Study of cooperating teachers' thoughts (rather than classroom teachers' thoughts) in parent education (rather than in the primary and secondary schools) has been nearly absent from the education field's research pool. This is also true for research on conferencing between teachers in that prior research was conducted from the student teachers' perspective rather than the cooperating teachers'. To better understand the work of cooperating teachers (and their thought-action consistency levels), a stimulated recall methodology was used in this exploratory study. The research questions were: 1) What is the nature of cooperating teachers' thinking during conferences with student teachers in parent education? 2) What is the relationship between cooperating teachers' thinking and their actions during these conferences? 3) What are the observable and reported responses of student teachers to cooperating teachers' actions during the conference?
Participants were recruited from colleges and universities in a Midwestern state that offered licensure programs in parent education. Nine pairs of student teachers and cooperating teachers participated. Recruitment was done without consideration of issues such as gender, age, or race, but cooperating teachers were required to be licensed, to have several years of teaching experience, and to have had at least one experience of being a cooperating teacher.
Data collection comprised of several steps: observing the parent education class, videotaping the cooperating teacher-student teacher conference, and audio taping separate interviews with the teachers using the video of their conference as a stimulus for their recall of their thoughts during the conference. Data analysis consisted of transcribing all video and audio tapes, indentifying reported thoughts, and assigning a thought type and focus. Transcripts were then combined in several formats to create working tables for data analysis.
Results showed that this particular group of cooperating teachers reported "intending", "evaluating", and "reflecting" as the most common thought types during conferences with their student teachers, and there was notable consistency between cooperating teachers' thoughts and actions. When consistency occurred, it was more likely that the student teachers' actions were then related to the cooperating teachers' actions.
Overall, cooperating teacher-student teacher relationships (created in part through conferencing) were positive, and a common pattern of communication that impacted the conference process was revealed. A helix pattern - like a spring with periodic stretches in its coil - described the circular aspect of the teachers' communication as well as the changes of direction within their conversations. Some instances of disagreement or personal discord were evident in three of the teaching pairs, and there were times when the participants shared thoughts or feelings with the researcher but not with the other teacher.
Advanced levels of teaching skills were shown throughout the present study, and one of the compelling questions for future research is "Are cooperating teachers in parent education better equipped to be cooperating teachers (compared to teachers in elementary and secondary grades)? Patterns of conferencing were remarkably similar among the pairs of teachers and with little exception, the cooperating teacher guided the conference. Questions or statements preceded by intending and evaluating thought types appeared to promote reflection on the part of the student teachers.
Participants' reactions to being involved in the study were extremely positive. A common reaction was to say that the experience was fun and interesting, and that they learned through this process. One of the recommendations from this study is to look at the learning that comes out of participating in a study or in using the methodology for personal learning.
Other recommendations include assuring that cooperating teachers are aware of concepts related to this study, such as: thought can inform and direct action; conferencing is a tool for teaching future teachers; and the helix pattern of communication during conferences can guide conferencing.
Suggestions for future study include using this methodology with an increased number of participants, conducting longitudinal studies, doing follow-up studies with participants after they have worked in the field for several years, and studying the process of conferencing.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May: 2009. Major: Work, Community, and Family Education. Advisor: Dr. Ruth G. Thomas. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 313 pages, appendices A-J.
Sponsel, Leanne Marie.
Cooperating teachers' thinking and actions during conferences with student teachers in parent education..
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