Perceptions of Teacher Candidates' Experiences in Paired Placements: Perceptions of Paired Placements

Perceptions of Teacher Candidates' Experiences in Paired Placements: Perceptions of Paired Placements

Jeanine B. Jechura (Bowling Green State University, USA) and Cynthia Diane Bertelsen (Bowling Green State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9634-1.ch037


This qualitative inquiry described the nature of paired placements within a revolutionary new teacher education program designed to prepare undergraduate teacher education candidates for employment in inclusive early childhood learning environments. The focus of this project, reflecting a Vygotskian lens, has emerged into a five-fold examination: to document the ways that pairs work together, to articulate the outcomes of pairings as contrasted with single arrangements, to identify the practices that make pairings successful or not, to examine the practice of pairing students from the mentor teachers' perspective, and to explore how collaboration between student teachers and mentor teachers lead to critical reflection about teaching. Data sources included semi-structured interviews with teacher candidates and cooperating mentors and teachers, observations and field notes. The site for this study was a university-based early childhood center.
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This paper examines a new initiative in integrated early childhood teacher education. Historically, field placements have evolved around a typical pattern of pairing a teacher candidate with one cooperating mentor teacher. Sorensen (2014) explains, “the most common practice has been to place a single student in a given subject area with a single ‘cooperating teacher’ or ‘mentor teacher’’ during field experiences for teacher candidates. Further, Baeten and Simons (2014) explain that, ”traditionally, field experiences in teacher education have been characterized by student teachers observing lessons before receiving the responsibility to teach individually” (p. 92). Gardiner and Robinson (2009) explain that utilizing the typical single placement approach “maintains the status quo rather than helps the teacher candidates reconstruct their understandings of teaching as a collaborative endeavor placing students at the center of learning” (p. 81). In the current study, two teacher candidates (also known as teacher candidate dyads) were paired with one cooperating mentor teacher. This initiative closely aligns with the co-teaching (Bacharach, N., Heck, T., Dahlberg, K., 2011, Ploessl, Rock, Schoenfeld, & Blanks, 2010, Scruggs, Mastropieri, & McDuffie, 2007) mandate that has been developed of late. Within this paper, synonyms for paired placements within a teaching experience are co-teaching, team teaching, partner teaching, cooperative teaching, and collaborative teaching (Baeten & Simons, 2014).

The collaborative features of co-teaching and paired placements have taken on increased importance in numerous fields and some major corporations. As Delisle (2014) explains, “the partnership for 21st Century skills, a National Organization with sponsors as diverse as Apple, Ford Motor Company, CISCO Systems, Crayola, and the National Education Association, have developed plans to synchronize the age old “three R’s” (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) of curriculum content with the following new “4 C’s” needed for 21st Century learners:

  • 1.

    Critical thinking and problem solving,

  • 2.


  • 3.

    Collaboration, and

  • 4.

    Creativity and innovation” (p. 17).

He further explains these skills should be coupled with global awareness, civic and environmental literacy so that learning may be maximized for all.

Co-teaching at the university level is popular as educators often utilize the various principles of co-teaching as they support teams of students involved in collaborative projects. Through practice, collaboration and disposition skills are further developed and polished (Darling Hammond, 2005; Gardiner & Robinson, 2011; & Nokes, Bullough, Egan, Birrell, & Hanse, 2008). Sorensen (2014) suggests “sustained, collaborative approaches, embedded in contexts, involving peer support as well as that from a more experienced mentor or coach tend to be the most effective” (p. 129). Moreover, Aoki (2005) expresses the concept of teaching as more than a mode of doing, but like collaborative approaches, teaching is a mode of “being with others” (p. 359). Thus, at a higher academic level, researchers (e.g. Wilson & Bolster, 2011) have emphasized the importance of a culture of teacher collaboration to support change and newfound leadership. The models of collaboration suggested in literature (Bullough, Jr. R., Young, J., Erickson, L., Birrell, J., Clark, D., Egan, M., Berrie, C., Hales, V., & Smith, G., 2002; Nokes, J. D. Bullough, Jr. R., Egan, W., Birrell, J., & Hansen, J. M., 2008; Sorensen, 2014) connect most research on teacher education, and mentoring or co-teaching with a strong structure of socio-cultural perspective, with an emphasis on the importance of discourse in the promotion of learning (Vygotsky, 1987).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Context: Parameters that support learning on the part of both teacher candidates and mentor teachers alike.

Social Learning Theory: People who learn together draw upon the experience, intellectual achievement, and emotional resources of others.

Situated Learning: The concept that learners accomplish more together than they do in isolation.

Ethnography: A form of study of an intact cultural group within a specific context. This is an important form of qualitative research.

Patterns of Tension: These are usually related to a lack of time or training to effectively collaborate.

Co-Teaching: When 2 or more educators jointly deliver instruction to a diverse, or blended, group of students in a single physical space. This term is used synonymously with terms such as “team teaching”, “paired teaching”, and “partner teaching”.

Collaboration: Exposing and exploring the perspectives of others.

Peer Placements: Pairing two teacher candidates with one mentor teacher.

Teacher Candidates: Junior or senior-level students who are in the process of completing the field portion of their education program in the classroom of a more experienced cooperating mentor teacher. This term is used interchangeably with terms such as “preservice teachers” or “student teachers” within quotations in the chapter.

Cooperating Mentor Teachers: The teachers who lead teacher candidates within their classrooms.

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