A new study on student teaching (Exploring the Impact of Student Teaching Apprenticeships on Student Achievement and Mentor Teachers) found two important results:
One, having a student teacher had no negative (or positive) effect on student achievement (measured by standardized test scores):
This is a somewhat surprising finding given that experienced teachers are, in some cases, turning over their classrooms to truly novice mentees, though perhaps this can be explained by the growing prevalence of “co-teaching” arrangements in the student teaching apprenticeship (e.g., Heck & Bacharach, 2016) or by the collaboration that can occur between a mentor and student teacher.
Two, the mentor teacher becomes more effective (again, measured by standardized test scores) in subsequent years:
Kerry and Shelton Mayes (1995), for instance, argue that that the act of helping student teachers dissect their classroom practices cause mentor teachers to reflect on their own practices in ways that lead to self-improvement.5 Field and Philpott (2000) provide survey evidence supporting the hypothesis as “mentors often claimed that they were forced to re-evaluate current practice in light of rationalizing their work to student teachers.”6
More generally, our findings support a small but growing literature showing that peer learning (Jackson & Bruegmann, 2009; Papay et al., 2016) appears to be an important means of improving incumbent teachers as teachers are found to be more effective after having the experience of having served as a mentor.
This has certainly been my experience. I have clearly become a better teacher as a result of having student teachers for the past twelve years – primarily for the reasons mentioned in the study.
Our school strongly encourages a co-teaching arrangement with our student teacher and, because of that, I would suggest that our students benefit greatly from that situation. Not only are there two adults in the room working with students all the time but, to tell the truth, it pushes me to not “coast” even when I sometimes feel like it because another adult will see that example (I don’t feel like that often, but I suspect we all have those days). In addition, it pushes me to prepare lessons more precisely because I want to be as good of a role model as possible.
Thanks to Cara Jackson for sharing the study on Twitter.
I’m adding this info to The Best Advice For Student Teachers & Their Collaborating Teachers.