Negotiating uncertainty: making sense of the student teaching experience

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Virginia Tech

This year long qualitative study unravels the student teacher's journey through student teaching as she gains entry into the classroom of her supervising teacher and begins to understand her own concept of teaching. The study describes how each student teacher gains entry and begins to think about her own understanding of the student teaching experience. Four case studies are constructed from the perspective of each student teacher's personal history and captures her experience of moving from the induction period of student teaching to full participation in teaching. As an observer in the classroom, the student teacher begins to understand her supervising teachers' classroom instruction. As a participant-observer, the student teacher begins to plan the classroom instruction and works with students in small groups. The student teacher, who is successful in developing a relationship with her supervising teacher during this period of induction, gains entry to full participation, and is given an opportunity to explore her own concept of teaching. The student teacher who experiences difficulty in developing a relationship with her supervising teacher is relegated to a participant-observer role and is unable to engage in the full range of teaching opportunities in the classroom.

During the student teaching experience, the student teacher operates in a remarkably uncertain environment as she engages in the two-sided challenge of learning to student teach and teach at the same time. To make sense of the experience, the student teacher acquires strategies such as observing, initiating instruction, engaging in conversation with others, learning to teach through trial and error, and being responsive to the needs of the students in the classroom. A successful student teaching experience is achieved when the student teacher negotiates entry into the supervising teacher's classroom and spends time exploring her own concept of teaching. This negotiation depends on a complex interaction of factors that are often not adequately addressed by the structure inherent in the field placement.

student teachers, field experience