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Cooperating Teachers: The Forgotten Piece of the Teacher Training Puzzle | Anestin Chi

Updated: Apr 4

Attaining SDG4 entails making conscious investment in teacher preparation because at the heart of “the education we want”, lies “the teachers we need”. Yet, the quest “to reverse teacher shortage” (UNESCO, 2023) has not sufficiently taken account of the various pieces of the teacher training puzzle.

  

Cooperating Teachers: The Forgotten Piece of the Teacher Training Puzzle.

 

Hornby Scholars Anestin Chi'22 and Jules Fadidac'21


At the heart of initial teacher training lies teaching practice (TP), which Du Plessis, Marais, Van Schalkwyk & Weeks (2010) describe as “the most single powerful intervention in teachers’ professional preparation” (p.328). TP is an essential component of initial teacher education because it gives pre-service teachers hands-on experience of teaching (Bloomfield, 2010) and helps them to bridge the gap between educational theory and practice (Yunus, Hashim, Ishak, & Mahamod, 2010).

 


In Cameroon, like elsewhere, pre-service teacher training for secondary school teachers is done in teacher training colleges (TTCs) dotted across the nation. While most of the training in TTCs focuses on theoretical learning about teaching, the last quarter (10-12 weeks) of the training is dedicated to TP in host schools under the supervision of “Cooperating Teachers” also called “Mentor-Teachers” (Ambrosetti, 2014). The latter are expected to develop the required disposition and professional knowledge to guide and ensure the smooth transition of pre-service teachers into the profession. Paradoxically, the designated cooperating teachers have not been provided any training to help them accomplish the delicate roles they are called upon to handle during this crucial phase. 

 


Cooperating Teachers are designated by Regional Pedagogic Inspectorates and assigned pre-service teachers based on longevity in service and/or teaching quality. But as Dewey (1938) explains, longevity alone is insufficient and does not necessarily make anyone a good teacher. It takes intentional continuous professional development to “develop more informed practice” (Crandall, 2000, p.40).


Anestin Chi in session


With regard to teaching quality, Pedagogic Inspectors designate some Cooperating Teachers based on their ability to deliver good lessons as attested by previous in-class observation reports – inspectors visit schools on a rolling basis, they observe teachers and are able to identify proficient teachers. But again, being a “good” teacher does not necessarily make one a good mentor (Ambrosetti, 2014). Both experienced and/or good teachers who serve as cooperating teachers generally have little or no knowledge of mentoring. Consequently, it goes without saying that if experienced and/or “good” teachers should engage in mentoring, they must be provided relevant training as mentoring and teaching have their specificities.


Project Team member, Robert Kenfack engages with other Educators


Cooperating Teachers play a key role in shaping the experiences of pre-service teachers during TP. Consequently, the mentoring practices they adopt determine the quality of learning and how much student-teachers can gain. This implies that if mentor-teachers are not sufficiently equipped, they might not be able to ensure that pre-service teachers benefit fully from the field experience and grow professionally. Of course, no one is born a mentor. Mentoring skills, like all other skills, are learnt and developed with practice. In the absence of relevant training, cooperating teachers either rely on their intuition or simply draw from their own TP experiences as student-teachers and replicate the same strategies/approaches their own mentors used at the time (Knowles & Cole, 1996), which could be detrimental to their own pre-service mentee-teachers. Yet, research blames increasing rates of attrition amongst early career teachers on the negative experiences they had during TP arguing that quality TP mentoring builds “the capability and resilience aspiring teachers require to effectively transition into the profession” (Ellis et al., 2020, p.2). Consequently, if we must get “the teachers we need for the education we want” in line with the theme of World Teachers Day 2023, there must be a conscious investment in teacher preparation, in general, and the capacity building of cooperating teachers, in particular. This is perhaps one of the most effective ways of tackling “the global imperative to reverse teacher shortage” (UNESCO, 2023).



It is with this understanding that the project entitled Teaching Practice Mentoring: Workshop for Cooperating Teachers was conceived and executed (in partnership with Open Dreams and IELTA-Cameroon) with a grant from the A.S. Hornby Educational Trust, UK.

  • Anestin Chi, The Project Lead,

 ...

 

 References

  • Ambrosetti, A. (2014). Are you ready to be a mentor?: Preparing teachers for mentoring pre-service teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education (Online), 39(6), 30-42.

  • Bloomfield, D. (2010). Emotions and ‘getting by’: A pre-service teacher navigating professional experience. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 38(3), 221-234.

  • Crandall, J. (2000). Language teacher education. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 20, 34-55.

  • Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. Simon & Schuster.

  • Du Plessis, E.C., Marais, P., Van Schalkwyk, A., & Weeks, F. (2010). Adapt or die: The views of unisa student teachers on teaching practice at schools. Africa Education Review, 7(2), 323-341.

  • Knowles, G. J., & Cole, A. L. (1996). Developing practice through field experiences

  • In F. B. Murray (Ed.), The teacher educator’s handbook: Building a knowledge base for the preparation of teachers (pp. 648-688). Jossey-Bass.

  • Yunus, M. M., Hashim, H., Ishak, N. M., & Mahamod, Z. (2010). Understanding TESL pre-service teachers’ teaching experiences and challenges via post-practicum reflection forms. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 9, 722-728.

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