Module 3: Characteristics of Practicum Students

Module 3 Progress

Essential Questions

  1. What characteristics does a successful PST exhibit?
  2. How can a Mentor CT foster the success of a PST?

Characteristics of Practicum Students

One thing is true: Like all of the students we teach, all PSTs are unique.  There is no one picture of a successful PST.  However, we can define some of the characteristics that can lead to success as a PST.  Likewise, we can identify ways in which Mentor CTs can contribute to a successful learning experience for all PSTs.  Let’s start by painting a picture of the PSTs who might enter your classroom.

A beginning point is to recognize that the PSTs are coming from a variety of education programs with varied educational experience.  Some are in their very first practicum placement; some have had several.  Some of the practicum expectations involve primarily observation; some expect opportunities to teach one-on-one, small group, and/or whole group lessons.  In helping PSTs be successful in their practicum, it’s critical that mentor CTs know the expectations of the practicum (see module 5 and 6).

That being said, let’s explore who that PST coming into your classroom might be.  Some PST walk into your classroom with years of interacting with children and adolescents.  They have been babysitters, camp counselors, life guards, peer tutors, and scouts.  They have learned through these jobs the necessary skills that allow them to be confident and comfortable working with students.  Others, while they have the passion for teaching, have limited firsthand experience working with children and adolescents.  They enter your classroom with hesitation, but a desire to succeed.  Therefore, it becomes important to know where your PST is coming from so you can continue to support their development; think Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development.

Or think Stephen Covey’s “begin with the end in mind.”  So, what is that end? If we think about the characteristics of a successful PST, several attributes should be demonstrated to call the PST successful.  Some fall into the category of behaviors; some are dispositions.  The behaviors are more easily defined.  Successful PSTs are:

  • Always on time and are prepared for any tasks they have been asked to do.
  • Do what was asked of them the first time without reminders a second time from the mentor CT.
  • Communicate clearly and in a timely fashion, especially if they are sick or delayed in reporting to practicum.
  • Dress in professional attire as reflected by what mentor CTs and other faculty wear in the school.
  • Follow school policies and procedures.
  • Support their mentor CTs by helping students adhere to directives from the CT (i.e. monitoring students to put away materials after the CT told them to do so).
  • Observe problems that teachers encounter in their classrooms and schools and how they solve them.
  • Stay at least for a few minutes at the end of the day; “They do not run out the door after putting in their time.”- Grant, Mentor CT, High School

Dispositions are a little harder to measure and observe. However, it’s the dispositions that go a long way in defining success.  Successful PSTs:

  • Have a “can do!” attitude.
  • Interact immediately with the students in the classroom at appropriate times; they establish themselves as a member of the class.
  • Take initiative by asking “What else can I do?” or “May I teach this next time?”
  • Pay attention and notice the tasks that routinely are done and come into practicum ready to help with those tasks without being told.
  • Know the boundaries of what they can and cannot do. For example, while accessing the mentor CT’s computer to set up an Internet site may seem like initiative, a boundary was crossed into the CT’s personal space.  Successful PSTs make sure they know those boundaries either through careful observation or explicitly asking about boundaries.

Question for Reflection

Given these characteristics of successful PSTs, how can mentor CTs foster the development of these characteristics?