ESU Secondary Ed Major Takes Part in Innovative Co-Teaching Pilot Project
For a lot of people, the middle school years are better left forgotten. Don’t tell that to Jessica Moyer.
Moyer, an East Stroudsburg University senior majoring in English – secondary education, learned to love middle school – teaching that is – when she took part in an ESU pilot project that allows student teachers to team teach with veteran educators.
Moyer said she relished student teaching in seventh grade at Lehman Intermediate School in the East Stroudsburg Area School District because she worked so well with her cooperating teacher, John Myers.
“He would have me plan the lessons but I would run them by him and then both of us would be up in the front of the classroom,” she said. “I would be teaching my lesson but he would step in if he knew the kids needed clarification. So the kids were really getting a full picture with both of us being there.”
Moyer, from Fallingston, Bucks County, is one of about 30 ESU student teachers, who since January, have co-taught with educators in Lehman Intermediate School and Resica Elementary School in the East Stroudsburg Area School District and at Bangor Middle School.
The pilot study upends the traditional model in which the student teacher takes over complete responsibility for instruction while the cooperating teacher observes. One of the advantages of co-teaching is that student teachers can learn what they are doing wrong as they are teaching and correct any deficits during the lesson, rather than waiting until it is over and the children have left, Moyer said.
“It’s going extremely well,” Barry said. “Our early investigations look real promising. The notion of co-teaching has been around for a long time, but generally it was used for special education where a general educator and a special educator would co-teach in inclusion classrooms.”
Barry and Pamela Kramer-Ertel, Ed.D., dean of the college of education, got the idea for the co-teaching project when they were at a professional conference and heard a presentation by representatives of St. Cloud University in Minnesota.
“There was a study out of St. Cloud University that indicated using co-teaching with student teaching positively impacting the academic performance of the students in the classes far beyond the traditional approach to student teaching,” Barry said. “So it seems like a win-win that our students will go in and work hand in hand with the cooperating teacher.”
Kramer-Ertel asked Barry and professors from several departments to travel to St. Cloud last spring to research how the model works and how it could be used at ESU. The committee included Reuben Yarmus, Ed.D., assistant professor of professional and secondary education, Caroline Kuchinski, Ph.D., professor of physical education, Caroline DiPipi-Hoy, Ph.D., associate professor of special education and rehabilitation, and Paula Kelberman, Ed.D., professor of early childhood and elementary education.
Afterward, the committee met with some local school superintendents from districts in which ESU places student teachers. The superintendents were very receptive to the new approach.
“Our research indicates that one of the concerns that folks have is that students will not be running the show on their own,” Barry said. “But really this is designed so there are lots of opportunities for the student teachers to run the classrooms on their own. It seems kind of silly in retrospect that you have two professional educators in a room and one of them, generally the cooperating teacher, will be sitting out and not taking advantage of their skills.”
To launch the initiative, the committee held a workshop with ESU faculty, administrators and student teachers, plus local school district teachers and principals.
For Moyer, she has no doubts that team teaching with her cooperating teacher at Lehman Intermediate School was a great way to student teach. She is spending her second two months of student teaching at East Stroudsburg High School South, which she also enjoys.
Despite what she’s learning and taking away from teaching high school students, her heart belongs at the middle school level, which she hopes to teach full-time once she’s graduated from ESU.
“After my placement in a middle school, I don’t think I’d ever want to leave it,” she said. “I love middle school so much.”