The field instructor plays a key support role in helping the intern develop standards-based practices in planning, teaching and assessment, and in becoming a fully participating member of the teaching profession. In addition, the field instructor supports the mentor teacher in problem-solving and providing effective mentoring practices. The field instructor also works with the cluster leader, subject area leader, program coordinator and team leader to understand and communicate current program practices and policies, and is available to pass along information provided by course instructors about planning and other course requirements. Note: For field instructor information pertaining specifically to elementary or secondary levels and subject areas, please use your MSU NetID to login to the course management system.
All field instructors may be interested in visiting the ASSIST website, which includes downloadable observation tools.
Problem Solving with Mentor Teachers
What if the mentor teacher is never there when I visit?
- Communicate with the mentor ahead of time about your visit, and set a time to meet with the mentor teacher alone. Explain to him or her that the intern is not ready to be left unsupervised in the classroom for long periods of time. Also express that you would value the mentor’s input during the observations and feedback sessions immediately following these when you visit the school.
- If this is a chronic problem, seek help from your subject-area leader or placement coordinator.
What if the mentor teacher does not return my emails?
- If you need an immediate response, try to communicate through the intern.
- When you pass by the school again, express your concern to the mentor about the difficulty in communicating, and ask what can be done to facilitate communication between the two of you.
- Would the mentor prefer a phone call?
- Does the mentor check an alternate e-mail address more frequently?
- It may be that the mentor is not good at replying to messages, and prefers to communicate through the intern.
Conducting an Observation
Establish a Purpose
There are different purposes for observations.
- First observation: general and comprehensive
- Subsequent observations: zero-in on specific aspects of teaching. Examples include the following:
- Facilitating a discussion
- Observing student/teacher interactions
- Conducting whole-class and small group instruction
- Technology use
- Movement around the classroom
- Establish the purpose for your visit with the intern beforehand
- The purpose may be guided by Program Standards
- The purpose may be guided by coursework the intern is completing
In order for you to make the most out of the observation, establish expectations for the intern and the mentor at the beginning of the year and remind them of your expectations periodically.
You may want to use the following as a guideline:
- The intern must submit the lesson plan at least 24 hours in advance of the observation.
- You may ask the intern to help set a goal for the observation.
- The intern should discuss the upcoming observation with the mentor, who may be able to help decide what particular lesson fits best with the current unit.
- The intern must communicate the teaching schedule to you in advance, as well as making you aware of extenuating circumstances as soon as possible (half days, snow days, assemblies).
- The intern should be available to meet with you to discuss the observation immediately following.
- The mentor should discuss the upcoming observation with the intern.
- The mentor can help supervise the lesson planning for the upcoming observation.
- You may ask for the mentor teacher’s input in helping to set a goal for the observation.
- Ideally, the mentor would observe the intern right alongside you. Try to conduct a co-observation with the mentor teacher at least once during the semester.
- The mentor should be a part of the de-briefing after the observation. If the mentor is not available due to teaching or other responsibilities, try to speak with them after meeting with the intern. If this is not possible, email them with notes about the observation.
Step-by-Step for Conducting Observations
Before the observation follow the steps listed below
1. Set a purpose for the observation, perhaps in conjunction with the intern and mentor teacher, and communicate it to all parties.
2. Determine which tool or resource will work best for the observation.
- Use a tool or resource suggested by your level or subject area leader
- Log-in to your course management system to locate additional observation tools
- Visit the ASSIST website for some samples
3. Determine where you will sit in the classroom during the observation, with input from the intern and mentor teacher.
During the observation follow the steps listed below
1. Use your observation tool to observe student behaviors or note teacher movements and shifts during instruction.
2. Take very descriptive notes in order to help guide your post-observation discussion, to record intern progress, and to help prepare for evaluations.
3. Jot down any questions you have so that you can remember to ask the intern during your post-observation discussions.
After the observation follow the steps listed below
1. Sit down in a quiet area with the intern and mentor (when available) for a post-observation conference.
2. Take notes during the conference.
3. Send your notes (and possibly your observation form) to the intern and mentor teacher after the conference.
Suggestions for the Post-Observation Conference
- Begin by asking the intern how he or she thought the lesson went. Oftentimes this will provide an opportunity to talk about areas of concern or in need of development.
- Share all the positive things you observed.
- Ask the intern any clarifying questions you noted during the observation.
- Ask questions to probe the intern and to guide her or him to become a reflective practitioner. For example, if you noticed that several students in the back of the room were disengaged during the lesson, and the intern stood in one spot in the front corner of the room throughout, you might ask: “What do you think would happen if you walked to the back of the room while you were giving those instructions?”
Types of Observations
- What are the “teacher moves” and “student moves” taking place?
- Does the lesson plan match instruction?
- How is the class structured? (Minutes per type of task/instruction)
- In what different ways are students engaged?
- How are materials used?
- In what ways are previously established norms and routines evident?
Quality of Discussion:
- What types of questions are asked? Open-ended, lower/higher order, etc.?
- Jot down questions asked by the intern/students and answered by the intern/students in order to give this feedback to the intern later.
- What is the teacher’s role during the discussion?
- What are the students’ roles during the discussion?
- How was the discussion structured?
- What type of closure was provided after the discussion?
Using a copy of the seating chart, tally the following:
- The intern calling on a student
- Provides a record of the students who spoke
- Provides a record of how many times each student spoke
- Student-initiated questions and intern-initiated questions
Discussion Pattern Follow-up
Discuss the following during the post-conference:
- Were students from all corners of the class involved in the discussion?
- Were boys and girls equally represented in the discussion?
- How many questions were posed by the teacher? By students?
- How much time was spent on “teacher talk”? “Student talk”?
- Use this discussion to help set goals for future observations.
Classroom Management (expand and collapse, add the following text):
Interns typically struggle with classroom management, especially at first.
- They are in the process of creating their identities as teachers
- They are often uncomfortable with coming across as too strict
Have conversations with them about their goals in this area
- Get input from the mentor teacher
- Help them set goals to improve their classroom management.
Improving Classroom Management
Interns’ classroom management may improve when attention is given to the following:
1. Well-developed lesson plans
- With good planning, there is less chance for chaos.
- Both the students and teacher have a sense of purpose.
2. Being prepared to teach (knowledge and planning)
- Knowing your material increases confidence.
- Having everything in order to be ready to teach leaves no time for empty spaces during class time.
3. Structure, routine and organization
- When students know what to expect, they respond accordingly.
- Adolescents switch classes constantly; having a routine in a class helps establish regularity and order.
- This does not mean that there is no room for creativity! But, students will at least know what the intern’s expectations are.
4. Organized materials for the day
- Waiting around for photocopies or technological assistance creates opportunities for chaos.
- Organization is part of lesson planning, as well as one of the professional teaching standards interns must meet.
5. A back-up plan (can be included in lesson plan)
- Having options is always a good thing; you never know when a class might not respond to a lesson.
- Always have a back-up plan when technology is involved.
- Good lesson planning leaves room for stepping it up or down as needed, as well as moving forward with the next step if the opportunity arises.
6. Pre-planned strategies to use if certain issues arise in the classroom
- Discuss with the intern and mentor what procedures are in place to address classroom management
- Help the intern negotiate how he or she will address common classroom management issues, such as excessive talking, tardiness, sleeping in class, etc.
- When certain behaviors become repetitive, help the intern find a solution, and make sure to engage the mentor teacher.
- There are multiple tools and resources for recording observations.
- Be sure to record things in such a way that you will understand your notes!
- You may add to your notes after the observation, but try to do so before you leave that school, while everything is fresh on your mind.
- Sometimes it helps to quote the intern or mentor, in order to capture what transpired.
- Make sure that your notes are professional, because you will be sharing these with the intern and mentor for their records as well.
- It is best to be transparent about all issues.