Early Field Experience – Modeling

by susan on August 2, 2012

Modeling in teacher education

In the history of student teaching, experience has been at its crux.  From the apprenticeships of the Middle Ages to today’s early field experiences and student teaching, instruction of how to teach has been through a social learning environment (Johnson, 1968).  It is designed with the student observing and modeling the host teacher.  Bandura states that “… most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling:  from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Bandura, 1977, p. 22).  This aligns with Theresa Stahler (1996) who in an address at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Teacher Educators stated:   “I discovered, however, that what these teaching candidates learned about teaching and learning came more from their interactions with teachers and learners than from direction from the college classroom and that as a college instructor” (p. 2).  One professor noted to the writer that if a student teacher watches the host teacher flip the light switch off and on to quiet the classroom or to gain attention, once the student teacher becomes the teacher, they are likely to employ the same practice.  This is modeling at its essence.

How often do we place students in a field experience based upon the availability of a teacher rather than the quality of a teacher?  Since what is modeled is so powerful to the EFE student, it is important to select highly-qualified teachers and to identify clear objectives for the host teacher.  This must be done in collaboration with the teacher, not something that is dictated to him or her (Stahler, 1996. p.8).  Collaboration with the teacher is the link between theory and practice (Stahler, 1996, p.9).  Students in Stahler’s (1996) study reported that they were able to see the linkage between practice and theory with teachers that had been included in the preparation for and implementation of the early field experience.

Things to consider

Until we have processes and procedures in place to ensure that teacher candidates are being placed into strong modeling situations, we are performing a disservice to our students.  If we are intent on providing an experience-based education, we must explore ways of assuring that we have access to highly-qualified teachers.  Nothing can replace being in a public school classroom.  But when do we consider the risks of poor modeling and what are we going to do about it?


Bandura, A. (1977).  Social learning theory.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:  Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Johnson, J. (1968). A brief history of student teaching. De Kalb, IL: Creative Educational Materials.

Stahler, T.M. (1996, February).  Early field experiences:  A model that worked.  Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Teacher Educators, St. Louis, Missouri.

Susan G. Thompson
Copyright 2012

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