How to give feedback to a student teacher without overstepping

Lots of people asked for a blogpost on how best to support a student teacher in the classroom and how to give effective feedback without overstepping so I’m hoping to share some tips and ideas here.

What is your role?

  • Model best practice
  • Offer real life advice (based on your experience)
  • Support the student teacher
  • Observe and give advice
  • Feedback
  • Liaise with college inspector

How to best support student teachers

Space

I think it’s important for a student teacher to feel welcome in your classroom and one way to do this is to give them space – either give them your table to use or have a space for them to have their ‘teacher table’. Have display areas cleared so the student teacher can put up their own as these will be needed for their inspections.

Equality

Treat them like you would a colleague. This is important for the student teachers self esteem and also the children will be watching how you interact with the student teacher and if they know you are a team then they too will treat the student teacher with respect.

Resources

Make your resources available to the student teacher, let them borrow different books and materials so they can prepare their lessons at home in the evenings. Help out by getting materials that are available in the school such as weighing scales/ graduated cylinders if they are teaching weight/capacity etc.

Advice

Give advice and guidance on how you might teach a certain topic and what has worked well for you in the past. The student teacher can then use some of this information and some of their own ideas too.

Behaviour

It is often the case that the children’s behaviour will change for a student teacher. This is because the children will test boundaries and they also will not have built up the same relationship with the student teacher as they have with you as the class teacher. Try not to intervene in front of the whole class as this will undermine the strategies and authority of the student teacher. It might be no harm to have a private chat with a child who is really pushing it though just so they know that you are watching and aware of how they are behaving.

Prepare the class

Let the class know that a new teacher will be joining for a few weeks and will be working closely with the class. Assure them that you will still be in the room and helping them throughout the day but Ms ______ or Mr. _______ will be teaching some (or all) lessons. Take time on the first morning to introduce the new teacher who will be working with the class and maybe do a circle time or play a game to give the children a chance to get to know him/her better.

Feedback

This is always tricky how can you communicate feedback and advice to a student teacher in a respectful and constructive way.

Ask

This is always the first and most important thing to do. Ask the student teacher if they would like feedback – most will really appreciate it and some won’t.

Build a relationship

Spend time during the observation week building a relationship with the student teacher. Have a chat, offer advice, give resources/materials, talk through lesson ideas. Listen to them, their concerns and thoughts. Be on their side.

Assurance

Remember that it is nerve racking to have someone watching you teaching. I know a few years ago when I first had an SNA working in my classroom I was so nervous and it definitely took a few weeks before I was calm enough to just teach and not feel I was being watched/judged (totally my own perception) but I think its something that is definitely important to remember that a student teacher feels they are being watched/judged etc. but just to let them know that you know how they feel and you aren’t watching every single thing in the classroom (you probably have a ton of stuff to do) but it’s no harm to just leave the room for a couple of minutes (be close by in case you are needed) so that the student teacher has time to breathe. (Check school policy on leaving student teacher in the room alone – there may be issues around insurance etc. but usually for a few minutes is no problem)

Positive

Feedback should be a mixture of positive and some constructive feedback on things that might work better. Praise the student teacher for what is working well.

Ask what they thought of the lesson

Ask the student teacher to share how they think the lesson went. Most of the time they will know themselves what could have worked a bit better and you can go from there.

‘I’ statements

I loved the way you did this. I noticed that _______ was really engaged and enjoyed the lesson. What about trying __________? Do you think ________ might work? Usually I do it this way ______________. I find that _______________. I wonder ________

Overall I think respect is key and to remember that you were once in their position. Use a sandwich type approach – positive, area for improvement, positive to ensure that the student teacher knows that you recognise their hard work and that these are just ideas and tips to improve but overall they are doing well.