The Acorn

A Newsletter for CSB/SJU Cooperating Teachers

Volume 1, issue 5 * February 27, 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.

Follow-up on Feedback

Not that long ago, I served as an instructional mentor for new teachers to the district I worked in. My role was to assist the new teachers in improving their practice—pedagogy, management, content knowledge and delivery. Without a doubt, this was one of the most rewarding parts of my previous job. I had the opportunity to see new methods at work, learn new material, and help new professionals grow. One particular incident, relevant to the topic of this writing, stands out. I was observing a new special education teacher who was teaching the novel Wonder to her middle-level learners. In our pre-conference, I asked the teacher what she wanted me to look for in her teaching. She stated that she didn’t know. She just wanted me to look for “how things go.” I sat in the back of the room taking copious notes on her teaching, student behavior, interactions, questions and responses, and anything else I could possibly capture in that 50-minute class period. When the observation was complete, I had 8 single-spaced pages of notes. Not wanting to keep my observations from her, I printed off the notes and handed them to her to review prior to our post-conference. “Was I that bad?” she responded. WOW! This was an eye opener for me! “Oh, goodness, no.” I said. “Please let me have the notes so you’re not overwhelmed or worried.” When she handed them back to me, I asked her if she was to seek feedback on the lesson after the fact, what would she want me to comment on. After she told me, I went back through my notes and deleted at least 6 pages of material. At our post conference, we were able to engage in a meaningful conversation that followed the processes of quality feedback that current research is suggesting is most effective in education.

In the last issue of The Acorn, I suggested using Wiggins’ cycle of modeling, practicing, performing, providing feedback, and performing again. I also suggested focusing on a few strategies with clear goals and constructive feedback, honing in on just a few items for improvement. Hopefully, opportunities were available for that to happen. Following up on that, we can consider the model of feedback established by Hattie and Temperley (2007) that digs in a bit deeper.

We know that “feedback is information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal” (Wiggins, 2012) and that improvement efforts should always be goal focused. In Hattie and Temperley’s model, the goal drives the entire focus of feedback. In order to match instructional moments with the student teacher’s present level of performance, three major questions must be asked:

*Where am I going? (What are the goals?)

*How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?)

*Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?)

(Hattie & Timperley, 2007, p. 86)

Consider the scenario with the special education teacher and apply Wiggins’ and Hattie and Temperley’s ideas to the situation. After I conferenced with my mentee, we discussed present levels of performance and set goals for future lessons (Where am I going?). Once those goals were prioritized, I encouraged my mentee to observe me and other teachers with a focus on the goal areas. That modeling was discussed and then put into practice by the mentee (Wiggins’ model). Future observations recognized the goal specifically and ONLY referenced those areas related to the goal. As I worked with the special education teacher, we had a content-related goal and a class management related goal (Where am I going?). The only notes I took were specifically focused on those two goals. Note that the observational commentary was descriptive and objective, free from judgment (How am I going? with practice, performance, and feedback). Although it was sometimes difficult for me to remove evaluative comments or advice from these observations, there was power in allowing the special education teacher to reflect and evaluate on her own performance. It was also challenging to refrain from interrupting sometimes; although “immediate feedback is essential at task acquisition, immediate “error correction during fluency building can detract from the learning of automaticity and the associated strategies of learning” (Hattie & Temperley, 2007, p. 98). Still, by limiting the goal areas was able to relay what pedagogical moves she made that were effective, and she was able to identify moments that needed improvement. After feedback was shared, the professional conference regarding future progress toward previous and revised goals helped the special education teacher to build a personal toolbox of skills (Where to next? with additional practice and performance). Additionally, our later work together had a clear and positive structure.

In working with student teachers, the same principles apply:

*Help the student teacher work through Hattie and Temperley’s process.

*Limit the goals to provide a focused direction.

*Apply Wiggins’ process.

*Highlight positive progress and performance.

*Make feedback specific, descriptive, and focused on the goals only.

In the next few weeks, work with student teachers to develop a few goals (content, pedagogical, management, assessment, etc.) to work toward. With a limited focus and directed feedback, significant growth can happen.


Hattie, J., & Temperley, H. (2007, March). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1). 81-112.

Wiggins, G. (2012, September). Seven Keys to Effective Feedback. Educational Leadership, 70(1). Retrieved February 19, 2019, from

Big picture

Weeks 9 & 10: Just past mid-way

Weeks 9 and 10 mark the beginning of the second half of the student teaching experience. Secondary and k-12 licensure candidates will be in their first weeks of a new placement, 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?

The first few days as a cooperating teacher are important in setting up the student teacher for success. Prior to the student teacher's arrival, it is especially helpful to:

*Review the cooperating teacher handbook and student teaching handbook

*Connect with the student teacher and university supervisor

*Make arrangements for the student teacher in your classroom by setting up a workspace, gathering materials, providing internet access, and preparing current students

*Inform appropriate individuals of your planned student teacher including support staff, department or team members, and parents/guardians of your students.

(Specific Orientation information can be found on pages 9-11 and Appendix G of the handbook)

Once the student teacher arrives, ease the student teacher into their new role as would be done with any scaffolded unit. A gradual progression is often best for our student teachers, regardless of how competent and confident they appear upon arrival (Henry & Weber, 2016, p. 5). Student teachers have had experience observing and teaching mini-lessons or units, but the entry into full responsibility has a steep learning curve. Allow your student teacher to:

*Observe you and other staff members

*Participate in planning and staff meetings

*Collaborate on a few lessons prior to gaining individual responsibility

*Team teach

*Be observed by you

*Receive specific, guided feedback on strengths and improvements

At the end of each day of those first few weeks, 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.

Cooperating teachers with new placements:

In the student teacher's first week in your classroom, please complete:

Cooperating Teacher Information Form


Conduct an informal observations followed by discussion with specific, guided feedback (nothing submitted to the university; this is for the student's benefit).

*In the student teacher's second week in your classroom, 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.)

Cooperating teachers finishing with student teachers:

*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