students about various real or perceived infractions, slights, pimple squeezing, undone homework, inappropriate noises that may be burps or may be something even more horrible, or both at the same time, the new intern showed up. She's what you call a "Hot Body." I cannot speak to the substance of her intellect, although she was a girl in her mid-twenties and she didn't have a nose ring or a neck tattoo and she wasn't obnoxiously staring into a hand-held electronic device, so I gave her a whole lot of credit ... and attention in certain places when she wasn't looking. Miss Hot Body peeked into my classroom and asked if I was Mr. Warbird, and if I was Mr. Warbird that she had been asked to sit in on my class to observe.

Mr. Warbird shot out of his classroom.

And then, what I heard for the next thirty-five minutes, as it related to teaching the boring stuff on page 387 of the algebra book ... and really ... as it related to the profession of teaching as a whole in the United States of America, made me tear up, and then it made me want to kill Mr. Warbird.

I'll say this, too: if you're a principal or headmaster of a school and you feel like some of your male teachers are starting to not love teaching algebra to kids with moderate to profound learning, behavior, and emotional disorders any more, then place a Miss Hot Body teacher intern in their classroom from time to time.

Just don't take ours.

Nelia's picture
teacher and community organizer

In order to make the most of student-teaching, all those involved must recognize it as an experiential learning activity, as I was able to do at Antioch New England's education program.

The student teacher should take an active role in choosing his/her student teaching site and lead teacher based on desired outcomes. The lead teacher and program faculty should help the student teacher to reflect upon the experience at regular intervals and in a summative way. These reflections should be integrated into class discussion and course goals, so that the student teacher can make connections and apply them as s/he advances.

Not only did Antioch facilitate this kind of learning for me as a student teacher, but after I finished my first student-teaching assignment, I was able to apply what I'd learned in a 2nd semester of student-teaching in a different classroom, again of my choosing and with reflection facilitated by a lead teacher and my mentors at Antioch, so my learning was deepened even more.

Isn't this just the same of what we ask of students in their lessons, why wouldn't we structure our lessons for teachers in the same way?

julie williams's picture
julie williams
7th grade LA teacher from Colorado Springs, Colorado

I think using the co-teaching model is a fantastic idea. I had an amazing experience with my mentor teacher. We keep in touch even now and I still use principles she explicitly taught me. However, I've known others who did not benefit from this kind of experience. Being an LA teacher now, I would be resistant to give up my class for a whole month before TCAP. I can also see students would benefit from having the two teachers in the classroom. Extra support to help the students and more feedback would be fabulous.

Debora Wondercheck's picture
Debora Wondercheck
Executive Director, Founder of Arts & Learning Conservatory

The new model of teaching is co-teaching which is introduced few years ago.Actually it is not new but renamed or defined as the name of co-teaching.It is a model of student teaching allows P-12 students increased opportunities to get help when and how they need it.It is the way for revising the old model exist. Securing high-quality student teaching placements is difficult, in part due to which teachers resist the traditional expectation that they exit the classroom, especially during the time of test.

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