The development of a cooperating physical education teachers’ (COPET) programme and an investigation into how this programme impacts on the teaching practice experiences’ of the three members of the teaching practice triad
Dunning, Carol (2012) The development of a cooperating physical education teachers’ (COPET) programme and an investigation into how this programme impacts on the teaching practice experiences’ of the three members of the teaching practice triad. Master of Science thesis, Dublin City University.
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Cooperating teachers are central to the teacher education process particularly in helping student teachers to make the transition from ‘students of teaching’ to ‘teachers of students’ (Ganser, 2002). Due to having daily contact and being in ‘the trenches’ with the student teacher, researchers suggest that the cooperating teacher plays a fundamental role as a mentor, role model and friend (Tjeerdsma, 1998). Teaching practice however, can be a difficult time for all involved as attempts are made to incorporate two largely separate worlds (Beck and Kosnik, 2000): the university setting and the school setting. All three groups of the teacher education triad make a valuable contribution to the experience; student teachers bring their own experiences as students to physical education (PE) classes, university supervisors bring knowledge gained through teaching and research and cooperating teachers bring subject matter and pedagogical knowledge gained from their experiences as practitioners and as undergraduates (Mc Cullick, 2001). The purpose of this research was to investigate the impact of a cooperating physical education teacher’s programme on student teacher learning from the perspectives of all three groups involved; the cooperating teacher, the student teacher and the university supervisor.
A cooperating physical education teachers programme (COPET) was designed in an effort to maximise the learning opportunities for student teachers when on teaching practice placement. The programme was piloted with a cohort of twenty-six cooperating teachers supervising twenty-eight student teachers on teaching practice placement. Following this two week placement, separate focus group interviews were held with eleven cooperating teachers, fourteen student teachers and six university supervisors to evaluate the effectiveness of the COPET programme. The constant comparative method (Merriam, 1998) was used to analyse the focus group data.
Findings indicate that all three members of the teaching practice triad believe the COPET programme to have had a positive impact on the teaching practice process. This impact centred around levels of interaction between the cooperating teacher and the student teacher, and the support structures put in place as a result of the programme. The majority of student teachers linked their progress directly to the contribution made by their cooperating teachers. The cooperating teachers felt more content in their role given that the programme helped to offer a structure to the process, particularly with regard to providing feedback to the student teachers. The university supervisors felt that the programme ensured that the cooperating teachers were more accountable for their role in assisting student teachers. Concerns were expressed by both student teachers and university supervisors in relation to disparities between cooperating teacher involvement. This is somewhat explained by the main concern expressed by cooperating teachers being the time demands of the programme.
While the COPET programme has resulted in a number of positive changes in the experiences of all three members of the teaching practice triad, a number of key considerations are suggested for future implementation and development of the programme. Effective and efficient programme improvement is a team process and the power for constructive change lies with all parties (Rikard, 1990).
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