“Part Three: CSU Stanislaus on Mentor Teacher Professional Development” was written by Anne W. Weisenberg and Noelle Won from the Department of Teacher Education at California State University (CSU) – Stanislaus. This post is part of NCTR’s multi-part blog series which highlights our work and the work of our partners at the CSU system through the New Generation of Educators Initiative. CSU Stanislaus is focused on providing teacher mentors in its partner districts with the professional development they need to thoroughly and effectively prepare California’s aspiring teachers for the rigors of the classroom.

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At CSU Stanislaus, our goal is to create meaningful and actionable professional development (PD) opportunities for mentor teachers to support their work with teacher candidates, and ultimately, impact student achievement. To do this, we take a three-pronged approach to mentor PD. First, we have clearly articulated the instructional skills – content and pedagogy – that mentors must prioritize in their work with teacher candidates. Secondly, we ensure our mentors have the coaching strategies needed for providing effective, evidence-based feedback to candidates. Finally, we encourage mentors and candidates to use the co-teaching structure to optimize the clinically oriented teacher preparation experience.

During a four-day training series, our team and partners from the University of Washington facilitated the roll out of, and provided support for, a newly adopted growth and evaluation tool for teacher candidates called the 5D+ Rubric. The series was delivered to more than 40 selected mentor teachers, 25 university supervisors, key district administrators and principals from several anchor sites. This training helped establish a common language for the necessary teacher educator skills that will be prioritized for candidates. Additionally, attendees were able to use the 5D+ Rubric to practice providing feedback to teacher candidates after classroom observations. The training also provided opportunities for practitioners to engage in conversations that created a shared vision for the future of teacher education and, ultimately, built greater camaraderie in our teaching community.

Additionally, the university hosts after-school “Co-teaching Overview with Meet and Greets” at the beginning of each semester for each district. University supervisors, teacher candidates and mentor teachers – who make up our triads – are invited to attend. During the meet and greets, we discuss co-teaching schedules and structures, encourage lesson co-planning for candidates and mentors, and review the roles and responsibilities of each triad member. To ensure the success of the co-teaching model, two 30-minute mentor support meetings are scheduled during the semester, with the university supervisor checking in on the co-teaching responsibilities and communicating goals for the student teacher’s growth.

Our co-teaching model has resulted in increased involvement and collaboration between mentor teachers and teacher candidates. Candidates have shared that they regularly receive explicit feedback with actionable ways to improve their skills. One candidate said, “. . . my cooperating teacher is really great about kind of stepping in and talking to me and saying ‘I would do this, this and this.’ And I’m very quick about implementing that into the lesson. So that works really well . . . because I have that expert standing there who’s like ‘I’ve taught this before.” A mentor teacher shared, “I know that it’s important to be specific about things and provide feedback …they can implement quickly.”

These supports for mentor teacher are well-established within two of our partner districts. To build on this system and increase our reach in the region, we are working to create and use web-based training modules. We are excited about the progress of our mentor teachers and realize that they are key to strengthening the clinical practice of our teacher candidates and preparing them to be ready for their own classrooms on Day 1.

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Anne W. Weisenberg, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Teacher Education
Coordinator Multiple Subject Credential Program, Reading Methods
California State University, Stanislaus

Noelle Won, Ed.D.
Professor, Department of Teacher Education
Multiple Subject Credential Program, Math Methods
California State University, Stanislaus