The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 1, issue 4 * February 13, 2019

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.

Feedback for Student Teachers: Research and Methods

Good job, well done, checkmark, +1/-1, excellent: as teachers, we provide feedback to our students all of the time. But, how often does that feedback specify what was done well or what needs to be corrected? Good job on what? Excellent how? What was wrong that I lost a point? The kind of feedback we give doesn’t always capture the essence of what deserves praise and what needs correction. And, if something requires improvement, we often don’t specify how that improvement could be made. As a student and teacher, I have received a great deal of feedback, but what I found was that quality feedback was one of the most important factors in moving me forward in my personal education. As an English teacher, advisor, and coach, providing feedback was part of my everyday life. I was constantly delivering feedback—notes on essays, strategies for improving skills, redirections, verbal and non-verbal comments-- to my students, but I didn’t give much mind to it. My thinking on feedback changed drastically with two turns in my career: becoming a teacher mentor and writing my Masters’ thesis on why English teachers don’t teach writing. Through both of these, I learned valuable lessons about feedback including conditions for delivery, how it should be delivered, when it should be delivered, and the focus of delivery.

For student teachers to be receptive to feedback, it is important to have a positive relationship established. Carl Rogers noted, “the primary task of the teacher is to permit the student to learn, to feed his or her own curiosity. Merely to absorb the facts is of only slight value in the present…in true teaching, there is no place for the authoritarian, nor the person who is on an ego trip” (1983, p. 18). Feedback should be given with the aim to improve practice rather than break down the individual. I can easily remember several instances at athletic events where coaches pulled their athletes aside and berated them for mistakes they made. It was easy to see the purpose and esteem fall away from the athlete. Nothing was gained at the moment other than the athlete being embarrassed or knowing they did something wrong. On the other hand, I’ve seen powerful moments of mentorship watching directors work with musicians and vocalists to pick up and perfect difficult stanzas of music through modeling, practice, explicit feedback, more practice, and praise. These were obviously very different situations, but the notable difference was the purpose or motive of the coach/director. What did each have to lose or gain from their actions? For our student teachers, we need to be mindful of the motive for our feedback; it should be helpful and focus on the behavior, not the person (Teacher and Education Support Development Unit, 2010, p. 12). This is sometimes difficult when the student teacher wants to try new pedagogies or management systems, or when what is being done at the moment doesn’t align with our beliefs or practices. Balancing allowing the student teacher to stretch while maintaining curricular and management control can be challenging for a cooperating teacher; however, with continuous support and effective feedback, the scale can be leveled (Podsen & Denmark, 2000, p. 64). Ultimately, the quality of the relationship built between the student teacher and the cooperating teacher will allow the feedback to be understood, accepted, and acted upon.

Much research has been done on how feedback should be delivered to students. We know that to be effective, feedback should be “accurate, constructive, substantive, specific, and timely” (Danielson, 1996, p. 100). Of those qualifiers, three stand out—substantitive, specific, and timely. Darling-Hammond (2010) advocated for greater use of descriptive feedback in classrooms noting that informative, detailed comments specific to observable behaviors make the greatest difference in improving performance. Additional research has found that clarity in the commentary is necessary to advance learning, especially when “implemented effectively, [it] can have a dramatic impact on student learning, motivation, and behavior” (Levin & Nolan, 2010, p. 108). Relating this to student teachers, any feedback given should be descriptive in nature, connected to a specific behavior or disposition. The purpose of substantive and specific feedback should always be to “expand knowledge of teaching skills and learners” (Henry & Weber p. 7).

As students and teachers, we know the value of receiving feedback in a timely manner, especially when the content is fresh in our minds. Research supports the idea that feedback should be given in a timely manner, as close to the moment where improvement is needed without interrupting the teaching moment. Scheeler, Ruhl, & McAfee (2004), found that immediacy is one of the most important features of effective feedback; yet, it may not always be appropriate because it can “reduce instructional momentum” (403). When there is a delay between the instructional moment and review, it is recommended that clear, descriptive notes capture the behaviors as accurately as possible to ground discussion (Teacher and Education Support Development Unit, 2010, p. 13). Whenever feedback is given, we need to remember that feedback given within a relationship of mutual respect and purpose “is a critical component in the process of learning. Without [this relationship], the skill attainment level may be as low as 15 percent; whereas, with [this relationship], there is a 90 percent level of direct transfer in the area of skill acquisition” (Joyce & Showers, 1980, as cited in Podsen & Denmark, 2000, p. 93).

Feedback by itself, however, has little meaning unless it is put into practice. In her work on professional practice, Danielson (1996) asserts that “value of feedback is maximized if students use it in their learning” (101). Wiggins (1998) concurs stating that students “must have opportunities to use the feedback” in order to achieve excellence by cycles of “model-practice-perform-feedback-perform.” With Wiggin’s cycle in mind, consider the location of feedback; it sits in the middle of performance, not at the end. As an English teacher, I began my career by giving students feedback on their writing after it was done, bleeding wells of red ink onto their papers only to have them put away and never reflected upon. Later in my career, and with the research done on my Masters’ thesis, I changed my feedback cycle to be done during the writing process with the intention that any corrections or ideas noted in the final grade would be the focus areas for the next essay. Once I changed the cycle, student performance improved significantly (and my long hours of grading were cut by more than half). Wiggins (1998) confirms this notion: “Excellence is attained by such cycles of model-practice-perform-feedback-perform.” Remember that student teaching requires constant formative assessment, and formative assessment may be “one of the more powerful weapons in a teacher’s arsenal” (Marzano, 2007, p. 13)—to correct, to reinforce, to redirect, to move or motivate.

How can we improve our feedback? What ideas are there for improving our practice with student teachers?

*Whenever possible, wait to comment, critique, or correct until the instruction is over.

*Keep a feedback notebook. When observing the student teacher, take notes on the context of corrections needed. Or, ask the student teacher for behaviors to “look for” then comment only on those areas of improvement.

*Begin with a positive, find the good to build on

*Focus on descriptions, not judgments

*Offer advice ONLY if asked; suggestions and options help the student teacher develop a personal tool box

*Help the student teacher implement changes; work out a plan for “next time.” Like a lesson plan, a cooperating teacher can establish an objective or learning target for the student teacher to help answer the “where am I going” question (Ellis & Loughland, 2017, p. 55).

Over the next few weeks, consider using Wiggins’ cycle of modeling, practicing, performing, providing feedback, and performing again. Help the student teacher practice a few strategies with clear goals and constructive feedback. Hone in on a couple things to add to the toolbox. With purposeful direction and support, real growth can happen.


Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching.

Alexandria,VA: ASCD.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). Performance counts: Assessment systems that support high-

quality learning. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.

Ellis, N. J. & Loughland, T. (2017). Where to next?: Examining feedback received by

teacher education students. Issues in Educational Research, 27(1), 51-63.

Henry, M.A. & Weber, A. (2016). Coaching a student teacher. Lanham, MD: Rowman &


Levin, J. & Nolan, J.F. (2010). Principles of classroom management: a professional

decision-making model. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Marzano, R.J. (2007). The Art and science of teaching: a comprehensive framework for

effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Podsen, I.J. & Denmark, V.M. (2000). Coaching and mentoring first-year and student

teachers. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education, Inc.

Rogers, C.R. (1983). Freedom to learn for the 80's. Columbus: Charles E. Merrill


Scheeler, M. C., Ruhl, K. L., & McAfee, J. K. (2004). Providing performance feedback to

teachers: A review. Teacher Education and Special Education, 27(4), 396- 407.

Teacher and Education Support Development Unit. (2010). A Learning guide for teacher

mentors(Rep.). East Melbourne, Victoria: State of Victoria: Department of Education and

Early Childhood Development.

Wiggins, Grant. Educative assessment: Designing assessments to inform and improve

student performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1998.

Big picture

Weeks 7 & 8: Weeks of transition

In weeks 7 & 8, most student teachers are teaching nearly full time and are preparing to transition to their second placements. Secondary and k-12 licensure candidates will make the transition after week 8, and elementary k-6 candidates will transition after week 9. With that in mind, there are several considerations, reminders, and checkpoints that should be done.

What are the areas of focus for the cooperating teacher in the next few weeks?

*Observe to provide specific feedback for the student teacher as discussed in the feature article.

*Assist in completing necessary edTPA tasks prior to the student teacher's departure from your classroom.

Here are helpful links for that:

*Make plans with the student teacher for student work completion and evaluation to be done prior to leaving. Determine responsibilities and expectations to close the time together.

What forms and tasks need to be completed before my student teacher transitions?

*Conduct a formal observation using one of the following forms:

Student Teacher's Instructional Evaluation

Student Teacher's Observation and Disposition Evaluation

(Please forward the emailed copy of the observation to your student teacher's university supervisor.)

*Complete the end-of-placement evaluations

Cooperating Teacher's End-of-Placement Evaluation (This evaluates dispositions and general aptitudes)

Final Student Teacher Evaluation of Standards of Effective Practice (This evaluates specific standards identified by the State as necessary for teacher licensure)

Evaluation of University Supervisor (This provides feedback on the university supervisor's work with the student teacher and cooperating teacher as well as communications from the university)

*Meet with the student teacher and university supervisor to share strengths and areas of improvement.

*Finally, write a letter of recommendation for your student teacher that will be submitted to the university supervisor and the Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching. This is required in order to receive CEUs and honorarium. Please send to

NOTE: If your student teacher has recently transitioned into your classroom, please refer to the previous issues of The Acorn for weekly expectations based on your student teacher's timeline in your classroom. If you have questions, feel free to contact Jennifer Meagher.

Call for Chapters--An exciting opportunity to be published

How Teachers Persist: Why We Remain (and Thrive) in this Challenging Profession

Edited by Terri L. Rodriguez, Heidi L. Hallman, Kristen Pastore-Capuana

We invite chapters co-authored by K-12 teachers and teacher educators that reflect how they persist, remain, and thrive in our challenging profession. The book is premised on the idea that co-authors will be colleagues and mentors to each other, but will share the attribute of being “invested stayers” in the education profession. Co-authors will have used catalysts (landmark changes in education) as productive sites for growth, agency, and even resistance across the arc of their professional lives. The book recognizes that we persist because of multiple and overlapping factors between our professional and personal lives, including the relationships we develop with each other as colleagues and mentors in our professional development.

Each chapter will focus on co-authors’ teaching lives through a changing landscape of New Times (Gee, 2000; Gee, Hull & Lankshear, 1996; Luke & Elkins, 1998). New Times has aimed to characterize changing aspects of the current era in which we live and scholars have noted factors such as the rise of the Internet and interconnectivity, globalization, and demographic diversity (Coomes & DeBard, 2004; Howe & Strauss, 2000; Rodriguez & Hallman, 2013) as shaping the current era.

Contributors to the book will orient their chapter to one of the landscapes below. Though we envision that one landscape will orient the chapter, we also understand that commentary on multiple landscapes will likely be discussed within chapters. We are particularly interested in hearing about how change can be re-envisioned to propel one’s professional growth.

Digital Landscapes

● Equitable access to technology (e.g., 1:1 initiatives)

● 21st century digital tools (e.g., digital video, podcasting, Google Classroom)

● Social media

● Sociotechnical landscapes

Political Landscapes

● Top-down educational reform and assessments (e.g., CCLS)

● Teacher certification assessments (e.g., edTPA)

● Scripted curriculum and standardized testing culture

Social Landscapes

● Increasing numbers of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) K-12 students

● Access and resource gaps

● Changing communities Disciplinary Landscapes:

● Changing methodologies in one’s discipline

● New visions for classroom teaching and schooling

● Innovative approaches to curriculum and practice (e.g., project-based learning)

Format for chapter: Chapters will consist of narrative essays and commentary and should be written in second and/ or third person voice. However, we encourage authors to include stories that exemplify their experience in first-person and these will be included in textboxes. Some teachers and teacher educators may wish to weave their narrative essays and commentary together; others may wish to create distinct sections to their chapter--with one section featuring the teacher educator’s voice and another section featuring the teacher’s voice.

Timeline: Interested contributors should submit an abstract (250-300 words) by April 1, 2019. Please indicate which of the above landscape your chapter will exemplify. Please submit your abstract to Terri Rodriguez ( Accepted chapters will be notified by May 1, 2019. First drafts of completed chapters (3,500-4,500 words) will be due by August 15, 2019. Final drafts will be due by November 15, 2019. The book is under contract with the publisher.

Submissions Welcome!

Submissions to this newsletter are welcome from stakeholders in the CSB/SJU student teaching process. Send copy, pictures, etc., to Jennifer Meagher at

CSB/SJU Education Department

Jennifer L. Meagher, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary and Secondary Student Teaching