How One Educator Preparation Program Reinvented Student Teaching

A Story of Transformation

by Susan K. Brondyk (Author) Nancy L. Cook (Author)
Textbook XIV, 172 Pages

Table Of Content

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Writing a book does not happen in a vacuum and we owe our families our heartfelt gratitude. To our wonderful husbands, Dan Brondyk and Brian Cook, who stood beside us through thick and thin, supported us when we needed it and knew enough when to leave the room when the going got tough. And to our children for being our inspiration.

We would like to acknowledge some of our colleagues at Hope College, without whom this work would not have been possible:

John Yelding, our chairperson, for breathing life into the co-mentoring project

Laura Pardo, our former chairperson, for her initial support of our vision for co-mentoring

Scott VanderStoep, our Dean for the Social Sciences, for his ongoing financial backing and encouragement

Doug Braschler, Director of National Accreditation and Special Programming, for his wisdom and leadership, in addition to his willingness to share college and program descriptions

Amy Scholten, our office manager, for her quick responses to our requests for materials and information

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Lori Schneider, our office assistant, for her brilliant design and implementation of our online version of the Student Teaching Assessment Tool and Teacher Candidate Assessment Tools

Our great cadre of college supervisors (Lyne Burkey, Dick Chambers, Carrie Dummer, Stu Fritz, Jodi Gerrits, Carrie Homkes, Christina Hornbach, Kristi Karis, Ellen Kontowicz, Pam Maat, Barb Reilly) for their good spirit and willingness to partner with us in this adventure

Our fabulous colleagues in our department for cheering us on

Sue would personally like to acknowledge the following people and their influence on her personal journey:

Randi Stanulis for modeling empowering leadership and introducing me to the world of educative mentoring

Suzanne Wilson for her wisdom, especially her advice that “the theory that gets you into the research is not always the theory that gets you out”

Steve Floyd for his support and inspiration to keep pushing myself to make a difference

Nancy would further like to acknowledge the following individuals who have provided guidance and encouragement:

Barb Ferguson for her wisdom and model as a dedicated and passionate educator

Leslie Wessman for encouraging me to consider Ernest Boyer’s scholarship of application and teaching as a basis for my scholarly pursuits and research

Susan Cherup for her positive energy and influence on “all things Nancy”

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AFI Area for Improvement
CAEP Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
EPP Educator Preparation Providers
HTP Half-Time Professor program
IEP Individualized Education Program
NCATE National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education
NFEC National Field Experience Conference
PA Professional Abilities
PEC Performance Evaluation Committee
STAT Student Teaching Assessment Tool
TCAT Teacher Candidate Assessment Tool
TEAC Teacher Education Accreditation Council
TEC Teacher Education Council
SCECH State Continuing Education Clock Hours (Michigan)
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This is the story of change in one Educator Preparation Program (EPP) located in a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. Over the course of three years, faculty members and their P-12 partners reimagined and implemented a new student teaching model. As a way to think about this change process, we draw on Kotter’s (1996) eight steps for leading organizational change as a framework for analyzing the process that this program took to enact change and the resulting ways that members began to think and work differently.

This book not only describes Hope College’s new student teaching model with all of its components, but also addresses the change process more holistically. Due to the mounting pressures being placed on EPPs, many are feeling the need to change, and while some programs may find our model useful in its current form, it is our belief that deep-sea change requires more than adopting another program’s model. Long-lasting, sustained change involves a process of conceptualization, internal conversations, visioning sessions, transparent communication, and scaffolded opportunities to try new practices. Systemic change like we are describing cannot merely come from above (i.e. the EPP), but occurs when those enacting it begin to take risks and alter their implicit practices. New models in teacher preparation, like this one, can only be successful when P-12 partners are involved in authentic ways that invite them into the process. This story is not about top-down change, but rather addresses the complicated process of communicating, listening ←1 | 2→and being responsive to those in the field who are effecting the real change. It is our hope that readers will not only benefit from the model that we have created but will also see this as catalyst to engage in their own change process.

Change Theory

If you Google the word “change,” you will get well over a million results, which attests to the fact that change is a prevalent theme across all disciplines. The grain-size may differ with some addressing broad systemic change, while others discuss ways to alter the behavior of individuals. This is certainly true in education, with researchers like Reigeluth (1992) outlining the path toward comprehensive change and others like Whitehead (1949) describing the unforced natural progression of behavioristic change. Of course, some folks fall somewhere in the middle, like Fullan (1993) who believes that the institution and folks on the ground, like teachers, need one another and that change requires an active relationship of “pressure, support and continuous negotiation” (p.38). Policy-makers also function between the worlds of the organization and the individual. Lipsky (1980), describes how policies change as street-level bureaucrats, like teachers, make implementation choices and in doing so, create the policy others will experience (Hill, 2003). Despite these differences, there tends to be common elements across most change theories with the most widespread being that change is viewed as a series of steps or stages (e.g. Lewin (1947) unfreeze, move, refreeze; Fullan (1982) initiation, implementation, continuation, and outcome) that individuals or organizations progress through in a linear, albeit messy, fashion.

Most change models include motivation in some form, which is understandable, as change will never occur if individuals don’t have some incentive to get off the block. Fullan (2007), for example, states that “If one’s theory of action does not motivate people to put in the effort, individually and collectively, necessary to get results, improvement is not possible” (p. 32). Most people are reluctant to change and therefore need to be persuaded that change is necessary (Lippett, et al., 1958), which is the reason that Lewin (1947) believes that permanent change is not possible unless some line of reasoning unfreezes individuals and compels them out of their comfortable habits. Whitehead (1949) takes a slightly different slant on motivation as he describes his romance stage in which “one lures or hooks individuals to initiate change” (Bowman, 2018, p. 52). The bottom line is that without motivation change in unlikely to happen.

Vision is also a reoccurring theme in change theories. The issue here is the origin of the vision—whether it is conceptualized by leaders and then enacted by others or created more organically with input from stakeholders. Fullan (2007) ←2 | 3→envisions the latter, stating that shared vision is not a precondition but rather results from a quality process. This speaks to the role that individuals play in the process. Their relative sense of agency is reflected in the language used. For example, terms like forced change (Lewin, 1947) and adopters (Rogers, 1995) connote a top-down approach, whereas Fullan (1993) refers to all participants as change agents who have the ability to influence the process. Other researchers who deal specifically with implementation talk about the tension between vision-creators and implementers-on-the-ground, as street-level bureaucrats shape policy in the way that they interpret and enact it in practice (Hill, 2003; Lipsky, 1980).

The final element addressed by most change theorists is sustainability. Once participants feel the need to change, catch the vision and begin implementing it, the challenge then becomes making it stick. Lewin (1947) refers to this stage as refreezing—when the change becomes the new norm. On the individual level, Piaget’s (1936) notion of assimilation captures this well as he describes how new information is assimilated into the brain and becomes part of the schema of the individual. On a broader scope, Fullan (1982, 1993) talks about this in terms of continuation—when the change becomes embedded in the broader system and enough members can successfully enact the new ways of being.

Despite the various perspectives on change, the one thing that all of these change theorists agree upon is that change is complicated. Transforming an organization and the individuals within it is complex work. We hope to add to our collective understanding of change with our story. This book is organized around Dr. John Kotter’s (1996) 8-Step Process for Leading Change and each chapter begins with our interpretation of the stage. We chose to use an organizational theory that is typically applied to businesses because it provides a framework for thinking about change that acknowledges the gut-wrenchingly arduous process of shifting the culture of an organization. Examining behavioral changes only tells part of the story, as cultural shifts that lead to permanent, systemic change require not only a modification in the way that individuals act but also occur at the intersection of the individual and the organization. Kotter’s model reflects the one step forward and two steps back pace of change that we experienced at Hope College and offered a structure for telling this story. As we made our way through the process, one thing became evident: not everyone was embracing change to the same extent or at the same pace. While we suspected that this might be normal, we also wondered if it was hindering our progress. Simultaneous to this work, our department was engaged in a two-year effort to analyze the alignment between our coursework and clinical experiences, so it seemed natural to apply these ideas about coherence to our new mentor model, and led us to ask ourselves questions like: Should all of our mentors be changing in the same way and at the same pace? Does everyone really need to be doing the same things? Are there non-negotiables that everyone ←3 | 4→should be doing? This tension between new ideas/requirements and implementation have long been an issue in education. Policy-makers have often lamented the lack of implementation on the ground by teachers (especially when their mandates are unfunded). As street-level bureaucrats (Hill, 2003; Lipsky, 1980), teachers have power over how—and often if—they implement new policies. The result is uneven execution, much like we experienced with our mentors. The idea of loose coupling helped us consider this disconnect between our new model and the uneven enactment by our mentors.

The change process, according to Kotter (1996), starts with an awareness that the status quo is not working. External factors often serve as the initial driving force, but real change only occurs when an internal sense of urgency motivates individuals to change the way they work. To facilitate this, individuals with power within the organization take up the mantle of change and form what Kotter (1996) calls a guiding coalition. This group then leads initial change efforts by clearly identifying the problem, creating a vision for the change process, and outlining possible strategies for implementing that vision. The challenge for the guiding coalition is to make sure that individuals at every level of the organization understand and accept the vision. The coalition’s work also includes communicating the vision in various ways so that it is accessible to everyone. The delivery must be consistent to ensure that individuals share a common understanding of the vision and motivational enough to convince folks to give it a try. The goal is to encourage members to take risks, convincing them to engage in the hard work needed to change long-held habits. The role of the guiding coalition shifts at this point as they become responsible for providing supports that will garner more broad-based acceptance. They clear the path by removing obstacles and confronting people who intentionally impede change efforts. As change begins to gain a foothold in the organization, the coalition highlights the success stories of the initial trailblazers in order to maintain forward motion. They work to assimilate new members by keeping the vision central to the work and, in particular, helping individuals identify ways that they can integrate new ideas and skills into their existing practice. The guiding coalition operates throughout this process, knowing that they will, at some point, bow out of the leadership role as new cultural norms take hold within the organization (Cooper et al., 2015; Kotter 1996).


Our story takes place in a particular place and time and as such, context matters. The following description provides some background information on both Hope College and its Education Department. It is our hope that this will provide a ←4 | 5→foundation for our story and give you some context through which you can read our experiences.

Hope College, located in Holland, Michigan, was founded in 1866 by Dutch settlers to prepare teachers and preachers. A large percentage of the population in the area remains Dutch, however Holland has a rich, culturally diverse population with strong pockets of Asian, Hispanic, and African American communities in and around the city. Holland is affectionately known as the ‘Tulip City’ and hosts an annual tulip festival each year in May celebrating all things Dutch. The Hispanic influence is evident in two, popular festivals, Los Tulipanes and Fiesta! sponsored by Latin American United for Progress. The city is known as a summer resort area located on Lake Macatawa and only 5 miles from the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Hope College is a private, liberal arts institution. It is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America with twelve members of its Board of Trustees elected by the General Synod of the RCA. Hope’s name and seal both originate from an observation that the Rev. Albertus VanRaalte made regarding the school. “This is my anchor of hope for the people in the future.” The symbolism follows the Epistle to the Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul …” and Hope’s motto, taken from Psalm 42:5, echoes the sentiment: “Spera in Deo” (“Hope in God”).

Hope College is driven by its recently adopted 2025 strategic plan, with the goal of gaining national and international stature as both a premier liberal arts college and a leader in Christ-centered higher education. The plan has six strategic goals (Goal 1: Academics, Goal 2: Christian Formation, Goal 3: Global Engagement, Goal 4: Community, Goal 5: Reputation and Influence, Goal 6: Value) each with its own objectives and key performance indicators. Hope’s dual commitment to exceptional academics and vibrant Christian formation guides its direction, shapes its priorities, and creates the learning and living community that is Hope College.

The campus of Hope College is situated in a residential area two blocks from the central business district of Holland’s downtown, which provides for a close connection between the college and community. This connection is evident in both the experiences of Hope’s students and in more formal ways, like the Children’s After School Achievement program, which is a community program of Hope College that provides tutoring for local, at-risk students. The close campus/community ties also have implications for our Educator Preparation Program as they have allowed us to build strong partnerships with local schools.

As a 4-year liberal arts undergraduate institution, Hope College offers 91 majors and minors. The total number of students on campus is just over 3000 and the education program makes up about 10% of the student body. The enrollment trend has declined over the last few years, a phenomenon that has affected ←5 | 6→every EPP in the state of Michigan. The Education Department currently has 350 students and graduates approximately 75 students per year, which is down from our recent average of close to 125 students. The Education Department is part of the Social Sciences Division of the college and consists of 11 full-time faculty members. College faculty from other departments who teach content area methods courses are also assigned part-time to the unit. The department offers two certification tracks: elementary (with 13 majors and minors) and secondary (with 40 majors and minors) that also include K-12 Special Education, K-12, Early Childhood, and an ESL Endorsement. While many of our graduates find employment in local districts in West Michigan, many can be found teaching throughout the country and world in 24 states and 14 countries to be exact. Hope’s EPP has been nationally accredited since 1960, with recent Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) Accreditation for seven years.

The Education Department’s program is divided into three disciplinary levels, each with its own clinical experiences. These placements are sequential in that they build at each level in terms of hours and increasing expectations and responsibilities. All teaching candidates begin by taking the same Level 1 courses and clinical experiences, which are designed to help students make sure that teaching is the right career for them. In our Level 1 courses, teacher candidates are introduced to the world of teaching. They participate in an orientation session that addresses, among other items, professional behaviors in the school setting. Faculty assigned to Level 1 courses, also address this entrée into the field by reviewing expectations for professional dress, dispositions and behaviors. Once in their placements, teacher candidates observe, assist the cooperating teacher with teaching tasks, and work under the cooperating teacher’s supervision with small groups and individual students. The Teacher Candidate Assessment Tool (TCAT) at Level 1 covers the professional dispositions in addition to a number of basic level skills that teacher candidates are expected to exhibit at the “Meets Expectations” level.

Once students have been accepted into the program, they choose between the elementary and secondary education tracks and pick the subject area majors, minors and endorsements they wish to pursue. As teacher candidates enter Level 2A courses, they find that expectations for performance and participation have increased. The teacher candidates experience requirements that focus on specific, professional skills, such as the administration of curriculum-based assessments in EDUC 280/281-Literacy 1 or the design and teaching of one lesson to students in the EDUC 285/286-Literacy in the Content Areas clinical experience classroom.

By Level 2B, teacher candidates build on previous skills and experiences as they design and teach multiple lessons, administer assessments, analyze data, exhibit classroom and behavior management skills, design units related to specific course content and reflect on their teaching and performance.

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Finally, in Level 3, teacher candidates complete the student teaching program. Student teaching is an intensive, semester-long clinical experience and the capstone experience of the program.

Our Research

It is important to acknowledge from the outset that, in the words of Geertz (1973), we are “natives.” For more than two decades, both authors have been intimately involved in student teaching at various institutions (more details provided in Chapter 2), having worked with numerous student teachers and mentors over the years. Therefore, the culture is familiar to us, as are the language and practices. As such, we entered into this study with preconceived notions about working in the world of student teaching. For example, we have ingrained beliefs about mentoring that come from both our experience and past research (Brondyk, 2020; Brondyk & Searby, 2013; Stanulis & Brondyk, 2013; Stanulis et al., 2014). Both authors believe that mentoring is beneficial and critical to student teacher learning and that student teachers become better teachers, due to the efforts of mentors. We also brought to this study a particular vision of the work. Our normative view of mentoring, stemming from the likes of Feiman-Nemser (1998) and Schwille (2008), is not the typical, “Here’s the copier. Let me know if you have any questions.” Rather, we come with the view that mentoring is a practice, with knowledge and skills that need to be learned.

Our initial research question centered around the 3-way mentoring conversations that supervisors and cooperating teachers have with student teachers using the mentoring tool Student Teaching Assessment Tool (STAT). In particular, we examined how mentors use the tool developmentally to track and promote growth and how this tool guides their conversations and work together. We chose a case study approach to examine this familiar phenomenon, because it allowed us “to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life events” (Yin, 1994, p. 2). By recording the discourse of these conversations and examining the related data produced during student teaching, we hoped to “turn [them] from passing events, which exist only in the moment of occurrence, into an account, which exists … and can be re-consulted” (Geertz, 1973, p. 19). Immersing ourselves in the mentoring experiences of student teachers and mentors, allowed us to step back and consider accounts of events—the complexities of the practice were more visible from a distance. Geertz explains this process: “Cultural analysis is guessing at meanings, assessing the guesses, and drawing explanatory conclusions from the better guesses” (p. 20). The analytic processes common to case study research—considering theoretical propositions, writing case descriptions—permitted us ←7 | 8→to look at mentoring conversations holistically, to consider and reconsider our suppositions.

As a method of empirical inquiry, case studies are often criticized. The most common complaint is that they lack rigor. Too many times, the case study investigator has been sloppy, has not followed systematic procedures, or has allowed equivocal or biased views to influence the direction of the findings and conclusions. (Yin, 1994, p. 10). One of our major limitations is our status as natives—this forced us to walk a tricky line at times. In no way could we be construed as one of the actors in this study—those would be the mentors and student teachers. Neither were we, however, outsiders with no knowledge of the subject, dependent only on what our informants led us to understand (Geertz, 1973). Although this familiarity gave us cultural access (an insider’s perspective), it also had the potential to blind us. Being too close to the practice, we worried about objectivity—an elusive stance at best—and our ability to see nuances and subtleties. We tried to be aware of this situation and found that talking to non-education folks—those with no knowledge of student teaching—proved helpful. Describing our observations and ideas forced us to explain what seemed obvious; outsiders’ perspectives, at times, illuminated what we could not see or took for granted. In order to counteract the “subjective judgments [that] are used to collect the data” (Yin, 1994, p. 35) we utilized multiple data sources—observations, interviews, and documents—which allowed us to more accurately and richly depict the mentors’ work and development. They also contributed to the development of “converging lines of inquiry” (triangulation), because multiple sources of information were used to corroborate facts (Yin, 1994, p. 97).

Selection included all elementary student teaching triads (student teacher, college supervisor and cooperating teacher), including early childhood and special education student teachers (completing the general education portion of student teaching) during three academic years. We opted to examine multiple cases of triads, in part, because “the evidence from multiple cases is considered more compelling, and the overall study is therefore regarded as being more robust” (Geertz, 1973, p. 46). Selecting multiple cases increased the “possibility of direct replication … and expanded the generalizability” of our findings (p. 53). Using Yin’s (1994) theoretical replication logic, we thought it important to compare contrasting cases, and so we chose multiple triads as sites of learning. Another reason for choosing multiple triads was that this allowed us to look, for example, of variation across the cases.

Data collection involved gathering materials that the participants would normally submit in the course of their work with the Education Department, like student teachers’ weekly reflection journals and self-evaluations on STAT, and ←8 | 9→mentors’ working and final versions of STAT. Triads chosen for the study were also asked to audio record at least one 3-way conversation. Finally, mentors and student teachers were interviewed regarding their use of STAT as a developmental tool. These interviews were semi-structured, in that specific questions were designed for each individual based on prior conversations, field notes, and provided documents. These multiple sources allowed us to corroborate facts. “The case study’s unique strength is its ability to deal with a full variety of evidence “(Yin, 1994, p. 8).

In terms of analysis, we used an interpretivist approach, which first required recognition that our backgrounds with student teaching and connections to the program and participants influenced our perception of the data. Our previous experiences created certain understandings, convictions, and conceptual orientations and these influenced how we had collected and interpreted the data (Miles & Huberman, 1994). We also realized that, in many instances, data collection was a collaborative interpretation of meaning between us, as the researchers, and the subjects being interviewed. We tried to remain neutral and distant, but often the interviews became more of a conversation than interview. Our experiences and knowledge resulted in different kinds of conversations. We attempted, therefore, to hear the social actors’ descriptions and understandings of their learning and mentoring work, while also acknowledging our biases.

Knowledge is a social and historical product. This is certainly true of learning to teach. Those with experience in the program have established understandings and habits that define their practice. Interpreting these actions can be tricky for a researcher. “We begin with our own interpretations of what our informants are up to, or think they are up to, and then systematize those” (Geertz, 1973, p. 15). Interpretivists seek to build theories that will help explain the phenomena in question, in this case, mentoring and its effects on student teacher learning. The aim of the analysis, at this point, was to account for events, to explain the structures that produced them, “to find individual or social processes, a mechanism, a structure at the core of events that can be captured to provide a causal description of the forces at work” (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 4). The approach we took was to continue reading the data in its entirety, along with outside theoretical materials that pushed our thinking and led to “a practical understanding of [the] meanings and actions” (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 8). We kept a journal throughout the process to record ideas and connections between field notes, interview transcripts, and ideas from our readings. In addition, initial case descriptions of each triad were written. Yin (2002) refers to this analytic technique as explanation building, because it uses narrative descriptions to explain phenomena and to look for causal links.

Our initial analysis yielded something unexpected and interesting. Despite the common training and materials provided, our mentors responded in very different ←9 | 10→ways with some of them embracing the new program wholeheartedly and others merely giving lip service to the change. We wanted to understand more about this variation, which led to a shift in our focus and a pulling back of our analytic lens to examine a broader grain-size. What began as a study of beginning teacher learning shifted to include a more system-wide analysis of change. Our reading and analysis became more about the change process and the factors that influence people to either embrace or resist and that is at the heart of this story. Along the way, we will share practical ideas about student teacher learning and mentor development that you may find useful, but the broader message is about institutional change in all its messiness. At points along the way, this feels like “airing our dirty laundry” which is undoubtedly uncomfortable, but we believe necessary. Change is never easy and change on a large scale can seem downright impossible at times. This book is about our journey through the change process with all of its highs and lows and we hope that our lessons learned will help to inform your journey.

Finally, some thoughts about nomenclature. Words matter as they ground us in our field and reflect our stance/perspective/values. Teacher preparation programs, and here we should be calling them Educator Preparation Programs (but we’re not), notoriously use a variety of names and acronyms to refer to the various roles in their program. For example, at Hope we call field supervisors “College Supervisors”, whereas other institutions refer to them as supervisors, field instructors, liaisons, etc. Each has a slightly different meaning. We currently operate in an age where accrediting agencies are pushing for consistency across programs and while this, in some sense, simplifies the situation, it also eliminates the unique nuances that each institution is trying to capture with their terms. In this book, we are choosing to embrace our uniqueness. As a result, we will at times be referring to field placements rather than clinical experiences—a term that is at times challenging to embrace because it sounds more like a term our nursing colleagues use. And while this book is primarily about our revamping of the student teaching experience, it ultimately trickles down to the rest of the program. Therefore, the terms teacher candidate, preservice teacher and mentee seem more fitting.


Bowman, E. (2018). Reticence to Change in Education. Journal of Thought, 52(1–2), 48–65. doi:10.2307/90022690.

Brondyk, S. (2020). Mentoring as Loose Coupling: Theory in Action. The Wiley-Blackwell International Handbook of Mentoring: Paradigms, Practices, Programs, and Possibilities, Irby, ←10 | 11→B., Boswell, J., Searby, L., Kochan, F., and Garza, R. (Eds.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Brondyk, S. & Searby, L. (2013). Best Practices in Mentoring: Complexities and Possibilities. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 2(3), 189–203.

CAEP (2019, February). CAEP Standard 2: Clinical Partnerships and Practice. Retrieved from March 1, 2020 from http://caepnet.org/standards/standard-2.

Cooper, K. S., Stanulis, R. N., Brondyk, S. K., Hamilton, E. R., Macaluso, M. & Meier, J. A. (2015). The Teacher Leadership Process: Attempting Change within Embedded Systems. Journal of Educational Change, 17(1), 1–29.

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Fullan, M. (2007). Change theory as a force for school improvement. In Intelligent Leadership Constructs for thinking education leaders, Burger, J. M., Webber, C. F., & Klinck, P. (Eds.). pp. 27–39. Dordrecht: Springer.

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Stanulis, R. N. & Brondyk, S. (2013). Complexities involved in mentoring towards a high-leverage practice in the induction years. Teachers College Record. 115(10).

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Stanulis, R. N., Brondyk, S., Little, S. & Wibben, E. (2014). Mentoring beginning teachers to enact discussion-based teaching. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2014.902556.

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Yin, R. K. (2002). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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Kotter Step 1:
Establishing a Sense of Urgency

In order for change to “get off the ground” there needs to be some sense that things aren’t working

A Sense of Urgency at Hope College

Change in organizations comes about for any number of reasons. It is difficult to achieve, though, as the status quo is easier to maintain and individuals typically resist change. The impetus tends to come from one or more individuals within the organization who have concluded that change is necessary. They feel a sense of urgency that things are not as they should be. This feeling can result from any number of sources, ranging from some sort of introspective process to exposure to new methodologies or strategies to external pressures or mandates. Our sense of urgency arose from a combination of these forces. We were certainly not looking to change, but a convergence of factors lit the spark that ignited this entire process.

We’re Doing Just Fine

Dateline: April 2015, Education Department, Hope College, Holland, Michigan

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We’re back on campus after having presented with colleagues from the Inter-Institutional Teacher Education Council of West Michigan at the National Field Experience Conference (NFEC) in Greeley, Colorado. The presentation itself had little to do with field experiences, but more with the collaborative efforts of 10 local teacher preparation programs to provide professional development opportunities for student teachers and university supervisors. The program at the conference, though, was peppered with references to a co-teaching model that had been introduced in recent years at St. Cloud University and seemed to be spreading like wildfire throughout the represented teacher education programs at the conference. As we returned to campus and were processing what we’d heard in Colorado, we seemed to be drawn to learning more about this model and its implications for our own program. The problem, though, if it even was a problem, was that we didn’t seem to need to change—by all accounts, we were doing just fine and really didn’t need to think about significant programmatic changes.

Our program of about 350 teacher candidates, graduating about 75 each year, was, after all, ranked in the top tier (top 5) in Michigan since the introduction of state rankings and was currently #1 among Educator Preparation Programs (EPP) in Michigan with more than 30 graduates teaching in public school settings. We had held national accreditation through the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1960 and had earned accreditation in 2012 through the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) for the most recent 7-year cycle. With a relatively recent merge of NCATE and TEAC and the formation of a new accrediting agency, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), our department was beginning to gear up for our upcoming accreditation report and review cycle.

At this point, our graduates were sought out locally and nationally and we historically boasted excellent placement rates for graduates with approximately 75–80% placed within 6 months of graduation. Our most recent figures, though, stood at a 100% placement rate within 3 months of graduation. Surveys done on the performance of our graduates further indicated that they were also performing exceptionally well in the field, with more than 95% of our graduates rated as “Highly Effective” or “Effective” on the statewide rating system during their first three years in the field.

For some organizations, a sense that things are not going as well as could be expected might create a sense of urgency or need for change; for others it might be some type of external factor that propels the organization toward changes. Neither was the case for us, though. By all measures, we were offering a nationally-recognized, high-quality program that resulted in decidedly effective and sought-after graduates. Simply put, there was no impending crisis nor was there a particular ←16 | 17→sense of urgency to change our program at all, let alone consider significant alterations. We could be content to maintain the status quo quite easily. However, for us, there was a growing awareness and perhaps uneasiness that the time to re-examine our program in-depth was fast approaching. Learning of other programs that were moving forward, coupled with CAEP Standard 2 requirements around mentoring were among the critical elements that lit the proverbial fire under us.

Up to this point, our natural tendency had been to continue as is. We were doing quite well recognizing, though, that our program was not perfect. Our regular, ongoing reflection of our practice, coupled with some looming external factors sparked the need for change. These factors converged about the same time as our providential participation in the conference mentioned above; this added to our growing sense that we should check out the novel ideas at St. Cloud, about which everyone seemed to be talking. What started as curiosity, however, quickly grew into a substantial sense of urgency that things needed to change and change as soon as possible.

Why the Change?

From all external indicators, it would appear to the outside world that Hope’s program was functioning well and successfully preparing new teachers to enter the field. We were, in fact, seeing continued affirmation that we, as a program, were doing the right thing. Despite the fact that everything was going well, we were experiencing a slowly emerging awareness that a time of adjustment was on the horizon. It was this growing sense of urgency that eventually led to the change process. Our own “hunch” that it was time to re-examine our program and make some changes was confirmed through our continuous improvement work for CAEP accreditation.

Let’s go back however, and examine where we were at the start of this journey. As we look back, it seems that a number of factors came into play simultaneously. Each played a part in the lead-up to the process that resulted in major changes to our program at all levels. The first factor involved the student teaching portion of our program. While systems had long been in place and were functioning relatively well, we were also approaching an appropriate time for regular review. This portion of our program had settled into a rather complacent state and while effective, it was simply time for examination. The second factor that was simultaneously impacting our program had to do with the availability, or rather lack thereof, of quality student teaching placements as they were rapidly dwindling with each passing semester as fewer and fewer teachers were willing to accept the ←17 | 18→role of cooperating teacher. Potential host teachers were increasingly reluctant to take on the extra responsibility of mentoring a student teacher for a number of legitimate reasons and as a result, we were finding it more and more challenging to find appropriate placements for each, subsequent cohort of student teachers. The third factor involved the revision of our Student Teaching Assessment Tool. The department was tasked with the job of revising the existing tool used to assess student teachers. The basis for this was two-fold with the first being prior feedback from our mentors. The second reason was an AFI (Area for Improvement) from the 2012 TEAC accreditation process suggesting that our student teachers’ performance ratings were inflated, in large part due to the structure of the evaluation tool and the cooperating teachers’ perceived pressure to give student teachers high grades in order to best position them for the job market. Finally, the CAEP accreditation review was growing closer and there were tasks related to Standard 2 that simply put, needed to be addressed. The pressure to take a critical look at our clinical experience configuration became increasingly timely and urgent. These factors combined to create pressure and played a significant part in creating the impetus for change across the student teaching experience and our program.

It’s Time for Some Changes in Student Teaching

For Nancy, as Director of Student Teaching, things had been percolating for some time. She had created a top-notch program that was producing quality candidates and yet, as a naturally reflective person, she was constantly analyzing the program based on input from students and mentors. She was getting the sense that it was time. There was no huge crisis pushing for a change and, in fact, the teacher preparation program at Hope was perceived internally and externally as doing well. Despite this, we weren’t resting on our laurels. The program was regularly reviewed and minor changes to process and procedures were common. This was true for the student teaching program as well. Several major revisions had been initiated when Nancy first assumed the position and since that time, student teaching was intentionally reviewed and revised with some regularity, though none of the changes were monumental or epic in proportion. Requirements had been revisited and related assignments revised at various points to more accurately reflect professional demands in the field. As time went on, the calendar for the Student Teaching Seminar became relatively established though from semester to semester and the associated assignments settled into a predictable pattern.

Two related elements, though, remained untouched and relatively stable throughout the years: the gradual release model and the requirement for all student teachers to have an extended period of solo teaching time at some point during ←18 | 19→the semester. This model was common in most teacher preparation programs and remained relatively untouched in ours as well. Typically, student teachers completed a full-semester student teaching placement, with a total of 3–4 weeks set aside for full-time planning, preparation and teaching responsibility. This usually occurred about three-quarters of the way through the student teaching experience and extended until the final week or two of the semester. As the experience progressed through the semester, the cooperating teacher predictably exited the room for increasing amounts of time, until the full-time portion of the experience mandated that he or she be absent essentially for an extended period of time. Some cooperating teachers grumbled a bit and asked if they could remain in the classroom longer. We would consider their requests and reluctantly gave permission to a few cooperating teachers, usually at the kindergarten or first-grade level, because they needed the additional set of hands with the little ones. More often than not, though, we asked the cooperating teacher to allow for an extended period of solo teaching so that the student teacher got the full “feel” for being on his or her own.

Beyond these two, established elements of the student teaching experience, we knew that intentional training for our college supervisors and cooperating teachers was sorely lacking in our program. We had come to rely on the expertise and experiences of those in the field without taking the time or initiative to provide targeted training and professional development for these individuals.

As Nancy considered the student teaching portion of our program, it became increasingly clear that the time was approaching to take a critical look at the entire program and reflect on the various elements. Other programs were moving ahead in ways that seemed primed to leave us behind. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to attend the conferences mentioned above, this provided the impetus to start moving forward. Hearing new ideas initiated discussions about the change process and allowed us to begin talking about our own professional experiences, possibilities for the program and dreams for what might be.

What? No Placements?

While there was a growing sense that the time was approaching to review our program, expectations for P-12 teachers’ performance across the state and nation was becoming more demanding. As we watched this reality take shape, it became increasingly clear that we had a potentially challenging situation looming on the horizon. A recession hit Michigan hard and school districts were faced with dwindling enrollments and massive budget cuts. As a result, teachers were asked to take on more responsibilities, often without additional pay or in many cases with reduced pay and compensation packages. At the same time, teacher evaluation ←19 | 20→tools became more stringent and demanding. Newly enacted legislation in our state required school systems to factor students’ test scores on state tests into the evaluation process. Teachers were held accountable at ever-increasing levels for their students’ progress across the curriculum and performance on the state-mandated tests. The legislation required the results of high-stakes testing to eventually comprise as much as 40% of a teacher’s effectiveness rating.

With these increased demands on a teacher’s time and mandates to tie student performance to a specific teacher’s performance evaluation, more and more teachers were becoming reluctant to take on the added responsibility of mentoring a student teacher. Word repeatedly came back to us that while the teachers were still interested in mentoring young teachers into the profession, they simply could not be expected to take on one more thing. Additionally, a good number of potential cooperating teachers expressed explicit anxiety that their students’ performance on statewide tests might be negatively affected by the extended teaching requirements of a novice, student teacher. The prolonged period of solo planning and teaching required of our student teachers was simply a risk that many veteran teachers were unwilling to take. As a result of this growing reality, securing well-qualified teachers with the skills and dispositions necessary to successfully host and mentor a student teacher became increasingly difficult. We found that our placement possibilities were severely limited and progressively farther from campus. This meant that securing placements for low-incidence endorsements, such as French or Emotional Impairments, were nearly impossible to arrange, while more common placements were simply hard to find.

A New Tool, a New Direction

As often happens in organizational structures, external forces coming from a single source, such as those affecting placement opportunities for student teachers, can be simultaneously compounded by other unrelated, but pertinent factors, and can seriously impact the work of the organization. In our case, the required revision of the existing student teaching evaluation tool added fuel to the fire. Our 2012 TEAC accreditation process resulted in an Area for Improvement assigned to our evaluation tool. It was determined that the format of the tool encouraged cooperating teachers to rate our student teachers consistently in the highest range, thus resulting in over-inflated ratings. TEAC “encouraged” us (well, maybe it was a bit stronger than “encourage”) to critically examine our tool and make changes that would result in more accurate and reasonable ratings overall. Ultimately, a committee, the Performance Evaluation Committee, was formed within the Education Department and tasked with the redesign of our student teaching evaluation form. ←20 | 21→This design process initiated conversations about learning to teach and sparked ideas that eventually had ramifications beyond the form itself and was a major instigator in the creation of our new model.

Growing Demands of Accreditation

Finally, along with the factors noted above, the department started to prepare in earnest for its upcoming accreditation report and visit. Providentially, the authors were both assigned to the same CAEP departmental standard committee and delved into the work required for Standard 2. This particular standard focuses on building partnerships and strong clinical experiences, as well as raising and assuring candidate quality by including all providers in the process. The standard insists that teacher preparation be judged by outcomes and impact on P-12 student learning and development. The standard reads:

According to Standard 2.1, CAEP seeks to develop Educator Preparation Providers that have “strong, collaborative partnerships with school districts and individual school partners, as well as other community stakeholders” (CAEP, 2019) They hope to see programs that have

mutually beneficial and agreed upon goals for the preparation of education professionals. These collaborative partnerships are a shared endeavor meant to focus dually on the improvement of student learning and development and on the preparation of teachers for this goal. (CAEP, 2019)

Inherent in the specifics associated with this standard is the expectation that the EPP provides training and resources for its partner schools.

In particular, CAEP Standard 2.2, states that EPP’s will “co-select, prepare, evaluate, support, and retain high-quality clinical educators” (CAEP, 2019). Boom! It was clear that we had some work to do and that the work was going to fit perfectly with our growing sense of the need for change. Our college supervisors’ cohort was comprised of individuals with a strong skill set and our group of cooperating teachers had an equally solid record in the field. We were not, at this point however, providing specific and intentional training for any of the clinical educators with whom we worked and it was clear that we needed to introduce this element to our program. The need for change was firmly established.

←21 | 22→

As we look back and consider how we came to the conclusion that it was time to initiate a change process in our program, we have to acknowledge the range of factors that were coming together, much like perfect storm. The impetus, though, was not fully realized until Nancy attended the National Field Experience Conference and then both she and Sue subsequently enrolled in a Train the Trainer workshop on co-teaching in Minneapolis, Minnesota, led by Drs. Nancy Bacharach and Teresa Washut Heck of The Academy for Co-Teaching and Collaboration, out of St. Cloud University.

It was at the NFEC conference that Nancy first experienced a curiosity and then almost a sense of panic that our program was quickly being left behind. As she heard virtually every speaker reference the co-teaching workshops at St. Cloud, she was faced with the reality and growing realization that Hope’s well-regarded teacher preparation program ran the very real risk of losing ground and prestige if it didn’t become better informed and consider the possibility of modifying the student teaching experience to include a co-teaching element. Her immediate and only thought was that she should attend the upcoming conference being offered by St. Cloud and that it was imperative for her colleague, Dr. Susan Brondyk, to be in attendance as well. She was mindful of Sue’s extensive expertise in the area of mentoring and recognized that she would be a valuable and essential asset if the department was to move forward. Approval was quickly secured from the department chairperson and both were soon enrolled and on the way to Minneapolis.

We should note that we really didn’t know at that moment what we might be getting into. We were excited about the possibilities, but did not have any type of specific plan or vision in mind. We simply shared a common passion for our program and a joint eagerness to explore opportunities and learn together. While participating in the workshop, though, there was a collective “aha” moment where we turned to one other to share much the same thoughts. Nancy expressed ways she thought the co-teaching elements might be introduced into the student teaching experience and Sue responded with an even broader vision that could incorporate not only co-teaching, but also a training component on mentoring for both our cooperating teachers and college supervisors. The sense of urgency to implement these changes, which had been mounting up until this point and was influenced by the factors we’ve discussed above, was rooted in that moment at the co-teaching Train the Trainers workshop (Bacharach et al., 2007, 2008; Heck & Bacharach, 2016). From that point on, we were committed.

Buoyed by our growing dreams for the program, we discussed a range of possibilities, including different conceptualizations for the new model, and discussed the possibility of preparing a pilot proposal for the department’s chairperson and divisional dean. Though Nancy, as the Director of Student Teaching, was somewhat ←22 | 23→reluctant about the logistics related to the on-campus training, costs, and complicated nature of implementing a new program, the excitement associated with new possibilities provided us with the motivation we needed. This, as well as the imminent accreditation review process, gave our hunches some weight and the impetus to convince the powers-that-be that we needed to consider changes to several critical elements of our program.

The St. Cloud workshop gave us the opportunity to begin conversations about mentoring at Hope and provided some of the “basics” on co-teaching, but the design process significantly incorporated our own experiences and expertise. It also provided a chance to think metacognitively about change and the change process. We were able to use ideas presented by the St. Cloud team as a springboard to then mold a program that would fit the Education Department’s philosophy and ethos. With Nancy’s extensive experience working with student teachers, cooperating teachers and college supervisors, and Sue’s considerable body of work (i.e. doctoral dissertation, post-doctoral research and professional development experience) with mentoring practices, the information gleaned from this workshop prompted us to envision a new and revised model for the student teaching experience at Hope College. What began as a wondering, bloomed into “We should do this!”


Bacharach, N. L., Heck, T. W., & Dahlberg, K. (2007). Co-teaching in higher education. Journal of College Teaching & Learning (TLC), 4(10).

Bacharach, N. L., Heck, T. W., & Dahlberg, K. R. (2008). What makes co-teaching work? Identifying the essential elements. College Teaching Methods & Styles Journal (CTMS), 4(3), 43–48.

CAEP (2019, February). CAEP Standard 2: Clinical Partnerships and Practice. Retrieved March 1, 2020 from http://caepnet.org/standards/standard-2.

Heck, T. W., & Bacharach, N. (2016). A better model for student teaching. Educational Leadership, 73(4), 24–29.

Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

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Kotter Step 2:
Creating a Guiding Coalition

Change is led by a group that feels the urgency and initiates the process

The Hope College Guiding Coalition

As change begins to take hold, it is vitally important for at least one individual to take on the responsibility for leading the charge. This individual or group of individuals becomes the “guiding coalition” for the subsequent change process. As such, the guiding coalition must fully embrace the sense of urgency, develop a vision for the process and then convince others, including critical leaders and peers, of the project’s efficacy and urgency. From there, it’s important to organize steps for the change process and ultimately provide the critical leadership in order to effect the proposed changes.

In order for our program to move forward, though, it was going to require a guiding coalition that not only had the requisite skills and experiences, but also included individuals with a similar work ethic and geeky enthusiasm for developing systems. Our program was noted historically at the state and national levels for its excellent preparation of its teacher candidates, but it was also a program that could easily rest on its laurels and slip into complacency. For it to move forward, it ←25 | 26→was going to be necessary to have a guiding coalition that was not only visionary, but also energetic, competent and persuasive.

On some levels, the guiding coalition at Hope College, which ended up consisting primarily of the authors, was simply waiting in the wings to come alive. Although it may not have been particularly evident or clear at the time, the underlying elements for the creation of this team were in the works for several years and well in advance of the critical work that was to eventually be accomplished. As is the case with any guiding coalition, the individuals needed to have the necessary skills, experiences and desire to take the lead and move the project to fruition. We were both individuals that fit that bill, as we had historically proven that we were capable of taking the lead, creating a vision, and capitalizing on existing relationships, all while keeping an eye on the greater good. Both of us also had critical experiences that fed into the vision and created a solid base for the changes that were to be implemented. In addition, we both yearned to create and be a part of a program that was stellar and recognized for its innovation and ability to intentionally shape its teacher candidates.

Sue—A Perfect Match

Sue’s background and experiences made her ideally suited for becoming a part of the guiding coalition. Not only did she come to the table with relevant school experiences as a teacher and administrator, her doctoral dissertation and post-doctoral work focused on mentoring and mentoring practices—an ideal combination for the work that needed to be done as part of the change process.

Sue graduated from Hope College with a Bachelor’s degree and major in Ancient Civilizations and a minor in Religion, a combination at first blush that wouldn’t necessarily lend itself to the redesign of a student teaching program. However, she went on to earn her elementary education teaching certificate and complete Montessori Teacher Training and a Montessori Preprimary Credential before earning her Masters in the Art of Teaching degree. Where most individuals at this point would work to establish themselves in a traditional school setting, Sue ventured out and founded her own Montessori school. She established the school and then served as an administrator and teacher within the school for a number of years. These experiences at both the teaching and administrative levels provided a foundation of skills and knowledge that she eventually brought into the guiding coalition. It was here that she developed skills and knowledge as an administrator and also whetted her appetite for analyzing and developing organizational systems and structures. She also advanced her skills in directing a staff and school system. Sue managed the school, including all licensing matters for the Michigan ←26 | 27→Department of Education and the Michigan Department of Social Services. This included creating staffing policies, crafting development opportunities, and developing parent education components. Each of these tasks required Sue to learn and hone administrative and interpersonal skills, proficiencies that would eventually play into her role on the guiding coalition.

Two opportunities arose that changed the course of Sue’s professional trajectory. First, she was asked to teach courses in the early childhood program at Western Michigan University, about the same time that she began supervising student teachers for a local college. These two experiences opened the door to the joys of working with adult learners. It was during these years that Sue decided to return to higher education and complete her doctoral studies with emphases in Curriculum, Teaching and Educational Policy. The impetus for this move came from her adjunct status at the other institutions. While Sue thoroughly enjoyed working with the students, she always felt like an outsider. As a systems-thinker, she missed being part of conversations about broader topics that affected the programs. Sue’s doctoral studies and research further added to her bag of tricks and again laid the foundation for her role in the guiding coalition and beyond. Her doctoral dissertation, titled “Freedom within limits: Program structure and field instructor autonomy,” speaks to her interest in program systems and organizational structures. Her studies in this area aligned perfectly with the eventual needs of Hope’s program redesign.

While working on her doctoral studies, Sue took on responsibilities as one of the project developers for the Michigan Department of Education’s ASSIST website, which was designed to support teacher induction. For this project, she created and organized online assessment tools to be used by mentor/mentee pairs in the classroom. This ultimately led to her involvement as Associate Director of the Launch into Teaching project at Michigan State University where she designed and provided intensive support for principals, mentors/instructional coaches and beginning teachers in struggling urban districts in Atlanta, Detroit and Cleveland. She also worked with Woodrow Wilson Fellows in conjunction with Michigan State University and John Carroll University. She immersed herself in activities that put her in direct contact with classroom teachers and administrators and allowed her to provide guidance on sound mentoring practices for individuals in the field. Her dissertation and post-doctoral fellowship now complete, Sue turned toward seeking a full-time teaching position in the field. Providentially, an opening that perfectly matched her skill set, preparation and experiences opened up right at her alma mater, Hope College.

When Sue was invited to join the Education Department at Hope College, she brought not only a wealth of experience teaching at the preschool and elementary ←27 | 28→levels, but also a broad expanse of experiences and knowledge in mentoring practices. Her colleagues recognized her potential to contribute in meaningful ways to the work of the department. Nancy, in particular, realized the potential that Sue brought to the table and verbalized it specifically during the search and hiring process. She was immediately struck by the possibilities for program review and development that Sue might provide. Nancy recognized that Sue’s skills and experiences put her in a position within the department where she was primed and ready for the perfect opportunity to present itself. And, although Nancy recognized Sue’s significant potential, the day-to-day tasks and rhythms soon took hold and Sue’s significant skills and experiences were left underutilized as she assumed the required teaching duties and departmental responsibilities needed to move her toward tenure.

Sue entered into the life of the department already identifying where her skill set might prove to be helpful. She was savvy enough to understand, though, that she needed to establish herself as a competent instructor and researcher, as well as a valued department member before she could be in a position that would allow her to fully share her expertise and experiences of mentoring in the program. She understood inherently that repeatedly pointing out where she thought changes were required was not the best way to approach the situation. Rather, she needed to gradually insert herself and her observations in a carefully worded and considerate manner. She had a number of roles to play within the department and college and it was important for her to perform those roles well. This period of adjustment provided an opportunity to establish her credibility and expertise, while waiting patiently for an appropriate opening to occur. When it did, Sue was in a position to be an obvious choice for the guiding coalition. It took little scheming or thought to realize that Sue was the best and most logical individual to insert into such a role.

Thankfully, that opportunity presented itself relatively early in Sue’s time at Hope when she volunteered to be a member of the Performance Evaluation Committee, a task force charged with a rewrite of the department’s student teaching evaluation tool. From the start, it was clear that Sue had the knowledge and background to be of great assistance and use on this committee. Her familiarity with evaluation tools was immediately helpful and clearly valuable to the work of the committee. Sue was eventually named as chairperson of this committee and led the team through a structured and intentional review of existing models and ultimately the redesign of the tool.

Throughout this process, Sue’s experiences and expertise in mentoring and working with individuals involved in the student teaching process became increasingly obvious and valued. As she inserted herself in the work put before them, it was clear to other committee members that Sue brought a unique perspective to ←28 | 29→the table. She exhibited the leadership skills honed in previous experiences and was able to influence the design of the assessment tool in a meaningful and insightful manner. She was exceptionally well-prepared for the work and spent considerable time preparing for each step in the process.

Sue successfully led the committee through complex processes of review and design. As time progressed, she created opportunities to bring the work of the committee back to the full department for review, consideration and decision-making. The end-result was a well-designed assessment tool with several unique features. Sue further proposed a process for piloting and revising the tool. The assessment tool, which was developmental in nature and format, was piloted in the field prior to codifying it for use in the student teaching experience. Once the tool was established in our Level 3-Student Teaching coursework and experiences, Sue then designed and led a systematic, departmental process for designing parallel assessment tools for our earlier Level 1 and Level 2 clinical experience settings.

With her repeated and cumulative contributions to the department, Sue was gradually establishing herself as a leader and visionary with her colleagues. And, she was further cementing her eventual role in the guiding coalition. While one might say she was waiting in the wings for something to happen, Sue was in fact not waiting at all. She was a very active member of our department and was highly invested and responsible for overseeing processes that would not only change the evaluative nature of student teaching, but the entire program.

Nancy—A Willing and Able Partner

Likewise, Nancy’s skills and experiences also set her up to be a part of the guiding coalition. At the same time that Sue was gathering experiences and honing her knowledge and expertise, Nancy was doing the same in a parallel setting. And like Sue, some of those experiences consisted of teaching, some encompassed study and research, some involved building interpersonal and professional communication skills, and some included developing leadership skills.

As with Sue, Nancy brought teaching experiences in the K-12 setting to the guiding coalition. She graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts and a major in Special Education-Cognitive Impairments. She taught in the East Lansing area at a local high school for a few years as a special education teacher, before moving to Holland, Michigan where she assumed a position in a local district as an elementary, special education teacher. In this position, she initially served five elementary buildings spread across the 20-mile wide, rural district, but eventually settled into a program at one of the elementary buildings. At ←29 | 30→both levels, Nancy worked to refine her teaching and sharpen her communication skills with students, teaching staff, itinerant personnel, administration and parents.

Nancy’s classroom experiences continued to expand over the years as she assumed responsibilities on various school- and district-wide committees and assignments. She was eventually elected to a leadership position as Vice President for her local, professional association. This provided her with the opportunity to serve on several negotiating teams. The district-wide position expanded her leadership skills and ability to work with individuals coming from diverse perspectives. During this time, she was also invited to serve on several county-wide educational committees, as she completed her Masters of Arts in Education and added another endorsement in Learning Disabilities to her teaching certificate.

In her time as a special education teacher, Nancy hosted at least eight student teachers, all from Hope College. Although she did not receive any specific training as a cooperating teacher, she thoroughly enjoyed her role as a mentor and welcomed the fresh perspectives that each student teacher brought to her program. She carefully planned for each experience, including preparing her K-6 students for the addition of another adult in the classroom. Nancy had an instinctive understanding of the role of the cooperating teacher, as well as an intense desire to do it right. Her single desire in hosting student teachers was to serve the profession well by giving back and mentoring new individuals into the profession. Her efforts and successes were recognized by Hope’s Education Department faculty with requests to place additional student teachers in her program each year and sometimes each semester.

After a dozen or so years in the special education classroom setting though, Nancy started to feel an urge to explore other options and enrolled in a Masters of Management graduate program with the intent of possibly moving into school administration at some point in her career. With encouragement from her district administration, she also simultaneously applied for several administrative positions in her district and other local school systems. In the end, she remained in her special education teaching position, but acknowledged that her leadership skills and administrative potential had been recognized and encouraged.

It was at this point in her career, that Nancy was invited to apply for a unique program developed at Hope called the Half-Time Professor (HTP) program. She went through the search process and was ultimately invited to join Hope’s faculty in this engaging and innovative position. As such, she remained on staff at her P-12 school system on a half-time basis, though she moved from being assigned to a classroom position to a district-wide, special education position as a teacher consultant. At Hope, she was simultaneously assigned a half-time teaching load in the special education program with all the rights and responsibilities of full-time ←30 | 31→faculty. The focus and purpose of the HTP program was to bring the day-to-day realities of the P-12 setting directly into the college’s education courses. The idea was that Hope’s teacher candidates would vicariously experience real life as a teacher through the fresh and timely experiences that Nancy was able to bring into her teaching at the college level. Little did she realize at the time that this move would play such an important role in her future professional development and understanding of teacher candidates.

For the next 16 years, Nancy served in this 50/50 split between her local school system and the Hope College Education Department. Initially, she was simply challenged to make the half-time positions work. At the college, she needed to create course syllabi and content for each of the courses she was assigned to teach. This required long-term planning and thought processes that were aligned with state and national program standards. Thankfully, she had the support of her faculty peers who provided guidance through this planning process.

It was the other half of her newly created position, as a special education teacher consultant, though, that required perhaps the most innovation and creativity. Nancy needed to visualize, then develop and implement all aspects of the new position, which took her back into a district-wide situation as she traveled between the system’s now four elementary buildings (one building having been closed in the intervening years). In collaboration with district administrators and her Special Education Director, Nancy was able to envision the critical aspects of the position, adding in a systematic process for consultation and evaluation. In this position, she ended up working closely with teachers and administrators to determine best practices for students with learning and behavioral challenges. Her position as a consultant required her to hone consultation, counseling and communication skills as she worked through challenging and sensitive situations and conversations with teachers, administrators and parents or guardians. She brought these daily experiences in the schools into her teaching on campus and increasingly utilized her skills when working with teacher candidates as their course instructor and academic advisor. These skills would eventually serve her well in future positions, including the guiding coalition.

The HTP position was structured in such a way that Nancy spent a half-day in the local school system and the other half on campus. She was expected to fulfill both teaching and departmental responsibilities in that timeframe. Over the years, she had multiple opportunities to take on leadership positions within the department, mainly in chairing committees and steering critical departmental tasks. Although originally committed to the HTP position for a three-year period, Nancy ended up continuing in the position for 16 years, at which time she was invited to move into a full-time position in the department. In order to bump her ←31 | 32→to full-time status, Nancy’s chairperson asked her to consider taking on the position of Director of Student Teaching. Although Nancy did not initially see where her skills in teaching and departmental responsibilities had fully prepared her for this position, her chairperson’s distinct understanding of Nancy’s experiences in the P-12 setting, as well as her specialized skill set as a special education teacher and teacher consultant, helped her to envision herself in the position. The chairperson specifically suggested that Nancy’s skills in counseling, organization and leadership would serve her particularly well in the position as Director of Student Teaching.

Nancy eventually agreed and moved into the full-time position at the college. As she settled into her new responsibilities directing the student teaching program, she assessed all elements of the program, including procedures, processes, and systems. She also evaluated the structure of the Student Teaching Seminar and the preparation and status of her cohort of college supervisors. As a result of this assessment process, she implemented a number of changes, both for the student teachers and the cooperating teachers, and college supervisors as well. Some of the changes were organizational, while others were programmatic. Organizational changes included adjustments to the handbook, seminar calendar and student teaching instructional materials. Programmatic modifications involved strengthening the Student Teaching Seminar’s course content, reinforcing procedures for the placement of student teachers, and codifying materials and procedures for the college supervisors.

The longer Nancy remained in the position as Director of Student Teaching, the more she understood her previous chairperson’s vision for her in this position. She had numerous situations where her skills in communication and counseling were put to the test; likewise, already well-developed skills in organization and leadership were further refined. Her leadership was recognized within the department as she was asked to chair a variety of committees and also served as department chairperson in an interim capacity. As she worked with several challenging student teaching situations, her skills in communication and counseling were also acknowledged. She gained the trust of her departmental colleagues along with that of college administrators. This level of trust would prove to be valuable as Nancy and Sue eventually would team up and lead the department through a revamp of the student teaching program and its various components.

Throughout the ensuing years, Nancy continued to make minor changes to the student teaching program, but as time went on and changes in the P-12 system were escalating, she began to experience a growing sense of urgency and almost panic. Although Hope’s education program had enjoyed a strong reputation for a good number of years, Nancy fretted that Hope would soon be left behind. She ←32 | 33→intuitively understood that the time was approaching for dramatic changes in the student teaching program at Hope. What she had trouble envisioning, though, was exactly what needed to be done and how it might be implemented. Enter Sue ….

The Stars Align

The guiding coalition was starting to coalesce, even though this wasn’t immediately evident to either Sue or Nancy. What can be said is that both were beginning to understand and appreciate their individual skill sets and experiences that they brought to the department and its work. Both saw opportunities for one or the other to take the lead in various situations and both recognized when collaborating would be more effective. Both were keenly aware of issues and challenges within the program and both had a specific interest in furthering the student teaching portion of the teacher preparation program. Both had a history of seeing a problem and taking on responsibility for dealing with it. And, most importantly, both became increasingly aware of their mutual commitment to improving the program. The groundwork was being laid for them to eventually partner for the important work ahead.

As we look back, it becomes increasingly clear that at the same time that circumstances were preparing Nancy and Sue to work together as a team, a number of departmental tasks and activities were developing that would serve as the groundwork for their new vision. The first involved the creation of the Performance Evaluation Committee on which both Nancy and Sue served. This committee was tasked with creating a newly designed student teaching evaluation form. This work, which was in response to an accreditation recommendation from the previous cycle, was critical to the development and subsequent implementation of the department’s new Student Teaching Assessment Tool (STAT). Second, other existing groups of individuals from outside our department, such as our Teacher Education Council (TEC), were working in tangent with the faculty on various aspects of the program. These groups were pushing for reforms, which ultimately helped inform the work of the PEC. The third force that influenced the eventual creation of the guiding coalition was the pressure of meeting CAEP accreditation standards. The department began to gear up for its upcoming review process and teams were formed for each standard. The requirements for Standard 2 made it particularly clear that significant work needed to be done with the supervision of our student teachers. The authors were both assigned to work on Standard 2 and it was this involvement that tied in fully with the ultimate decision to move ahead with the change process. The growing sense of urgency and fear of being surpassed by other programs made Nancy especially open to looking for opportunities to ←33 | 34→learn more and explore changes. Her capacity as Director of Student Teaching to initiate and bring about change within the student teaching program was critical. That coupled with her participation in the Co-Teaching Training of Trainers workshop and decision to include Sue served to bond the two. Finally, the unique combination of skills, experiences and expertise that the authors brought to the table made them the ideal candidates to lead the charge. In some ways, the partnership of Nancy and Sue as Hope’s guiding coalition seemed to be inevitable, though clearly a number of other factors combined to make the partnership unavoidable and perfect at the same time.


XIV, 172
ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2020 (December)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XIV, 172 pp., 12 b/w ill., 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Susan K. Brondyk (Author) Nancy L. Cook (Author)

Susan K. Brondyk received her doctorate from Michigan State University. She is currently an endowed Associate Professor of Education at Hope College. Recent publications include chapters in Wiley-Blackwell International Handbook of Mentoring and Engaged Clinical Practice: Preparing Mentor Teachers and University-Based Educators to Support Teacher Candidate Learning. Nancy L. Cook is a graduate of Michigan State University with degrees in special education. She taught for 30 years in PK-12 and currently serves as Director of Student Teaching. She’s been recognized as "Outstanding Faculty/Staff Person" and received several awards for teaching and service.


Title: How One Educator Preparation Program Reinvented Student Teaching