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New Research Brief Identifies Evidence-Based Practices to Enhance Student Teaching Programs

The first year of teaching is like a masterclass in adaptability and multitasking; teachers learn to balance daily teaching performance with the backstage work of grading, lesson planning, and learning to navigate the policies and practices of their new workplace. Student teaching experiences serve as the bridge connecting the pedagogical theories teachers acquire in teacher preparation programs to the dynamic, frequently turbulent, reality of the classroom. EdResearch for Action has released a research synthesis brief that explores how district leaders and education preparation providers can leverage evidence-based practices to chart a path toward ensuring novice teachers are at their most ready when they enter the classroom.

The brief, titled “Increasing Teacher Preparedness Through Effective Student Teaching,” weaves together findings drawn from over 75 research studies to identify what barriers to better student teaching experiences exist, in addition to what practices are truly effective and what practices fall short. What follows is a short summary of the brief’s findings.

Breaking Down the Issue: The Barriers to Better Student Teaching Experiences

  • State Regulations and Variability: State regulations provide minimal requirements for traditional student teaching, resulting in widely varying experiences in terms of length and quality, and the emergence of nontraditional teaching pathways has produced even more variation.
  • Mentor Teacher Selection: The lack of clear, rigorous criteria for selecting mentor teachers hampers the identification and recruitment of effective mentors, despite their critical role in supporting student teachers’ development.
  • Compensation and Training: Mentor teachers are often inadequately compensated and trained, and they struggle to find time for mentoring amidst their regular duties.

Evidence-Based Practices: A Path Forward

  • Recruiting Effective Mentors: Actively recruiting and incentivizing highly effective teachers as mentors significantly enhances teacher candidates’ preparedness.
  • Expert Coaching: In-person training sessions led by expert coaches have shown promise in improving mentor teachers’ coaching practices.
  • Collaborative Environments: Placing teacher candidates in schools with collaborative environments, strong faculty, and low turnover rates fosters better learning experiences and effective teaching practices.
  • Alignment Matters: Aligning student teaching placements with future job roles enhances teacher effectiveness and retention.

Practices to Avoid: Practices That May Not Yield the Desired Results

  • Duration Alone Isn’t Enough: The duration of student teaching alone doesn’t significantly impact initial instructional effectiveness.
  • Experience Isn’t Everything: Recruiting mentors who have the most classroom experience isn’t enough on its own to ensure their effectiveness.
  • Bias in Metrics: Depending heavily on teacher effectiveness metrics, like observation ratings, to select mentors can introduce bias against teachers of color.
  • Compensation Challenges: Simply offering mentors a modest stipend may not be sufficient to attract high-quality mentors or induce meaningful change.
  • Equity vs. Teacher Development: Balancing conducive settings for candidate development with the goal of an equitably distributed teacher workforce poses challenges.

The path to effective teaching begins long before educators step into their own classrooms. The release of this research synthesis brief helps education leaders and policymakers understand what works and what doesn’t in teacher preparation, an important milestone in our work to improve teacher preparedness and effectiveness.

EdResearch for Action — a joint initiative of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University and Results for America — equips education leaders with timely and relevant research to tackle the most critical challenges in the field. Their Research Overview Series includes a series of briefs that compile the evidence based on key topics and provide practical, operational guidance for each priority decision point or question to education leaders, policymakers, and researchers.