The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 2, issue 13 * February 19, 2020

(All issues of The Acorn are available on the CSB/SJU Education Department website under Student Teaching. Access them through this link.

Growing, Nurturing, Developing, and Supporting

"The Acorn" is a newsletter for the cooperating teachers working with student teachers from the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. This publication is intended to help our cooperating teachers understand their roles and responsibilities as well as provide them with current research and best practice on working with student teachers.

Cooperating Teacher as Assessor--Providing Dispositional Feedback

In the past few weeks, I have been working with student teachers about and thinking a lot about two topics—assessments and dispositions. It should not come as a surprise to me that when we put things into the universe, they come back. I popped into a local grocery recently and ran into a former student who is now in a managerial position there. I always enjoy seeing my former students succeed and relish the opportunity to catch up with them. As we visited, the young woman made a comment about my class and teaching in relation to her current job, and I had to chuckle when she brought up topics around assessments and dispositions. She commented on how my class helped her learn how to write, how to think, and how important it is to “be good, be safe, and be nice to somebody” (my daily closing tagline). Then she noted how valuable it was that she received honest feedback as well as strategies for using that feedback. She noted there was no mincing of words when work, performance, or interactions with others fell short of the mark but that there was also a lot of support given and value shown for each individual. There were a few other instances where assessment and dispositions were presented together in conversation, and it struck me how important it is to provide contextual feedback regarding our attitudes, values and beliefs and how they relate to our work in classrooms and schools.

This interaction with my former student serves to preface the intention of the next role mentor and cooperating teachers have in the student teacher relationship—assessor. Ambrosetti and Dekkers (2010) identify this role—the assessor-- as involving the providing of feedback, giving constructive criticism, encouraging self-reflection and problem solving, and tracking individual progress toward goals (p. 48). Within the context of the assessor/student teacher relationship, the assessor is asked to help the student teacher use feedback to guide future teaching and interactions (Ambrosetti & Dekkers, 2010, p. 51) without judgment or evaluation, rather to consider progress toward certain criteria or beliefs. It is the lack of judgment or evaluation that is critical in the role of the assessor. Student teachers need an open and supportive relationship with their cooperating teachers “as a basis for developing the confidence in their own expression in the classroom” (Rajuan, Biejaard & Verloop, 2007, p. 238). In determining their understanding of themselves as teachers and their professional roles, responsibilities, and expectations, student teachers need feedback that marries specificity, the opportunity for ownership of improvement, and care for the individual.

The day-to-day opportunities to assess and have input or feedback are more valuable than the formal final evaluation, especially in terms of dispositions. Student teachers’ “existing orientations are often challenged when they come into conflict with the realities of the classroom” (Rajuan, Biejaard & Verloop, 2007, p. 226). According to Wenzel and Roberts (2014), “many new teachers have the basic knowledge and skills necessary, but, if these are unaccompanied by appropriate dispositions toward teaching, learning, and students, students may not achieve academic success.” As educators, we know what this may look like (i.e., a lack of respect for the ideas or opinions of others, lack of listening skills, sharing the workload, being timely to school or meetings, completing work in a professional or timely manner). It can be particularly challenging for mentor and cooperating teachers when the expectations they have for themselves do no match the dispositions and actions of student teachers (Rajuan, Biejaard, & Verloop, 2007, p. 223). But, “providing explicit feedback is one of the most powerful tools we can use to help teachers develop appropriate and desired dispositions” (Diez 2007, p. 212-13). While most student teachers do not have significant dispositional concerns, we must recognize that some do. If left unaddressed or brushed under the rug, we set the stage for these issues to continue. As a former cooperating teacher and principal, I know the tension it creates when a student teacher’s performance and dispositions don’t met expectations, and I have had to address future employment possibilities when people have not reached the bar that was set. I’d like to think of it as a gift to the individual and to their students to be honest about dispositions, especially when opportunities for supported change are offered.

The Education Department at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University is committed to developing educators who are mindful of their dispositions as they relate to becoming highly effective teachers. In their journey through our program, they have assessed their dispositions, but now is an excellent time for these emerging educators to consider how their dispositions are reflected in their teaching, where their strength areas are, and where they can have an intentional focus toward improvement.

I encourage you, as cooperating teachers, to look through the linked document and take time with your student teacher to talk about each of the dispositions, which firmly addresses Rajuan, Biejaard, and Verloop’s (2007) idea of the personal orientations. Conducting assessments (by the cooperating teacher and student teacher) around dispositions that lead to open dialogue can help a student teacher think about their personal and professional growth and impact.

CSB/SJU Dispositions: descriptions and references.pdf


Ambrosetti, A. & Dekkers, J. (2010, Oct.), The interconnectedness of the roles of mentors and mentees in pre-service teacher education mentoring relationships. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35:6, 42-55.

Diez, Mary. (2007). The Role of Coaching in Working with Dispositions. In M.E. Diez & J. Raths (Eds.), Dispositions in teacher education. (pp. 203-218). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Rajuan, M., Beijaard, D., & Verloop, N. (2007). The role of the cooperating teacher: Bridging the gap between the expectations of cooperating teachers and student teachers. Mentoring & Tutoring, 15:3, 223-242.

Wenzel, A., & Roberts, J. (2014, September). Coaching Teacher Dispositions. Retrieved February 14, 2020, from

What to Do in Weeks 8 & 9

Remember that helpful information can be found in our Student Teaching Handbook.

For cooperating teachers with students in 12- or 16-week placements:

Weeks 8 and 9—

*If you haven’t already, complete the mid-placement evaluation and discuss with the student teacher

*Allow the student teacher to teach 80% of the time (more if there is mutual agreement)

*Assist student teacher in addressing areas needing improvement with continued informal observations and feedback

*Conduct a formal observation by the end of week 10 (this should be the third formal evaluation)

Here are the forms:

Cooperating Teacher’s Mid-Placement Evaluation of Student Teacher (2019-2020)

This evaluation should be done at the mid-point of each placement. A copy of this will be sent to the cooperating teacher, student teacher, and university electronically.

Student Teaching Observation (by CT/US/DST)

This observation/evaluation form should be used to complete observations throughout the placement. A minimum of three formal observations of the student teacher is required. The entire form does not need to be completed for each observation; however, by the end of the placement, each part should be addressed.

For cooperating teachers with students in their final week of an 8-week placement:
Week 8—

*Have the student teacher teach half time and observe either you or colleagues the other half

*Participate in the final meeting

*Write a letter of recommendation or reference for your student teacher (email a copy to and the student teacher)

*Complete the following forms:

Student Teacher’s Dispositional Evaluation (for CT/US)

This form should be completed at the end of the placement. Our program assesses student dispositions that we believe are essential to becoming a professional educator. The comments on this form should be part of the final evaluation conference.

Student Teaching Final Evaluation (by Cooperating Teacher)

This form is the culminating evaluation of the student teacher’s work. Our program uses this document for final assessment of the student and for program improvement. Please complete the entirety of the form.

Evaluation of University Supervisor

This form provides feedback regarding your relationship with and cooperation from the university supervisor. Please complete this at the end of the placement.

For cooperating teachers with students beginning their second 8-week placement:

Week 9—

*Help the student teacher get to know your students, the teachers, and the school

*Review the Orientation Guidelines/Checklist with cooperating teacher (see Appendix G in the handbook)

*Assist the student teacher in setting up observations--one of the cooperating teacher and another of a colleague

*Allow the student teacher to assist with planning, preparation of lessons and materials, monitoring of individual and group work.

*Determine which classes the student teacher will lead building to teaching one less than the teacher’s full load.

*Allow the student teacher to teach a lesson you have co-planned. Observe this lesson and provide feedback to the student teacher (See pages 28-29 in the handbook)

*Complete the following forms:

Cooperating Teacher's Information

This document is used to track our placement of student teachers and to obtain additional contact information on the cooperating teacher. If you have been a cooperating teacher in the last two years, you do not need to complete this.

Please continue to visit with the student teacher about how they are doing, what plans you have, how they can contribute, and deliver any feedback you have about the day. It is best to be transparent, upfront, and clear! Student teachers appreciate honestly knowing how they are doing. It helps calm their nerves and assists in building communication.

Our Own Diversity Is Important to Culturally Responsive Pedagogies

In becoming a culturally responsive educator, we must embrace the beauty and complexities of our own identity. Rebecca Hwang reminds us of this in her TedTalk, delivered in 2018.

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching