Mentoring and Advising Preservice Teachers

Written by Char Bezanson, Science Teacher, Eastview High School, Apple Valley, MN and Instructor in Education, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN.

Examples drawn from the 2003 workshop Developing the Earth Science Teacher Workforce.

As in any program, mentors for future teachers provide students with role models and shape their vision of their future profession. Students who become teachers often describe one or several teachers who inspired them by example; mentors in geoscience departments can do this in areas related to teaching, enthusiasm for their subject, quality of personal interaction with students, subject matter competence, encouragement to teach and to learn, and in many other ways. Mentors can be especially helpful if they have an understanding of both geoscience and of the challenges faced by teachers.

Academic advising is critical to preservice teachers in geoscience programs. While students can return to school earn a teaching license after graduation, most graduate teaching programs require an additional 18 months to 2 years to complete. In many states, teaching programs include a major in a non-education discipline, and many require a "9th semester" or fifth year to complete, even if coursework is sequenced appropriately. If offered, a combination geoscience major and teaching license can help students complete this process efficiently. For example, student majoring in geology may not choose to take meteorology and astronomy courses, which are required for most earth science teaching licenses, as these topics are a significant part of the Earth Science Standards. There is also pedagogical content that students are responsible for, including coursework in educational psychology, teaching methods, special education, and specific licensure requirements that vary by state. While some of this coursework can be left to the end of a student's program, some courses are sequential, and some may satisfy institutional distribution requirements, so competent advising is essential.

In addition to student teaching, which varies from state to state but may include from one to three semesters of field experiences, students in most cases must pass a standardized exam (Praxis I) on teaching and often in the subject area(s) they will teach (Praxis II). Before students are allowed to work in schools, many states require background checks or specific coursework. Given the political nature of school policy, licensure requirements also change regularly. For these reasons, it is important that faculty advising teacher candidates are well-informed on the relevant requirements, or that students are co-advised by someone who is.

References and Examples