Innovative student teaching using triad model

GTEP students Christine Campanella, left, and Martha Rodriguez plan a lesson together for their practicum.

In our last GSE newsletter, we featured a story on a new kind of internship experience, the triad model. Two schools and a cohort group of students report in this issue on their findings.

Try to imagine your first day as a brand-new teacher. You’re fully prepared, you have lots of great ideas, and you’re scared stiff. The Graduate Teacher Education Program final student teaching experience is intended to help familiarize students with the day-to-day classroom environment, but a system can always use improvement. So how can we better support new teacher candidates in their transition to the classroom?

In the standard model, student teachers are placed singly and a supervising teacher from outside the school visits the classroom for observations three times during the term. This brief interaction offers little time for support of or constructive feedback with the student teacher.

GSE professors Nicole Rigelman, Barb Ruben, and Karen Noordhoff created a new program based on the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model. The PLC is a strengths-based, collaborative model that helps student teachers become active participants in their own learning. To achieve this for student teaching, they put together a triad model that places two student teachers with a cooperating teacher in each classroom.

With the triad model, candidates support each other and provide feedback continuously throughout their student teaching experience. With two student teachers in the classroom, they are able to develop a collaborative relationship and contribute ideas to support learning and better understand how their class is progressing. This changes the dynamic of their experience by taking the student teacher out of the role of apprentice-as-imitator and putting him or her into a position of active inquiry and participation. The student teachers are engaged with and supported by each other in every activity.

“One thing that the interns in this cohort have that other interns do not is each other. I know that setting up the writers workshop in my classroom in such a short amount of time would not have been as successful if I didn’t have the extra help.”

In the triad model, student teachers attend school building meetings, meet weekly with their cohort group, and have more interaction with supervising teachers. The larger cohort also sets up a wiki that provides the student teachers with a place where they can work collaboratively on projects, share lesson plans and experiences, and discuss theories and their implementation.

Many times during the day, the student teachers work out a lesson together and give feedback about how it turned out and what they can improve. Some projects start small, but through collaboration they grow into much larger, more comprehensive lessons.

Two schools partner with the GSE
Fourteen student teachers participated in the program at two schools, Winterhaven in southeast Portland and Vestal in northeast. The schools are in the Portland Public School District and are comprised of significantly different student populations.

At Winterhaven School, after initial concerns about adding to the workload of current teaching staff, the program went smoothly. Principal Rudy Rudolph (now retired) is still an enthusiastic advocate. “I would rate this program so much higher than anything else,” she says. “At the end of each day, the interns would sit down and review their day. What I like about this model is that as an intern you get two different perspectives in terms of what happened. There’s so much to be gained by having both.”

Cohort leaders pleased with the results
Not only is the triad model more beneficial for the student teacher, there are also advantages for the classroom. One student teacher comments that “setting up the writers workshop in my classroom in such a short amount of time would not have been as successful if I didn’t have the extra help.”

Dr. Rigelman point out that having the additional adults in the classroom also provides the opportunity for connections with children who may need additional positive adult interaction. “Not everyone clicks with every student,” she says.

GTEP graduate Christine Campanella participated in the triad model and is anxious to land her first teaching job. She says, “I know I’m a better teacher because of the collaboration we did. Every lesson got better because of the opportunity for feedback.”

GTEP graduate Martha Rodriguez has just been hired for her first job. She is grateful for the support the triad model offers. “It made it easier to have somebody go along in the process with you,” she says. “One little project would grow to a huge, amazing result.”

Student teachers who experienced the model say they had a very rich experience. By doubling up in the classroom, the pace of learning increased—student teachers were able to learn twice as much in the same amount of time.

The triad model is not unique to PSU. Since the program’s inception this year, cohort leaders have found a few other examples of triad groups in the education industry. Initial reviews of the data collected confirm powerful results for this new approach. This is due in part to intentional moves Dr. Rigelman and Ms. Ruben have made as cohort leaders. Dr. Rigelman, with co-leader Olivia Murray, will continue to employ and study this collaborative model with her cohort GTEP group this year as well.

2009-10 Annual Report | Contents

6 thoughts on “Innovative student teaching using triad model

  1. As the Director of Field Experiences (student teaching) I found this article to be very interesting. I would like more information and a contact e-mail address so that I can discuss this further. Based on results of further reading and discussion I would like to plan and inplement this model as a pilot program.

    Thank you.
    S. Cucchia

  2. I’m curious: Do the (former) student teachers ever report feeling “stranded and all alone” when they leave a classroom that has three adults in it, to enter a classroom as the sole teacher upon being hired as beginning teachers, after participating in this model?

  3. As a former student teacher who participated in the above mentioned student teaching cohort, I do not feel stranded in my own classroom. I still speak with many of my PSU classmates and often go to them for advice and collaboration experiences when I have questions or ideas. I have gone through two student teaching experiences in two different states. The first was a traditional model, and the second was within the triad model. In the traditional model, I felt that my only contact outside of the host school was my university supervisor, who did not always understand the daily concerns I had within my particular classroom. In the triad model I was able to bounce ideas off of a person in the same situation, and work to solve problems at that level. Of course, with this model also comes unique issues, most of which I experienced dealt with the cooperating teacher and the two student teachers finding time to meet together and individually as well as all getting a chance to teach together and individually. I knew of a few student teacher pairings that dealt with issues of how one student teacher’s behavior would affect the other student teacher and the class’s view of them both, but this was minimal and pairing even one student teacher and a cooperating teacher can be problematic. Currently I teach in an education service district, which serves many school districts, so I am even more isolated from my colleagues than most new teachers. However, I find that my support network from this experience provides a valuable resource for ideas, networking opportunities, and professional relationships outside of my service district’s footprint. If I had to compare my two experiences, I would say the the triad model was more true to life in that people do not work in isolation when in a school setting. It provided the opportunity to work out some of the interpersonal issues that come with working as part of a team and also provided the benefit of troubleshooting concerns with someone else who knew my situation, which allowed me to solve some problems without requiring the time of my university supervisor. Student teaching can be stressful and, at times, overwhelming. Having a partner throughout the process was far more preferable to my first experience, which was a top-down model. The triad model allowed me to be a collaborative professional in my field and I would choose this model again. It also helped me prepare for working with my current colleagues, and that alleviates any feelings of isolation.

  4. As another former student teacher in this triad model, I strongly agree with Anna. I currently work as an elementary math specialist and have found that the collaborative and communication skills gained through my experiences as a student teacher in the triad model have been invaluable to not only my success, but, more importantly, that of my students. I have a unique position within my district and school and could easily feel isolated. But rather than working in isolation, I seek out collaborative opportunities. To better serve both students and teachers, we have worked extensively to build a team of professionals made up of both teachers and administrators and I feel very much a part of that team, participating in classroom coaching/observations, embedded and district PD sessions, co-teaching experiences, and much more. Collaboration has become quite simply an extension of who I am and, therefore, integral to the ways I teach and learn.

  5. We do intend to formally gather follow-up data from our former student teachers this spring so we cannot answer this question now for our specific student teachers. What we can tell you from the other studies that we’ve examined is that others who also learned to teach using a triad model left their preparation and were reported at the end of their first year as having a “mature” commitment to collaboration with a sharp focus on student learning and innovative and effective practices (c.f. Birrell and Bullough, 2005). It is exactly that commitment that we hoped to engender – novice teachers focusing on student learning and recognizing that they can best meet the needs of each student when they work in collaboration with others.

    Birrell J. R. and Bullough, R. V. (2005). Teaching with a peer: A follow-up study of the 1st year teaching. Action in Teacher Education, 27(1), 72-81.

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