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Learning to teach: mentoring and tutoring student teachers
Learning to teach: mentoring and tutoring student teachers

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4.3 Co-analysis of practice

A common situation in which mentors challenge student teachers is through the process of observing lessons. Carrying out observations of the student teacher is an important part of mentor activity and one of the major ways that mentors gather evidence to improve practice.

Observations are most useful as a learning tool when they are followed by an opportunity for the mentor and student teacher to debrief the session, consider the implications of what happened and set targets for further development. This process of observation and debriefing is called co-analysis of practice and provides opportunity for formative assessment and for critical self-reflection.

Post observation analysis

The discussion after an observed lesson should be structured so that the mentor and student teacher analyse the session together. It should challenge the student teacher to go beyond simply what ‘went well’ or ‘went badly’ to produce a critical analysis. An important aspect of this process is to draw attention to what evidence either the mentor or the student teacher can bring to support their view.

A balance needs to be struck between giving feedback that is positive in order to build the student teacher’s confidence; giving guidance and suggesting changes in order to develop; and supporting reflectivity and self-evaluation. Later, the purposes of these co-analysis activities will shift. As the student teacher progresses through the course they will need to be challenged to set their own agenda for development, and to develop a rigorous approach to self-evaluation.

Effective observation of the student teacher for formative assessment can be encouraged through:

  • planning the observation together
  • agreeing the focus for the observation
  • agreeing what role, if any, the mentor will have during the lesson
  • ensuring that pupils are not confused by the mentor’s role in the lesson
  • finding an unobtrusive place to observe
  • making notes during the observation that will help during the feedback session.