Thursday, August 30, 2018

Matthew Ronfeldt and Hillary Greene Nolan contribute to study and report on student teacher placements and success

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Professor Matthew Ronfeldt and Doctoral Candidate Hillary Greene Nolan contributed to a study led by the UChicago Consortium to investigate features of common pathways into teaching (traditional, alternative, and residency programs), including the schools in which student teachers are placed, who serves as mentor teachers, and what factors were good indicators of first-year teacher performance. The study resulted in a recently published comprehensive brief on student teachers and the student teaching experience in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the nation’s third-largest school district.

The brief, On the Path to Becoming a Teacher: The Landscape of Student Teaching in Chicago Public Schools, synthesizes findings from research done in partnership with researchers from the UChicago Consortium, National Louis University, University of Michigan, and Stanford University, and with support from the Spencer and Joyce Foundations.

Findings regarding student and mentor teachers are described in the brief:

  • Student teachers’ self-reports of their own level of preparation at the end of student teaching were not significantly related to their performance in their first year of teaching. However, mentor teachers’ assessments of their student teachers’ instructional practices and level of preparedness were good indicators of student teachers’ performance in their first year of teaching.
  • Mentor teachers’ instructional support and guidance mattered more to student teachers’ sense of preparedness and first-year teaching performance than their own qualifications (years of experience or status as National Board Certification). What mattered most was mentor teachers' modeling effective teaching practices, and coaching with constructive feedback in a safe learning environment.
  • Although their professional credentials were not significantly predictive of student teachers’ feelings of preparedness or first-year performance, mentor teachers had more advanced credentials than CPS colleagues who were not mentors.
  • Student teachers were placed unevenly in schools across the district. Student teachers were less likely to be placed in low-performing schools and more likely to train in schools that served fewer low-income students.
  • When teachers gained employment in the school in which they completed student teaching, their performance, on average, was better in their first year of teaching compared to student teachers hired in schools they had not previously experienced.
  • Student teachers from traditional and residency pathways completed more methods courses and had longer student teaching placements compared to alternative pathway student teachers. Traditional and residency pathway student teachers also planned significantly more years in education, teaching, and CPS than alternative route student teachers.

Since data for this study were collected, CPS has developed programs and policies aimed at increasing student teacher placements in higher-need schools, improving the student teaching experience through partnerships with teacher preparation programs, and supporting mentor teachers in coaching.

Matthew Ronfeldt is Associate Professor

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