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Professional Roles

What’s involved in school-based teacher education?


School-based teacher education, or the professional experience placement, forms a key learning context in initial teacher education programs. Its significance is acknowledged in at least two of its conditions; (1) it is mandatory, and (2) it is formally assessed and, therefore, affects the outcomes for the pre-service teacher. Those involved in these school-based, professional learning, teaching and assessment contexts have found that the roles of the pre-service teacher, school-based teacher educator, university-based teacher educator and school co-ordinator involve many and varied responsibilities.

It is well recognised that the student-based teacher educator is highly significant in the school-based education of the pre-service teacher. Their task is to maximise pre-service teachers’ learning during the placement and to enhance their ability to achieve the required graduate outcomes of pre-service teacher education programs. Part of the complexity surrounding the role is that teaching itself has changed, as has the context within which teaching occurs – both at schools and universities. Consequently, the multiple, interlocking roles of teacher, mentor and assessor involved in school-based teacher education are changing and expanding as the current context for teaching becomes more challenging and focused on performance-based assessment against the Australian Professional Standards.


So too, the role of the university-based teacher educator is changing, resulting in increasing calls for strong school-university partnerships (see Le Cornu, 2010; Martin, Snow & Torrez, 2011). This partnership approach is very important as the roles of school-based teacher educators and university-based teacher educators are very different but complementary. Both are needed if the learning of pre-service teachers on placement is to be maximised.

Activity – The Changing Context of Placement

Journal Article

Le Cornu, R. & Ewing, R. (2008). Reconceptualising professional experiences in pre-service teacher education…reconstructing the past to embrace the future. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(7), 1799-1812.

Your Task

Read the article by Le Cornu and Ewing (2008) entitled ‘Reconceptualising professional experiences in pre-service teacher education…reconstructing the past to embrace the future’.

Consider these questions:

  1. What do you see as the major challenges in moving a traditional orientation to placement to a ‘learning communities’ orientation?
  2. How important is the nomenclature used to describe placement and the various roles involved?

Reflective Questions:

How can you work towards more collaborative ‘learning community’ approaches to supervision/mentoring in your site? What would you want from your colleagues/leadership/university partners?

Key Role of School-Based Teacher Educators

The role of school-based teacher educators (variously referred to as supervising or mentor teachers) plays a pivotal role in facilitating, supporting, and assessing pre-service teachers’ learning during school placements (McIntyre, 1991; Zeichner, 1990). It is currently prioritised in proposed national changes to initial teacher education.

Too often there is ambiguity and lack of guidance regarding the expected responsibilities and duties attached to the multiple roles expected of school-based teacher educators who take on pre-service teachers. Moreover time, or lack of it, is always a problem. Further tensions arise for these school-based professionals from the potential conflict among their multiple roles as teacher of both their pre-service teacher and their students, and mentor and assessor of the pre-service teacher.

We want to acknowledge the complexity of this work. The press for flexibility, accountability and standardised assessment, together with increased teacher workloads, has resulted in an extension and intensification of teachers’ work. Along with the tensions mentioned above, there is a lot of extra work and energy required to be a successful school-based teacher educator.

Activity – Preconceptions that shape Expectations and Actions

Each person has a preconceived idea of the roles of the school-based teacher educator and the pre-service teacher. Preconceptions and expectations often change as individuals change roles, e.g., moving from being a pre-service teacher to becoming a practising teacher and then to becoming a school-based teacher educator or a university-based teacher educator.

Your Task

Consider your preconceptions and expectations of your current role either as a pre-service teacher, a school-based teacher educator, or a classroom teacher, as well as the other two roles.

Select from the following list of attributes and activities to compile lists of your expectations of these three roles. Place attributes and activities in as many columns as you see fit.

Classroom Teacher School-based Teacher Educator Pre-service Teacher

List of attributes and activities

  • Use excellent professional practices
  • Have depth of pedagogical knowledge
  • Work to develop depth of pedagogical knowledge
  • Demonstrate ‘joyousness’ with students
  • Model passion and commitment
  • Build effective relationships
  • Have high expectations for students
  • Always clarify expectations
  • Be a good listener
  • Provide clear and honest feedback
  • Be supportive and positive
  • Have an awareness of the needs of your students
  • Allow your students to exercise individual choice and creativity
  • Have a positive attitude to school based learning
  • Ablity to ‘read the room’ – know when to step in and when to step back as a teacher
  • Help colleagues and students to be part of the school’s communities e..g, other staff members, classroom community, extra-curricula groups
  • Ablity to positively challenge and question
  • Constructively share knowledge and effective strategies
  • Be well organised
  • Be flexible and accepting of differences in attitudes, beliefs and ideas,
  • Have knowledge and understanding of University course requirements
  • Provide time for professional discussions and collegial meetings
  • Be a positive relationship builder
  • Be a reflective and committed learner
  • Have and show initiative in the workplace

Check your list against the following list of possible expectations of school-based teacher educators.

Be good teachers themselves

  • Use excellent professional practice
  • Depth of pedagogical knowledge
  • Demonstrate ‘joyousness’ with students
  • Model passion and commitment
  • Build effective relationships
  • Have high expectations for students

Be good communicators

  • Always clarify expectations
  • Be a good listener
  • Provide clear and honest feedback
  • Be supportive and positive

Be good ‘teacher educators’

  • Have an awareness of the needs of PSTs
  • Allow the pre-service teacher to be their own person
  • Positive attitude to school based learning for the pre-service teacher
  • Able to ‘read the room’ – know when to step in and when to step back
  • Help pre-service teacher to be part of the school ie introduce pre-service teacher to other staff members
  • Able to challenge/question
  • Share knowledge/strategies
  • Well organised and flexible
  • Knowledge of University Expectations
  • Provide time for professional discussions and collegial meetings

Expectations of Pre-service teachers

  • Positive relationship builder
  • Reflective and committed learner
  • Show initiative

Reflective Questions:

How do your beliefs about teaching and learning impact on how you supervise/mentor a pre-service teacher?

How is being a ‘teacher educator’ different from ‘being a teacher’?

Consult the National Professional Standards for Teachers to see the different expectations of teachers at different career stages from Graduate to Lead Teachers. Does this help you to revise your own expectations especially of pre-service teachers who have not yet completed their teacher education programs?

Mentoring Pre-service Teachers on Placement

Key dimensions of the school-based teacher educator role include mentoring and assessing. Each dimension includes a range of responsibilities and activities.


Curriculum Design

  • deciding on, detailing for, and discussing with the pre-service teacher, an explicit curriculum for the placement – this curriculum needs to reflect (i) the aims and learning outcomes of the university course/subject that the specific placement is part of, (ii) the individual student’s previous experience in school-based learning context(s), and (iii) the Australian Graduate Standards domains of learning targeted during the placement


  • providing opportunities for learning, guided and independent practice of new skills, processes and applications of knowledge
  • modelling good teaching and classroom management practices
  • answering questions
  • helping with planning and evaluating lessons, learning activities, and classroom management practices

Professional Support

  • supporting the transition from on-campus and on-line learning to workplace learning by engaging in dialogue about what pre-service teachers are learning, and providing opportunities for varied learning experiences
  • providing necessary context-relevant class program and school policy information and resources
Activity – Being a Mentor

View one of the following videos:

  • Play all Eric's videos - chapters 1 to 4
  • Play all Candace's videos - chapters 1 to 6

View the segments of the lesson conducted by this pre-service teacher.

You are formatively assessing this pre-service teacher on Graduate Standard 2.2 Know the content and how to teach it: Content selection and organisation.

Would you apply any of the following strategies to assist this pre-service teacher to improve on Graduate Standard 2.2 Know the content and how to teach it : Content selection and organisation

Provide examples of good lesson plans and effective sequences

  • Model organisation and good time management
  • Teach pre-service teachers how to teach decision making strategies and model incorporation of the teaching of decision making strategies along with other content
  • Encourage pre-service teachers to use interactive strategies and model use of informal conversation vernacular, and physical presence in the classroom

What else would you add?

Refer to the tasks listed above under Mentoring Pre-service Teachers on Placement > “Key dimensions“. The following strategies have also been used by experienced mentors to facilitate their pre-service teacher’s learning during professional experience:

  • Modelling teaching strategies
  • Explicit teaching
  • Reflective questioning: What? Why? For whom?
  • Focus on what went well
  • Scaffolding
  • Honest specific feedback
  • Modelling ‘being a learner’
  • Building resilience through the relationship – acknowledge emotional dimension of teaching

What are two other strategies you would add to this list if your mentoring focus was improvement on Standard 2.2?

Assessing Pre-service Teachers on Placement

The assessing dimension involves:

  • providing formative assessment opportunities and giving elaboration feedback
  • providing a range of summative assessment tasks and contexts that reflect the curriculum for the placement and the range and repetition of opportunities to learn.
  • Overall Grading for the placement and writing a final report


Activity – Being an Assessor

Both ‘support’ and ‘challenge’ are important in working with pre-service teachers. How do you ensure a balance?

Your Task

View one of these videos showing a segment of lesson conducted by a pre-service teacher:

  • Play Eric's video - chapter 2
  • Play Ursula's video - chapter 2
  1. Decide which skills and knowledge can be assessed on the basis of this performance.
  2. What points would you make in the elaboration feedback you would provide for this pre-service teacher?
  3. How would you frame your feedback to your pre-service teachers so that you are offering a balance of support and challenge?
  4. What follow up teaching and learning opportunities would you provide that would enable the pre-service teacher to develop relevant skills and knowledge prior to their summative assessment?

Reflective Questions:

One of our CoRP teachers said, after engaging with the Standards and the concept of evidence: “This will change the way we give feedback to PSTs. We take a lot for granted and don’t make it explicit”. How do you think the Standards Framework will enable more equitable assessment of PSTs in their professional experiences?

Managing competing demands

Both school-based teacher educators and pre-service teachers are faced with competing demands as a result of their involvement in placements.

Competing demands on pre-service teachers

The school-based segments of initial teacher education programs in Australia can extend over many weeks and require the equivalent time commitment required of a full time professional worker. As these relatively long, intensive periods of work-based study are unpaid, pre-service teachers generally experience considerable financial hardship that exacerbates the stresses typically involved in settling into a new workplace and into a job as a complete novice.


The competing demands of family, friends, paid work and unpaid work-based study need to be managed effectively. Some of the excessive pressure on pre-service teachers during placement might be alleviated if the expectations of them at the school level related more closely to the terms of the Australian Professional Standards – Graduate Teachers. For instance, some pre-service teachers have been assessed negatively in the area of Professional Engagement because they were unable to attend after school and evening meetings, overnight camps, etc.

It should be noted that such expectations are inappropriate according to the Australian Professional Standards – Graduate Teachers. Whilst attendance at such events is ideal and would be beneficial, it is often impossible for pre-service teachers to spend additional hours at school because these hours often incur an additional financial burden. Each additional hour prevents the pre-service teacher from engaging in their paid work; for pre-service teachers who are parents it may incur child minding costs that are not offset by and remunerated as such costs are for paid workers.

The crucial difference between the Graduate Teacher Standard and Proficient Standards is clearly evident in all Standards descriptors, not the least in Standards 6 and 7 that focus on Professional Engagement.

Activity – Checking the terms of the Australian Professional Standards – Graduate Teachers

Use the following links to check the distinctions between expectations of Graduate Teachers and Proficient Teachers:

Reflective Questions:

  1. How could the Professional Standards be used to begin a discussion of expectations between the school-based teacher educator and pre-service teacher?
  2. When would be the best time to have this conversation?
Competing Demands on School-Based Teacher Educators

Teachers who take on the roles of pre-service teacher mentoring/supervision are, in fact, taking on an additional teaching role and a different student/client. As a result, they often experience role conflict between their role as classroom teacher and the roles involved in mentoring/supervision. Moreover, in their role as school based teacher educators, they often experience some dissonance between the need to provide emotional and professional support for pre-service teachers while at the same time being the assessor and evaluator of their progress.

Hamel and Jaasko-Fisher (2011) argue that mentoring pre-service teachers reflects a form of ‘hidden work’ for teachers. This work requires considerable emotional labour to achieve tasks associated with mentoring/supervision.


These authors highlight the significant degree of interpersonal knowledge, self-understanding, communicative skill, and contextual decision making required and embedded throughout professional experiences. There is no doubt that the role is a demanding and complex one. The emotional work is intensified for school-based teacher educators when it comes to the assessing part of their role and particularly if their pre-service teacher struggles to find success on their placement. Hastings (2010), in her study of school-based teacher educators who had to fail their pre-service teachers, found that they experienced strong emotional responses as a result, including feeling anxious and vulnerable.

We know though that those school-based teacher educators who willingly take on the role are committed to the next generation of teachers. They work hard to maximise the learning of their pre-service teachers in their particular context. We also know that the learning of school-based teacher educators is enhanced when they have opportunities to reflect on their experiences and engage in professional dialogue with their peers and colleagues (see Professional Learning section).

Activity – Role Tension and Challenges for School-Based Teacher Educators

Your Task

Read the article by Bradbury and Koballa 2008 entitled ‘Borders to cross: Identifying sources of tension in mentor-intern relationships’.

  • What resonates for you in your role?
  • What challenges you?

Next time you mentor/supervise a PST, how would you ensure that you and your PST have a shared understanding of the mentoring/supervising relationship?

Reflective Questions:

Sim (2011), in her article, ‘You’ve either got [it] or you haven’t – conflicted supervision of pre-service teachers’, argues that supervision of pre-service teachers can often disrupt teachers’ professional identities. Do you agree/disagree? Why?

Key Readings

Bradbury, L. U. & Koballa, T. R. (2008). Borders to cross: Identifying sources of tension in mentor-intern relationships, Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(8), 2132-2145.

Hammel, F. & Jaasko-Fisher, H. (2011). Hidden labour in the mentoring of pre-service teachers: Notes from a mentor teacher advisory council. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(2), 434-442.

Hastings, W. (2010). Expectations of a pre-service teacher: Implications of encountering the unexpected, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education. 38(3), 207-220.

Le Cornu, R. (2010). Changing roles, relationships and responsibilities in changing times, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education. 38(3), 195-206.

Le Cornu, R. & Ewing, R. (2008). Reconceptualising professional experiences in pre-service teacher education … reconstructing the past to embrace the future. Teaching and Teacher Education. 24(7), 1799-1812.

Martin, S., Snow, J., & Torrez, C. (2011). Navigating the terrain of third space: Tensions with/in relationships in school-university partnerships. Journal of Teacher Education, 62(3), 299-311.

McIntyre, D. (1991). The Oxford University model of teacher education. South Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 19(2), 117-129.

Sim, C. (2011). ‘You’ve either got [it] or you haven’t – conflicted supervision of pre-service teachers’. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(2), 139-150.

Zeichner, K. (1990). Changing Directions in the practicum: Looking ahead to the 1990s. Journal of Education for Teaching, 16(2), pp. 105-125.