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April 26, 2018

MSU program strengthens student teacher experience

Beginning in 2015, MSU Department of Teacher Education designed and funded a program, Mentors as Teacher Educators, or MATE, to provide targeted support to classroom teachers who oversee interns across MSU student teaching intern’s year-long experience. Three years later, and MATE has increased in participants and influence, expanding from Lansing-area schools to include schools in Grand Rapids and Detroit.

MSU’s student teaching internship takes place throughout the entirety of an academic year, beginning when K-12 teachers return to their schools in August and continues through April. MSU’s teaching internship is designed to provide interns with a plethora of resources and support within a designated school district. Resources include a mentor teacher, MSU-affiliated field instructor, the school’s principal, MSU-based course instructors and other elements from the Teacher Preparation Program.

Student teaching mentors are a highly-valued resource interns rely upon heavily to learn while in the classroom. However, it cannot be assumed that excellent classroom teachers know how to mentor a student to learn to teach effectively.  

MATE’s purpose is to facilitate conversation amongst mentors, to learn together about the major practices of mentoring including observing and debriefing, analyzing student work and co-planning.  

“MATE is a learning opportunity. Through the program, I grew as a field instructor. I grew as a teacher,” said Amy Guenther, doctoral student in the Department of Teacher Education. She previously served as a field instructor in the program before becoming a facilitator that helps out with programming and study groups. “I learned about professional development. So often professional development is talking at teachers, MATE is a model where teachers talk with each other.”

The program was developed by Professor Randi Stanulis who, after years of scholarly work in the field, discovered that while mentors were excited to help out interns, they weren’t prepared to engage in ways to really help novices learn. MATE was established and is now led by Stanulis to help mentors work together to be teacher educators—educators who focus on the learning and development of teachers. Ann Castle of the MSU Department of Teacher Education coordinates the yearlong elementary internship program and helps integrate MATE into the program through work with the field instructors.

MATE includes small, school-based study groups throughout the year and professional development days once per semester. University field instructors meet monthly to discuss mentoring practices, and work with both mentors and interns to learn how to implement the ideas their everyday work.

MSU provides unique experiences and resources to graduate students enrolled in elementary and secondary education programs, indicated by the program’s top rankings for 24 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report.

“People who are first-time mentors are appreciative of the programs and its benefits,” said Lindsay Wexler, doctoral student in the Department of Teacher Education. Data from research led by Stanulis has shown the program has helped define and outline practices that mentors do, and mentors in the program are able to see a growth in how their practices are enacted over the course of a year.

Wexler, who also served as a field instructor before leading as a facilitator, is also conducting research on how interns are seeing an impact from their mentors being a part of the MATE program. “Interns are learning from having a MATE mentor! They are walking away with practices that can be traced back to their mentors and the MATE program.”

Guenther and Wexler have been MATE study group leaders for the last three years. Recently, Raven Jones Stanbrough, an assistant professor in the College of Education, was selected to lead the initiative in southeast Michigan, and Amy Ward and Kim Arsenault were selected to lead in the Grand Rapids area.

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