“Life as a teacher begins the day you realize that you are always a learner,” wrote Robert John Meehan. As you begin to embark upon your student teaching journey please know that I, as a member of our community of learners, am here to support you along the way.

This handbook serves as a guide to the nuts and bolts of this critical semester. I encourage you to become familiar with it as it can save you some sleepless nights and unnecessary anxiety. The handbook provides practical information for you as you enter the student teaching practicum field experience. There is also information included in this handbook regarding mentor and supervisor responsibilities. Because each member of this triad plays a vital role in creating the best possible field experience, each handbook (student teacher, mentor, and supervisor) has identical information concerning assignments, assessments, roles, and policies included to ensure that everyone has congruent expectations.

The student teaching semester is one of the most challenging and rewarding components of the teacher education program at Penn State. As the capstone experience of the teacher preparation program, the student teaching practicum provides you with unique opportunities to improve the lives of students as you hone your teaching skills and understandings.

Each of you will be mentored and guided on this journey by an experienced classroom teacher and a supportive, university-based faculty member who will serve as your coach/supervisor and university-school liaison. The university coach/supervisor will provide you with a course syllabus detailing the specific requirements for each particular placement and assignment. You are to read both the handbook and the syllabus carefully, and share them with your mentor teacher. Refer to them often.

Best wishes for a successful, productive, and rewarding student teaching experience!

Dr. Alicia McDyre

University Policies and Disclaimers

The Pennsylvania State University is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to programs, facilities, admission, and employment without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualification as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities.

The Pennsylvania State University does not discriminate against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability, or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status. Direct all affirmative action inquires to the Affirmative Action Office. The Pennsylvania State University, 201 Willard Building, University Park, PA 16802-2801.

The Pennsylvania State University does not discriminate against qualified students with documented disabilities in its educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for modification in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) in 116 Boucke Building (voices or TDD: 863-1807). The ODS will notify the instructor of reasonable accommodations.

The following website offers additional information:

Penn State defines academic integrity as the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts (Faculty Senate Policy 49-20).

Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Students who are found to be dishonest will receive academic sanctions and will be reported to the University’s Judicial Affairs office for possible further disciplinary sanction.

Students are not covered by the University for accidents, health problems or damage to property or people that may occur during an off campus internship. You must rely on personal or family insurance to provide this liability coverage.

Overview: The Penn State Student Teaching Program

As the final clinical component of your teacher preparation program, student teaching is a full-time, full-semester experience. Student teaching provides you with a carefully mentored experience to help you gain knowledge, skills, and dispositions helpful in becoming a great teacher.

Student teaching is a cooperative endeavor. Our host schools work closely with the CIFE office at Penn State to provide beneficial experiences for you. Hosting a student teacher in a school classroom is a major professional commitment on the part of our host schools and their mentor teachers. The tremendous generosity of our mentor teachers allows you to fulfill your wish to become a teacher. 

As a student in the Penn State teacher certification program you follow the Penn State Teacher Performance Framework. This framework addresses proficiencies in the following four domains:

  • Planning for Student Learning
  • Teaching
  • Analyzing Student Learning and Inquiring into Your Own Teaching, and
  • Fulfilling the Professional Responsibilities of Teaching 

Because of the demands placed on you during the student teaching semester, no additional coursework is permitted without approval from the CIFE office. For this same reason, you are strongly discouraged from having a job while student teaching. Among your responsibilities, successful completion of student teaching requires that you:

  1. Be an active, honest, and tactful communicator—with your cooperating mentor teacher, your university supervisor, your fellow student teachers, and any others with whom you will work alongside. Clear communication is always the first step toward understanding, improvement and growth. Many questions inevitably arise. Do not hesitate to ask them. 
  2. Display initiative. You display initiative by quickly learning school procedures; by learning the names of people working in your assigned building; by volunteering for duties inside and outside your assigned classroom; and, by asking what more you can do to improve educational experiences for your students.
  3. Be reliable. You must fulfill the expectations of your cooperating mentor teacher and your supervisor, including, (a) arriving promptly at school each day, and remaining until the mentor teacher is scheduled to leave the school; (b) maintaining a comprehensive calendar of meetings and assignments; (c) keeping thorough records of your assignments and other expectations; and (d) responding quickly to emails and other correspondence.
  4. Be responsible. There are many tasks, assignments, and types of paperwork associated with student teaching. You must familiarize yourself with these expectations and complete all tasks to the best of your ability. Maintaining a highly organized and accessible filing system to keep track of all paperwork and assignments will facilitate successful completion of assignments. Your university supervisor will help you create this. 
  5. Display a professional disposition and appearance. Your reputation as a viable teaching candidate rests in large part on the care you take in your personal appearance as well as your choice of language usage. Develop a business-like, yet affable, rapport with the adults and students you will come to know by displaying integrity and honesty, among other qualities. As a guest of the school, you must comport yourself in ways that support the educational mission and culture of your field site school as well as our teacher education program. 

Each university supervisor of student teachers is either a faculty member in Penn State’s College of Education or is a doctoral candidate in the College. Because your supervisor resides in the general vicinity of the student teaching placements, the supervisor is readily available to you (and school personnel) for consultation and assistance. It would serve you well to keep an up-to-date list of contact information in a handy place.

Prior to Student Teaching

University Park Interviews: During the semester prior to student teaching, prospective student teachers and university supervisors meet for the first time. Information is collected and reviewed to guide the supervisor in finding a suitable placement for you.

Assignment of School Placements: Each university supervisor, in compliance with individual school district and College of Education protocol, seeks and procures specific school placements for each student teacher assigned to her/his cohort. To become a mentor teacher, the teacher must earn the approval of his/her building principal, as well as their district’s school board.

University Park Orientation: Each university supervisor conducts an orientation session at the University Park campus during the latter part of the semester preceding student teaching. At this orientation, your supervisor will provide you with up-to-date information about your specific school placement, housing options, transportation, and important dates for your calendar, among other essential details.

Orientation in the Field:  At the beginning of the student teaching practicum, each university supervisor conducts an orientation session for her/his cohort at a location central to the school placement sites. In this orientation, your supervisor will detail program requirements and expectations and help you complete various administrative tasks.

  • Week 1: Observing, assisting, and possible co-teaching
  • Weeks 2-3: 10-20% of (co)teaching and (co)planning responsibilities
  • Weeks 4-5: 30-40% of (co)teaching and (co)planning responsibilities
  • Week 6: 40-60% of (co)teaching and (co)planning responsibilities
    • Mid-term Conference
    • First PDE 430 completed
    • First St-q completed
  • Weeks 8-9: 75-90% of co-planning and co-teaching responsibilities
  • Weeks 9-11: Full time co-planning and teaching co-responsibilities
  • Weeks 10-14: Full time planning and teaching responsibilities
  • Week 15: Final Conference 
    • Final ST-1 completed
    • Second PDE 430 completed

One of the benefits of having local supervising faculty is the opportunity for frequent observations and conferences with each of you throughout the student teaching experience. The observation-conference-goal setting cycle is critical to your progress and ongoing professional development. The many tasks required of the university supervisor during the practicum includes:

  1. Observing Performance: The university supervisor observes you in a variety of teaching-learning situations on a regular basis during the student teaching experience. You can expect to be observed every week or two. In consultation with you, each supervisor determines his/her observation schedule. Their observation records are used as a basis for helping you reflect on your progression through the experience. 
  2. Conferencing: Direct and regular feedback is provided through conferences between you, your supervisor, and your mentor teacher. 
  3. Initial Conference: The supervisor holds an initial conference during the first week of student teaching to discuss adjustments to the student teaching practicum.
  4. Post-Observation Conference: The supervisor often conducts a conference soon after a teaching observation. Three-way conferences, which include the mentor teacher, are scheduled when appropriate. Observation data is used to help identify appropriate goals for change and improvement. Self-evaluation in the form of reflection is encouraged to help you understand the impact of teaching behaviors upon students’ learning and development.
  5. Mid-Semester Conference: The supervisor schedules a three-way conference between the student teacher, mentor and teacher, university supervisor near the midpoint in the semester. The purpose of this conference is to review evidence about your performance at this stage of your field experience. You will be asked to provide evidence of your accomplishments in each of the four performance domains, (See Appendix A) and to participate in setting personal professional goals for the rest of the experience. This evidence becomes part of your portfolio conference held mid-way through the semester.
  6. Final Conference: A final three-way assessment conference is scheduled near the end of the student teaching experience. You will be required to present evidence demonstrating the extent to which you have accomplished each of the standards of the Performance-based Assessment and have met your list of personal professional goals.
  7. General Conferences: Two-way and three-way conferences are held as the need arises throughout the semester to help you become the most effective teacher you can become.
  8. Weekly Seminars: The university supervisor plans and conducts weekly seminars that focus on your needs and concerns, as well as current educational issues. Topics will include assessment, classroom management, instructional strategies, differentiated instruction, special education topics, educational law, the job search, current trends in teaching, etc.
  9. Resource for the Mentor teacher: Throughout the practicum, the supervisor serves as a resource for mentor teachers to assist them in their role as mentors.


The university supervisor ensures that (1) practicum grade reporting; (2) the student teaching cumulative file; and (3) final assessments completed by the supervisor and mentor teacher are filed appropriately with the CIFE office. When your field experience is over, the College of Education’s certification officer in the advising office forwards evidence of successful completion of student teaching (PDE form 430) to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. At this time, the supervisor also thanks the mentor teacher and the school district for hosting you. Upon successful completion of the experience, the supervisor and the mentor will write a letter of recommendation for you.  

The University expects student teachers to become capable of teaching independently during the student teaching experience. That said, co-teaching with the mentor teacher is our preferred model of teaching when possible. In addition to co-teaching, the student teacher should experience some solo teaching.

Supervisor Responsibilities for Short-Term Student Teaching Abroad

  1. The U.S. student teaching supervisor will complete a PDE 430 at the mid- point of the semester and a final PDE 430 at the end of the U.S. experience. 
  2. The U.S. student teaching supervisor, mentor and student will complete ST-1 assessments and participate in conferences at the mid-point and at the end of the PA experience. 
  3. In order to leave the PA placement and go abroad, the student teacher’s performance must warrant at least a satisfactory rating at the end of the PA experience. The U.S. supervisor will give the final performance rating with consultation from the mentor. (Students are required to purchase trip insurance so that they will not forfeit the travel money if they are not able to go to the host nation placement.)
  4. Short-Term Student Teaching Abroad begins after a twelve-week experience at the initial student teaching site.  The Coordinator will determine the concluding date for the twelve-week experience based upon the starting date for their cohort. Student teachers planning to take advantage of the Short-Term Teaching opportunity should request the anticipated concluding dates for the twelve-week experience before making travel arrangements to go abroad.
  5. While at the host-nation school, the student teacher will send weekly journals/blogs via email to the U.S supervisor from the list of suggested topics. The student teacher will also complete the Final Performance Framework Portfolio Assignment and will submit it to the supervisor for evaluation.
  6. At the end of student teaching, student teaching supervisors will assign a grade for CI 495D/F/E that is based on performance in the classroom in PA as well as the required student teaching assignments, submission of weekly journals, and the final portfolio.
  7. PA supervisors, international supervisors, and mentor teachers will write letters of reference for the student teacher.
  8. If a student teacher leaves his/her international placement prior to the contracted number of weeks abroad, s/he will return to his/her PA student teaching site to fulfill student teaching requirements.
  • Week 1: Observing, assisting, and possible co-teaching
  • Weeks 2-3: Co-planning and co-teaching 1 to 2 lessons per day
  • Weeks 4-5: 40-60% of co-teaching and co-planning responsibilities
  • Week 6: Mid-term Conference
    • First PDE 430 completed
    • First ST-1 completed
  • Weeks 7-8: 75-90% of co-planning and co-teaching responsibilities 
  • Weeks 9-11: Full time co-planning and teaching co-responsibilities
  • Weeks 12 (Last week in U.S. Placement): Final Conference
    • Final ST-1 completed
    • Second PDE 430 completed 

Research in field experiences confirms the common wisdom that the classroom mentor teacher exerts a powerful influence over your values, attitudes and practices. The mentor’s influence begins by setting the stage for a classroom environment that favors your success and provides on-going guidanceBy accepting a student teacher as another professional in the classroom, the mentor shares planning and teaching responsibilities with you. The mentoring relationship requires a delicate balance between modeling the mentor’s practices, and affording opportunities that encourage your particular talents. The mentors’ role involves engagement in the following six categories:

(1) Welcoming You to the Classroom

Prior to, and during the first few weeks of student teaching, the mentor teacher can help you adjust to the school setting in some of the following ways:

  • Informing students that there will be another teacher in the room. This helps both you and the classroom students adjust to the new situation.
  • Conversing informally in order to get to know you as an individual.
  • Making introductions to faculty and other school personnel.
  • Providing you with a work area and a space for personal belongings and making available copies of student texts, teacher’s editions, district curriculum guidelines, etc.
  • Acquainting you with instructional supplies, teaching aids, and available equipment (e.g., interactive whiteboards, computer hardware and software, copying machines).
  • Encouraging you to learn the names of the students, teachers, and other building personnel as quickly as possible.
  • Helping you to become acquainted with people in the community in which the school resides.
  • Sensitizing you to the unique culture of the community and the educational resources and opportunities that the community offers.
  • Familiarizing you with district policies and procedures.

(2) Enhancing Observation and Participation

Early in the practicum, you observe carefully while acquainting yourself with the culture and pedagogy of your classroom. The mentor teacher provides assistance with effective observation and comfortable participation by:

  • Encouraging you to observe with a purpose: suggested foci include how lessons are introduced and closed, strategies to maintain students’ interest and management techniques used to create an effective classroom learning environment.
  • Providing opportunities to observe and study classroom routines, procedures and rules.
  • Introducing you to classroom management styles and teaching procedures, and discussing different ways to handle problems.
  • Encouraging involvement in preparation and discussion of daily and long-term planning, including assessment and record keeping techniques.
  • Inviting you to participate in activities that will build confidence, generate positive interaction with students, and acquire the organizational skills (e.g., taking roll, administering tests, reading aloud, giving individual help to students, grading papers and recording grades) requisite to good teaching.
  • Involving you in school meetings.
  • Appropriately including you in formal and informal conferences with parents.
  • Familiarizing you with routine classroom duties apart from preparing and implementing lessons.
  • Introducing you to record-keeping procedures and practices.
  • Utilizing a variety of observation techniques and the sharing of data collected with you.

(3) Providing Support as You Move into a Full-time Teaching Role

By the end of the practicum, you will be expected to experience all aspects of full-time teaching responsibilities. Throughout the experience, the mentor teacher will be available to provide support, suggestions, alternatives, and guidelines.

(4) Supervising Performance

A key component of success in student teaching is the quality of the daily supervision. High quality supervision includes all of the following actions:

  • Observing on a regular basis and in a variety of situations.
  • Providing feedback on the performance of professional responsibilities, including: lesson planning; implementation and assessment; classroom interaction; and, maintenance of records.
  • Including both positive and negative perceptions of performance so that you know what you are doing well and what needs more attention.
  • Helping to relate teaching theories and philosophies to the actual teaching in the classroom by explicitly explaining the rationale for the selection of particular instructional materials and methods in the classroom.
  • Identifying the ways in which basic principles of learning are applied.
  • Encouraging sound preparation and organization by requiring all lesson plans be available to your mentor teacher at least 24 hours in advance of all planned teaching.
  • Discussing each lesson plan to offer suggestions prior to teaching. These suggestions may address topics such as: (a) encouraging independent, creative thinking in planning, (b) the use of appropriate materials, (c) building motivation for learning, and (d) suggesting alternative teaching approaches.
  • Withholding criticism during a lesson except when a correction would be in the best interest of the classroom students.
  • Helping to develop consistent classroom management techniques that support learning, self-control, differentiation of instruction, and respect for others.
  • Encouraging a working environment in which you feel poised and confident.
  • Modeling ways to personalize learning so that the students in the classroom develop a sense of affiliation, security and achievement.
  • Supporting the habit of continual self-assessment through reflection—including post-lesson analyses.
  • Encouraging and supporting a healthy rapport between you and the classroom students by cultivating a collegial, professional, working relationship.

(5) Conferencing with You

  • Regularly held conferences guide your successful development during the student teaching practicum.
  • Conferences may involve two or more individuals (e.g., mentor teacher, student teacher, university supervisor, building administrator).
  • Conferences can be scheduled or can be spontaneous; they can be formal or informal.
  • Each participant should understand the purpose of each conference and should feel free to play an active role in contributing, suggesting, and listening.

(6) Assessment

  • Weekly written feedback is necessary for the student teacher’s continual growth throughout the experience.
  • Upon successful completion of the program, the mentor will write a letter of recommendation for the student teacher.
  • The following evaluation forms must be completed in order to report the student teacher’s performance found in the table below. (See Table 6.A)



The principal, or perhaps other school personnel, may orient you to the school culture in various ways. These may include some of the following: 

  • Making introductions to relevant faculty and staff.
  • Discussing school policies, rules, regulations, and general procedures, including use of school resources, attendance at school district in-service, lunch and transportation procedures, etc.
  • Sharing a brief history and description of the school.
  • Providing an orientation to the physical layout of the school.
  • Providing information on the school calendar, including holidays, half-days, parent conference dates and faculty meetings.
  • Establishing a place for receiving mail and school announcements.
  • Acquainting you with the role of school administration as it applies to teachers, students, parents, school board and community.
  • Meeting occasionally to determine how the student teaching experience is progressing. The principal or department chair may wish to observe you.
  • Inviting participation in school functions.
  • As the semester progresses, it is not uncommon for a student teacher to request that the principal observe a student teacher’s lesson for purposes of self-improvement and to determine if the principal would be an appropriate choice to ask for a letter of recommendation. Principals are under no obligation to observe you, or to write such a letter. However, if asked, the principal may choose to be involved in this way. 

In order to ensure an optimal student teaching experience, and to be in compliance with state and national accreditation expectations, the following policies and procedures guide Penn State student teaching:

7.1. Courses and Deferred Grades

Student teaching is a full-time activity with all stakeholders holding the expectation that this practicum takes precedence for the duration of the student teaching semester. We strongly discourage additional coursework beyond the student teaching practicum and accompanying seminar. Experience has taught us that such enrollment may severely jeopardize your field experience. This policy extends to concurrent enrollment in courses described as correspondence, independent learning, distance education, online, continuing education, evening, weekend, and other resident credit courses taken at Penn State or other institutions. Note: Exceptions to this policy are allowed only when due to truly extenuating circumstance. These exceptions are extremely rare and will be made only upon consensus of relevant faculty and school district personnel, including your supervisor, mentor teacher, building administrator, university advisor, and CIFE director. Petitions for exceptions must begin with your academic advisor. 

Deferred grades must be completed before the start of the student teaching semester. Students enrolled in an Independent Learning course must complete all lessons prior to the beginning of the student teaching practicum. 

7.2. Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators

The authority to teach in Pennsylvania schools is a privilege bestowed on those of you who have completed an accredited teacher education program and who maintain a professional reputation at all times. This reputation is defined in the Code of Conduct for educators. Professional educators in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania believe that the quality of their services directly influences the nation and its citizens. Professional educators recognize that their primary responsibility is to the student and the development of the student’s potential. Central to that development is valuing the worth and dignity of every person, student and colleague alike, with a devotion to excellence; development of knowledge; and democratic principles. To these ends, you will engage in continual inquiry to best serve the interests and needs of students. Professional practices are behaviors and attitudes that are based on a set of values that the professional education community believes and accepts. These values are evidenced in your conduct toward students, colleagues, mentor teacher, university supervisor, and others in the education community. 

As you become a professional educator, you will be expected to abide by this code. Pennsylvania’s Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators can be found at 22 Pa. Code §§ 235.1 - 235.11. Violation of the Code may constitute basis for reprimand and/or removal from the student teaching practicum. 

7.3. Guest-Host Relationship

Acceptance of an invitation to teach within a particular school creates what CIFE calls a guest-host relationship. It is important to note that a “host” school district and classroom teacher accept a student teacher as a “guest” who is learning to teach. Your acceptance of this placement is predicated on the following understandings about the Guest/Host relationship: 

  • That you are expected to act in a professional manner at all times;
  • That you will abide by the regulations, procedures, instructional practices, by living up to the professional and personal expectations of the particular district to which you have been assigned; and
  • That, if personal or professional behavior or ability to work as an effective prospective teacher in the learning environment is not compatible with the expectations of the school district, you may be asked to leave by either the University or the host school district.

In addition, the guest-host relationship requires proof of the following documents that protect your welfare as well as that of members of the school community:

  • Act 114: FBI Clearance
  • Guest-Host Relationship Form
  • Act 34 Criminal History Clearance
  • Act 151 Child Abuse History Clearance
  • Act 24/82 Arrest/Conviction Report and Certification Form
  • Completion of Mandated Reported Training
  • Tuberculosis Test Report
  • Professional Liability Insurance

Note: Information about these forms and clearances is available online at:

7.4. School/Community Norms

You are accountable for a standard of care regarding the welfare of your students. The expected standard of care for teachers of school-age children is influenced by several factors including student age, compulsory attendance and the power differential between teacher and student. For example, what might be considered appropriate or acceptable for the professor in a university classroom might not be appropriate for the teacher in a K-12 classroom.

Considering the following questions will be helpful in reaching a wise conclusion about your reasonable course of action when it is necessary for you to make a decision about the welfare of a student:

  • Who should be made aware of the situation?
  • Who should be consulted for advice?
  • Who has the authority to act in response to the situation?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for the outcome?

7.5. Academic Integrity

Penn State students are expected to act with civility and personal integrity; respect all others’ dignity, rights and property; and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through their own efforts. Penn State believes that an environment of academic integrity is requisite to respect for self and others and a civil community. This perspective on academic integrity also applies to the student teaching semester. 

Academic integrity includes a commitment to personally avoid acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty may include cheating or copying, plagiarizing, submitting another person’s work as one’s own, using internet sources without citation, fabricating field data or citations, “ghosting” (having another person complete work or assignments), tampering with the work of another student, facilitating other students’ acts of academic dishonesty, etc. 

Penn State students suspected of a breach of academic integrity will receive due process and, if the suspicion is found to be true, academic sanctions may result. Depending on the severity of the breach, these sanctions may range from a grade of “F” or no credit for the assignment to a grade of “F for the course—or even expulsion from the University. 

7.6. Presentation of Self

Presentation of self, including physical appearance, helps establish a reputation and authority among students and colleagues. Creating and maintaining a professional demeanor should be a full-time goal while engaged with everyone associated with the school. 

Physical appearance is a concern for you and the school when it distracts from student learning. (Concerns most frequently involve hairstyles, jewelry, tattoos, and piercings. Immodesty in clothing choices, casualness, personal grooming, and attention to personal hygiene also could be causes of concern.) When in doubt about what your school or university finds appropriate, you should check with the mentor teacher or the university supervisor before wearing or doing something you might later regret. Schools vary widely in their expectation of what constitutes appropriate attire and grooming and will often enforce their individual codes. 

7.7. Field Site Attendance and Participation Obligations

7.7.1. The student teacher's first required day of attendance is the first day of the Penn State semester, unless otherwise noted by their supervisor. 

7.7.2. The student teacher’s final day of attendance is the last regularly scheduled class day for on-campus students. 

Notable possible exceptions to “1” and “2” above: 

a. Beginning date: Your supervisor may highly recommend—but not require—that you take part in school in-service events prior to the above beginning date. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of these professional opportunities if presented.

b. Ending date: If your host school district begins after the Penn State semester, it may be necessary for you to continue your practicum during finals week. 

c. Unanticipated school closures: If unanticipated school closures due to events such as inclement weather or broken furnaces occur, you are not required to attend or to make up those days unless such events reduce your number of days to less than 15 weeks. If so, those days will be added during finals week.

*We believe that student safety comes first and students are asked to use their professional judgement when it comes to traveling in inclement weather.

d. Emergency situations: A request to be away from school for personal illness and/or family emergencies may be granted with provided documentation. However, those days must be made up at a later time.

e. Career Day: A student teacher is permitted to attend one university sanctioned Career Day without a subsequent make-up day.

When you must be absent from school, you must: 

1. Phone the mentor teacher as soon as an absence is imminent.

2. Notify the university supervisor as well as any additional personnel specified by the mentor teacher, university supervisor, or building principal as soon as possible.

7.7.3. Absence of your weekly seminar and ASTN sessions is also expected.

a. An absence may be excused for a personal illness or a death in your immediate family only. The university supervisor should be notified in advance of any absence. If you should need to miss a seminar, you will be given a make-up assignment to complete in lieu of your absence.

b. Unexcused absences or tardiness in school placement and/or weekly seminar will negatively affect your evaluation, particularly in the area of “Fulfilling Professional Responsibilities.”  Excessive absences and/or tardiness will result in termination of the student teaching experience. If an extenuating circumstance should occur that would impact attendance, the university supervisor should be contacted immediately. The university supervisor will consult with the mentor teacher, building principal, and the CIFE director at University Park, about ramifications. 

7.7.4. Substitute Teaching, Coaching, etc.

Penn State does not permit student teachers to serve as a paid substitute-teacher during your regularly scheduled days in school. You are permitted and encouraged to teach and assume leadership for a classroom when the mentor teacher is absent, as long as the school district has provided a paid employee as a “teacher-in-charge.” 

You are encouraged to participate in coaching and extracurricular activities to the extent that these duties do not interfere with the primary student teaching responsibilities and expectations. At no time during the official student teaching experience may you receive payment from the school for such duties. 

7.8. Teacher – Student Interaction

7.8.1. Confidential and Privileged Information

At your field site, you will most likely be exposed to various sources of confidential and privileged information, including student records, school and classroom problems, and faculty and parent-teacher meetings. Public disclosure of confidential information is a violation of human dignity and rights. In most circumstances, it is considered a breach of professional ethics. 

You should seek out the school’s video and audio-taping regulations and procedures that pertain to the handling of confidential information. For example, parents and students have legal rights that help regulate the type and amount of testing and interviewing in which students may participate. Students identified with special needs, too, have specific legal rights. It is extremely important that all privileged information be treated with honor and respect. Consult your mentor teacher if questions arise. 

7.8.2. Corporal Punishment

Penn State student teachers may not administer, nor participate in, the administration of corporal punishment at any time. Not only is it against Penn State’s philosophy and regulations, corporal punishment is illegal in Pennsylvania schools. 

7.8.3. Suspected Child Abus

As a mandated reporter, you’re required training provided you with guidelines for action if you suspect a student may be the victim of neglect or abuse. Report your concerns to your mentor teacher and let your supervisor know of your concern. Do not feel that you have to respond to these problems by yourself. However, if you suspect that a report to ChildLine is necessary, and the leadership of your school has not contacted ChildLine, you are obligated to do so on your own. The ChildLine number to call is 1-800-932-0313. 


7.8.4. Private Interactions

Penn State student teachers should always meet with students in a visible, public location—even for one-on-one tutoring, conferencing, or interviewing. Special care must be taken to ensure that the mentor teacher is aware of all of your interactions with students. You may not transport students in your own vehicle. Any visit to a student’s home must include your mentor teacher. Likewise, you should not meet with parents or students at non-school locations without your mentor teacher being present. 

7.9. Grading

As the instructor of record, the ultimate responsibility for your grade for the practicum rests with the university supervisor. Student teaching is graded on a letter basis (e.g., A, A-, etc.), not PASS/FAIL. The submission of the full range of grades, including pluses and minuses, is available to the university supervisor. The final grade is based on the supervisor’s overall assessment of your performance in the classroom and on other tasks, assignments, and expectations associated with the student teaching practicum and seminar. 

The university supervisor often consults with the mentor teacher concerning your performance and may seek input on performance from you and other relevant school or university personnel in order to make an informed decision about the final grade. Final grades less than “C” are considered unsatisfactory, and requires that you repeat the student teaching semester in its entirety in order to be eligible for initial teacher certification. 


7.10. Internet Personalities and Professionalism

Privacy and free speech rights permit you to maintain and submit information on the Internet, including postings on, and other social websites. However, you must consider how the information you post may be interpreted and used by colleagues, parents, administrators and students. When you decide to post personal and private information on the web, you run the risk that the information will be widely viewed, and that your exposure may not be to your benefit. Any school district that learns of publicly available postings that put into question the character of those working alongside the students of their district may refuse a placement, or continued placement in that school. 

Please consider:

  • Administrators, parents, and mentors browse postings on sites such as Facebook or Twitter, forming impressions and judging the moral character of pre-service and practicing teachers.
  • You cannot completely control how others judge you, fairly or unfairly, but you can control the information from which others make judgments.
  • Students look to their teachers to model appropriate behaviors and choices. Students may not be able to distinguish between adult choices and appropriate behaviors for children. Further, behaviors and choices that may seem appropriate in private contexts may be inappropriate in public and professional situations.

 Professional Guidelines:

  • Maintain separate sites for professional and personal use.
  • Do not share your username or personal web-addresses with students.
  • If you do have personal web-space, such as Facebook or Twitter, arrange for it to be password protected and readable only by friends or chosen members.
  • Do not permit anyone to post on your site without your approval.
  • If you know that a student has accessed your personal site, make it clear to the student that this is an inappropriate way to communicate with you.

Voicemail messages.

Please be sure that your messages are professional. Remember that voicemail messages may be your first introduction to your supervisor, mentor teacher or a potential employer. 

The Student Teaching Assignments

Your assignments are designed with respect to your developmental needs and abilities, and serve to provide you with an opportunity to reflect on your work and to promote your personal and professional development. The timeline for completing specific tasks and assignments may vary somewhat by cohort. Your university supervisor will provide you with a syllabus that specifies the exact requirements of the experience and the timeline for completing tasks and assignments. 

After the placement is secured and conveyed to you, it is important to get to know more about the community, district, school building, mentor teacher, and students. Building a strong relationship with the mentor teacher should be among the first of your goals. After receiving permission from the university supervisor, you should initiate communication with the mentor teacher by phoning or emailing the teacher at the school. You are encouraged to visit the teacher at the host school prior to the start of your student teaching. 

In addition to building a healthy working relationship, initial contact with the mentor teacher is an important opportunity to gather and exchange some critical information. You are required to provide your mentor teacher with the website address of this Student Teaching HandbookSome additional items to consider are:

  • Exchanging of phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses;
  • Confirming the expected date, time, and location of the first day of student teaching;
  • Becoming familiar with the mentor teacher’s daily and weekly schedule;
  • Discussing the courses, subjects, units, topics, etc., that will likely be taught;
  • Determining whether curriculum materials such as texts, software, district curriculum guides should be picked up prior to the start of student teaching;
  • Asking for a copy of any school or classroom rules, guidelines for classroom management, and other policies, relevant to managing the learning-teaching environment;
  • Other items as suggested by the university supervisor.

Note: University supervisors often require student teachers to send a written communication, thanking the mentor teacher for his or her willingness to host a student teacher. A copy of the letter is to be sent to the university supervisor, as well.

As a Penn State student teacher, you are required to demonstrate the ability to effectively plan and implement learning activities and assessments in the classroom. Lesson plans assist in the identification of specific learning outcomes, materials, procedures, and assessment techniques to be used in planning effective lessons. Lesson planning is a process composed of many decisions. All teachers spend time thinking about a series of important instructional decisions before their lessons begin. The written plans document your thoughts. The written plans also provide a window into your philosophies of teaching and learning, as well as allow the mentor teacher and university supervisor to assist with your development in that area.

Experienced teachers plan lessons in many different ways and at many different times. Unlike you, experienced teachers often do not produce formal written plans for the lessons they will teach. Many experienced teachers believe that producing a written plan, in fact, improves their planning and, subsequently, their teaching.

Beginning teachers and prospective teachers, however, are still in the process of developing an understanding of lesson planning and learning about the multitude of factors that must be considered in planning high quality instruction. Therefore, Penn State expects all student teachers to engage in the process of planning. You document your planning in the form of written lesson and unit plans. The development of the written lesson plan serves three purposes. First, it stimulates and strengthens the mental process of planning a lesson. Second, it provides concrete evidence that you have considered important decisions and factors in planning. This then fulfills the third purpose: the detailed planning makes your thought process explicit so that your mentor teacher and university supervisor can help you plan more effectively. 

Written plans are required for all lessons and learning activities that you expect to implement. Your mentor teacher must approve your lesson plans in advance. (A typical window is at least 24 hours in advance of teaching—but may vary by mentor.) Advanced planning provides a point of discussion with your mentor teacher that can facilitate cooperative planning, clarification and trouble-shooting. If your written lesson plans are not submitted at least 24 hours in advance, your supervisor may recommend that you not teach the lesson. 

3.2.a.   Inquiry into Community, School, and Classroom

The purpose of this beginning phase of student teaching is to help you to become familiar with the community, the school, and your assigned classroom context. You will need to locate and review documentation and Internet resources about the community and school. Beyond a web search, data about the community and school can be obtained by unobtrusive observations and brief, informal interviews with key community and/or school personnel. Although some of this information can be collected prior to the start of student teaching, much information can only be collected after the student teaching practicum has begun.

A written summary/report following the outline below, accompanied by any relevant supporting materials, including the Orientation to The School assignment, observations of other teachers, and shadowing a student should be completed by the date specified by your university supervisor.

The summary may include:

  • Community and district-level information/factors (e.g., rural/suburban/urban, population demographics, dominant community business/influences, potential resources available for your teaching, etc.)
  • School-level factors (e.g., academic environment, school philosophy, physical layout, school initiatives, strategic planning goals, involvement of parents, areas of promise and problems, etc.)
  • Classroom-level factors and student characteristics (e.g., classroom layout, demographics, formally identified special needs such as learning or physical disability, informally identified needs such as shyness, accommodations described in IEPs, classroom learning environment, academic and behavioral expectations, etc.).

Unit Plan -- Once oriented to the community, school, and classroom, your focus shifts to greater collaboration with your mentor teacher for planning, teaching, and assessment. You will engage in activities ranging from assessing or tutoring individual students, to working with a small group, to co-teaching the whole class. You also will participate in tasks such as preparing new instructional materials, grading, etc.

While many opportunities to plan, teach, assess, and reflect during student teaching, will arise, all Penn State student teachers plan, teach, and assess the impact of a standards-based unit of instruction. In consultation with your university supervisor and mentor teacher, you will implement a unit of instruction (Often simply called, “The Unit.”) that lasts for a recommended length of no fewer than ten lessons, depending on the context. This core assignment has several major components:

3.2.b. Inquiry into the Curriculum Note: The following sub-components should be clearly identifiable: 

  1. Identify Standards:  Identify district and state academic standards that should be met by students upon completion of this unit of instruction. PA Academic Standards can be found at (Click on “Academic Standards” along left column and follow the links to relevant subject area. These standards provide a framework to help teachers identify teaching and learning priorities and are necessary in guiding the design of curriculum, instruction, and assessments.  Another valuable source can be the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Standards Aligned System (SAS). Information about SAS can be found at the following URL:   
  2. Specify Learning Outcomes:  In order to meet the specified district and state standard(s), what will the students need to know, understand and be able to do? Understanding is more than just textbook knowledge and basic skills. Understanding involves sophisticated insights of concepts and abilities. What concepts or “enduring understandings” should students develop by the end of the lesson sequence? In addition to the “big ideas,” what key knowledge/facts and skills should students demonstrate to meet the learning outcomes of the unit? 
  3. Develop Assessment and Instruction Plan:  Now that the end is clear, it is time to design the means for getting the students there. Using the standards and specific learning outcomes that were identified in (A) and (B) as the starting point, develop an integrated instruction and assessment plan of at least 10 lessons that builds on community and school context information and is aligned and keyed to the learning outcomes and standards specified above. At this point in the planning process, the instruction and assessment plan may take either of two forms: 1) a block plan that briefly states the specific learning outcomes, learning activities, formative assessment strategy, and key materials for each lesson; or (2) fully developed lesson plans for each day using the lesson plan format agreed upon by you, your mentor, and the university supervisor. If the block plan format is used in planning the unit, fully developed lesson plans for each lesson will need to be developed at least 24 hours in advance. If the fully developed lesson plan format is used in planning the unit, the daily lessons will need to be revised as necessary to adapt to student learning and the actual progress of instruction during the course of the unit. The revisions to the lesson plans should be completed at least 24 hours in advance.

Note: It is expected that the instructional plan for the unit meaningfully integrate instructional technology as appropriate for the learning outcomes and for the school/classroom context. You must consult with the mentor while developing this plan to be sure it can be implemented in the assigned classroom. 

Assessment is the act of determining the extent to which curricular goals are met, as well as analyzing the events and responses to your lessons that could not have been predicted. Often the unexpected proves to be the most enlightening. How will the teacher know if students have developed the understandings specified? What is accepted as evidence that students have developed the desired understandings? By planning assessments while planning instruction, the assessments can serve as teaching targets— helping to sharpen instructional plans to be sure they meet intended outcomes. 

The assessment plan must include:

  1. Pre-assessments (diagnostic) to help you understand what students already know and are able to do and/or “diagnose” learning needs.
  2. Ongoing assessments (formative) that are used during the unit to monitor the development of understanding and provide data that help “to inform” you of the next instructive step.
  3. Post-assessments (summative), which may consist of selected response items (e.g., multiple choice, matching), constructed response items (e.g., short answer, label diagram, concept map), assignment artifacts (e.g., essay, drawing, journal entry), or performances (e.g., oral presentations, debate). In addition, informal assessments such as observations or clinical assessments such as an interview, think-aloud, or “science talk” are also suitable forms of post-instructional assessment. Post-assessments “summarize” student learning.
  4. Planning the Learning Environment. How have you encouraged an inviting, motivating, and productive atmosphere in your classroom? What included procedures address effective us of class time and resources, respond to potential student questions and concerns, and deal with off-topic or off-task behavior? The plan for the learning environment should be central to each lesson plan.
  5. Differentiation. In addition to external standards and local school district expectations, you also should consider the specific interests, talents, and needs of students when designing learning and assessment experiences. Therefore, you are required to:
    • Identify the students who may have difficulty with the lesson, or who have displayed the ability, background knowledge, or interest to quickly learn this type of lesson.
    • Consider and then document how you could adapt or accommodate for those students for each lesson in the unit.

3.2.c. Teach the Unit

After the unit is written and approved by your mentor teacher and university supervisor, gather necessary materials and supplies and begin teaching. Before teaching the unit, make arrangements to be formally observed at least once by your university supervisor and once by your mentor teacher. Formal observations provide useful information that can facilitate improvement as a teacher. In some cases, the supervisor or mentor may expect that at least one lesson be videotaped for self-analysis and/or that a journal be kept wherein you reflect on each lesson taught.

3.2.d.  Inquiry into Student Learning

This inquiry requires you to analyze and use student assessment data to characterize what has been learned during the unit. There are two parts to this inquiry.

  1. Whole Class Assessment:  The purpose is to organize and analyze assessment evidence in order to draw conclusions about student achievement of each of the specified learning outcomes. The best way to conduct this kind of assessment is to examine and compare pre-instructional assessments and post-instructional assessments targeting the same concept of understanding. It is not necessary to report analyses for each individual child. Rather, you should aggregate assessment information of the whole class to show what students learned and are now able to do. What patterns of performance are evident in the assessments?  Are these the results expected?  In what areas did the students perform best and worst?  What misconceptions, if any, are revealed by the assessments? 
  2. Individual Student Assessment:  In this sub-component, the task is to organize and analyze assessment evidence for at least one student identified with special needs, exceptionality, etc. The purpose is to demonstrate your ability to monitor and interpret the academic performance of an exceptional child and reflect on your own ability to differentiate instruction. What patterns of performance are evident in the assessment?  Are these the results expected?  In what areas did the student (or students) perform best and worst?  What misconceptions, if any, are revealed by the assessments?

3.2.e. Inquiry into My Teaching

The purpose of this component is to scaffold your reflection on your own development as a new teacher. There are three parts to this inquiry.

  1. Overall Self-Assessment:  Provide an overall assessment of teaching strengths and limitations during this unit of instruction. The “Teacher Education Performance Standards” in the areas of Planning and Preparing for Student Learning, Teaching, Analyzing Student Learning and Inquiring into Teaching, and Fulfilling Professional Responsibilities are used to guide the reflection process. You are to indicate at least one strength and one limitation for each of the four performance domains. Examples from lesson plans, formal observations, videotapes, student assessment data, peer observation notes, etc., can be used to illustrate each strength and limitation in each of these performance areas.
  2. Perception of Effectiveness with Exceptional Student:  You are required to assess the effectiveness of adaptations and accommodations made for an exceptional learner and provide reflections on the effectiveness of the instructional differentiation and resource adaptations utilized. Examples from lesson plans, formal observations, videotapes, student assessment data, peer observation notes, lesson analyses/reflections, etc. can be used to illustrate the assessment. 
  3. Goal Setting:  Student teaching is not the end; it is just the beginning of a rewarding career as a caring, effective educator. An appropriate conclusion to this inquiry into one’s teaching is to set achievable goals in each of the four performance domains for future growth and development. 

This semester long teacher inquiry project requires you to identify an exceptional student, gather data, analyze the data, prescribe and implement adaptations, and evaluate their effects. In addition to providing valuable assistance to an individual school student, this inquiry project aids in developing your sense of efficacy as a teacher.

With confidentiality always a priority, you will consult with other professionals such as learning support teachers, school psychologists, and school counselors. You will research the student’s background and report on the student’s current level, strengths, and weaknesses at the beginning of the semester. After doing background research, you will define the targeted goal and gather baseline data on your student. You will then create an instructional plan for that student, identifying strategies to achieve these goals.

You will continue to gather data as you implement your plan of intervention. Throughout this project, you will reflect on the strategies that you use and analyze their effectiveness. If your initial intervention does not work, you are encouraged to try other intervention strategies.

Note: Your university supervisor will provide you with detailed guidelines appropriate for your specific classroom setting.

3.4.a. Observation of Educators

Observations of teachers and/or peers in and out of the assigned grade level or subject area can provide useful insights. For example, sometimes student teachers placed in a middle school setting wonder what it is like to teach high school seniors. Student teachers who primarily teach high performing students might like to visit a classroom with predominantly lower performers. It also can be useful to observe other professionals in the school to gain insight into how the whole school functions. The guidance counselor’s office, special education classrooms, ELL classrooms, and athletic facilities are just some of the places to find other educational professionals to observe. Both the mentor teacher and university supervisor should approve all observations of other educators before the observation takes place. 

You may be asked to prepare a journal entry or a brief report based on observations of other educators. It is recommended that you complete most observations early in the semester before assuming a full-time teaching load. Observations of other educators should be requested and arranged in advance.

Professional courtesies and protocol should be observed, which includes thanking the person who provides the observation setting and, as always, maintaining confidentiality regarding what may be seen and heard in these observations.

Early observations in the mentor teacher’s classroom help you to become familiar with the classroom environment, learning student’s names, recognizing classroom procedures, practicing systematic observation, and building teacher inquiry skills. Observations are most productive when made with a stated purpose or focus. You are expected to define (with the guidance of the mentor teacher and/or university supervisor) specific aspects of the situation to be observed before beginning the observation. Data collections should be part of every observation, followed by an analysis appropriate for the observation’s focus. 

3.4.b. Lesson Analysis

An analysis of lessons taught is critical to the development of teachers. You may be asked to prepare a written analysis of some or all of the lessons taught. As you reflect on the most and least effective aspects of the lesson and identify alternatives, you will develop abilities to inquire into your own practices that will foster continued professional growth and improvement. The analysis is conducted shortly after teaching a lesson. In an effort to analyze the effectiveness of the lesson, you should consider the following questions:

  • What did I learn through the process of planning and implementing this lesson?
  • What did my students learn? How do I know what they learned?
  • To what extent did I meet the needs of all of my learners? What evidence do I have to support this claim?
  • What did I learn about teaching and learning this concept or skill?
  • What did I learn about managing the learning environment during this lesson?
  • What pleased me about this lesson?
  • What disappointed me about this lesson?
  • What alternative instructional and assessment strategies could I have used?
  • What will I do next?

3.4.c. Personal Philosophy

All student teachers bring beliefs about learning and teaching to the field experience. These beliefs include the way young people grow and develop, the purposes of schooling, the nature of learning, teaching, educational programs, and school climate and structure. This platform of beliefs is often based on one’s own experiences in schools and upon learning principles or theories studied. 

At the beginning of the practicum, you will be asked to express your personal philosophy in writing. You likely prepared a philosophy statement in courses prior to student teaching—it would prove helpful to take it out and review it when planning for instruction and interaction with students. You may find inconsistencies due to the fact that teaching is a process of continual inquiry—changes and modifications in philosophy are considered healthy and necessary. The student teaching practicum provides you with opportunities to test your beliefs and to determine the extent to which your aims or goals can be realized in your school. Activities to help clarify beliefs about teaching and learning can include: 

  • Observing experienced teachers to identify instances of effective teaching strategies and methods
  • Discussing and reflecting on these teaching strategies or methods with the mentor teacher to determine why these practices are used and to identify the underlying learning principles
  • Using analysis/observations of classroom implementation and interaction by the supervisor and mentor teacher.

Near the end of the practicum, you should examine the philosophy written earlier in the semester to determine which of your beliefs prevailed. You may be asked to write a revised philosophy of teaching and learning that is appropriate for a job interview.

3.4.d. Video Analysis

Analysis of a video or audio recording of a lesson taught provides you with an opportunity to (a) reflect more intensively on teaching and learning; and, to (b) use systematic observation to assess teacher-learner behaviors. The focus of your video may be on your own performance, the performance of your students, or your interactions with students.

Prior to your recording of a lesson, you must become knowledgeable of any district policies regarding video or audio recording. Your mentor teacher can help you learn of school policy.

The focus for analysis should be identified first. You can then (a) view the video, (b) collect relevant data from the viewing, and (c) prepare an analysis. The analysis should include any appropriate documentation (e.g., copy of the lesson plan, copy of a data summary sheet, a complete analysis). The following components should be included in the written video analysis:

  • Description of the area of focus and indication why this particular aspect of teaching was selected;
  • Explanation of the rationale for the focus, and careful consideration of principles of learning and best practice;
  • Collection and organization of data related to the focus from viewing the tape one or more times (e.g., chart of some other approach to systematic data organization);
  • Summary of the findings and discussion of their meaning;
  • Discussion of any unexpected discoveries that merit attention;
  • Setting of specific goals for improvement and listing of at least two specific changes to be made that will help you to achieve identified goals.

Some areas for analysis might include:

  • Response to students’ answers, such as, (a) use of positive reinforcement statements; (b) verbatim repetition; (c) allowing students to elaborate on their answers or other students’ answers; or (d) seeking a correct response if a student’s answer is incomplete or inaccurate.
  • Teacher clarity in giving directions, explaining content through task analysis, making explanations relevant to the process or the product, pacing).
  • Types and frequency of praise and encouragement.
  • Student engagement in small group activities.

Notes: (1) It is often helpful for you and your mentor teacher to view the video together. (2) Ask your supervisor to provide you with access to a SWIVL camera base with remote microphone that will allow you to track student conversations.

3.4.e. Reflective Writing 

Keeping a journal during student teaching encourages reflection in a less structured format. Entries may include experiences, reactions, activities and learning related to the art of teaching. It may be a reflective document that brings together events, reactions, and response to the school day. It also may be a tool for communication with your supervisor.

Suggested topics for reflection include:

  • Comparison of teaching and management strategies among observed teachers.
  • Thoughts and questions about topics such as parent/teacher relations, faculty interaction, and student affairs.
  • Discussion of classroom/behavior management strategies. 
  • Reflections on abilities to work with special needs students, or with small and large groups.
  • Insights about attitudes toward teaching and educational concerns.
  • Periodic self-assessments in the areas of professional growth and development, including knowledge about children and teaching.
  • Descriptions of peak experiences, crises, surprising occurrences or other events that appear significant to professional growth.
  • Reactions to current professional literature or research.


The Student Teaching Performance Portfolio is a purposeful and organized selection of evidence that demonstrates how you have accomplished the performance expectations set forth in the Penn State Teacher Education Performance Framework. The portfolio is different from the filing system being maintained, in that the filing system contains all paperwork and related items for the whole semester. The Student Teaching Performance Portfolio contains evidence that you carefully select and extract from your files that demonstrate what you have accomplished as a student teacher. The Student Teaching Performance Portfolio is the natural complement to the Penn State Performance-Based Assessment of Student Teaching form. It is the place to assemble and reflect on evidence used to derive ratings of performance.

The portfolio allows you to:

  • Experience a professional portfolio process such as the one used in statewide beginning teacher programs in several states and used by experienced teachers seeking National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification.
  • Provide specific examples of work related to all performance standards to your mentor teacher and university supervisor for discussion and reflection throughout the experience, especially during the performance assessment conferences.
  • Have an organized collection of evidence of performance to use during job interviews.
  • Share evidence of accomplishments with Penn State faculty so they can assess the quality of the teacher preparation program.

Organize your portfolio around each of the performance domains in the Penn State Teacher Educational Performance Framework. The level of performance achieved in each standard should be addressed by referencing at least two artifacts contained in the portfolio, with reference to at least one piece required at mid-semester to make a compelling argument of performance to that point in time.

A significant value of the portfolio lies in your reflection about the process of selecting the artifacts you use as evidence to be included in the portfolio. A written justification will accompany each piece of evidence. Simply put, these justifications provide the rationale for its inclusion. Portfolios are most useful when they support your personal process of learning to teach, rather than merely the products of your learning.

3.6.a Weekly Schedule

Each week, you will submit a weekly teaching and activity schedule to your university supervisor, according to a specific format. The schedule should accurately reflect the general daily schedule and specify activities for which you are personally responsible. The schedule helps in the organization of your work and assists your supervisor in planning an efficient observation schedule.

3.6.b. Emergency Lesson Plans

You are required to prepare emergency lesson plans to be used in unexpected situations such as schedule changes or absences. The emergency plans should be readily available for immediate use. The plans are written and contain the same parts needed in all good planning, such as objectives, materials, procedures, assessment of self and students. Emergency lesson plans may be independent of other lessons and need not be an integral part of the curriculum. The approximate length of emergency lesson plans should be varied (e.g., two or three plans to run between five and ten minutes; one plan for ten to twenty minutes; one for twenty to thirty minutes [or a class period]). All activities should be appropriate to the interest and grade level of the students.

You should be able to put an emergency plan into action smoothly and without hesitation. In fact, the emergency plan should be developed well enough that any teacher could put the plan into action. Therefore, all materials should be ready to use without additional preparation. Activities for emergency plans may be challenging and thought-provoking (e.g., mind benders or mazes) and/or may be intended for one or more of the following:

  • Relaxation
  • Appreciation
  • Recreation
  • Developing creativity
  • Reinforcement of a skill
  • Reinforcement of facts needing later recall
  • Enrichment
  • Greater breadth of application and/or understanding in any knowledge area previously present

All student teachers are required to participate in seminar.

A. Assignments to be completed in PA Placement

1. Inquiry into Teaching and Learning Project

a. Inquiry into School and Community
b. Inquiry into Curriculum
c. Inquiry into Teaching and Learning
d. Individual Learner Project

2. Mid-semester Performance Framework Portfolio

B. Assignments to be completed in placement Abroad

1. Final Performance Framework Portfolio
2. Weekly journal entries submitted via email to PA Supervisor

Suggested topics:
i. Orientation to international school and community
ii. Comparison between PA school and host nation school (facilities, dress, student-teacher relationships, classroom management, assessment, etc.)
iii. Reflections on accommodations for individual learners in the host nation school
iv. Self-assessment of teaching, especially in reference to goals developed in PA placement
v. Student/youth culture in the host nation (secondary) or views of childhood/children in host nation (elementary)
vi. Cultural views on education in host nation (parental involvement, government support, private vs. public schools, etc.)
vii. Reflection on the entire semester (How have you grown and changed? What have you learned?)
viii. What conditions in an international setting would encourage you to teach outside the United States? 

Assessment of the Student Teacher

The student teaching experience is a culmination of years of preparation. As a student teacher, you are not expected to be a master teacher. Consequently, the design of student teaching assessment and evaluation supports your reflection and growth, while simultaneously providing evidence about your accomplishments.

The Penn State Teacher Education Performance Framework describes your expected performances in four major domains of practice:

A. Planning and Preparing for Student Learning 

B. Teaching 

C. Analyzing Student Learning and Inquiring into Teaching 

D. Fulfilling Professional Responsibilities 


Each domain identifies critical understandings, abilities, and dispositions that you, as a Penn State teacher candidate, should know, understand, be able to do, and exemplify in your work as a teacher.

During the student teaching semester, there will be many opportunities for you to conference with your mentor teacher and university supervisor about your performance as a new professional. Formative assessments will clarify the quality of your teaching performance at a given point and places you need to go to promote professional growth. You will be provided with verbal and written feedback throughout the practicum. Note: If you feel you are not receiving adequate feedback on your performance, talk with your supervisor.

This section of the Penn State Student Teaching Handbook will focus on two important parts of the assessment process—the mid-semester evaluation and the final evaluation. The portfolio, mid-semester, and final assessment processes contribute to your overall assessment. These assessments are required by Chapter 49 of the Pennsylvania School Code, in the areas of basic skills and general knowledge, professional knowledge and practice, and subject matter knowledge.

2.1 Mid-Semester Assessment         

The midterm conference is a time for a formal, data- based discussion about your progress. The discussion takes place with you, your mentor teacher, and your university supervisor. The mid-semester conference is facilitated by your university supervisor and generally follows this pattern: 

  1. You, your mentor teacher, and your university supervisor complete the Penn State Performance-Based Assessment of Student. The supervisor will specify whether each person should complete the form independently or together as a group. In either case, each person submits an honest appraisal of your performance in each of the major domains of practice listed on the form. Ratings should be made relative to (1) the indicators on the assessment form and (2) evidence from the first half of the student teaching experience. In addition, the Pennsylvania Statewide Evaluation Form (PDE 430) required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, will be completed by the university supervisor only.
  2. You, your mentor teacher, and your university supervisor meet at the mid-semester conference to review and discuss current performance. The conference also is used to set goals for the remainder of the experience.
  3. Based on this mid-semester conference, your supervisor will prepare verbal and written summaries of the ratings in each performance area and of the expectations and goals for the remainder of the semester. You will complete the form entitled, “Mid-semester Goals and Strategies for the Second Half of the Semester.”

NOTE- The mid-semester conference may result in a determination that you are not making adequate progress based on the expectations stated for student teaching in this Handbook. If your supervisor determines that an overall satisfactory rating will not be possible by the end of the experience, you will be referred to the CIFE Director, who will determine the next steps towards remediation.

2.2 Final Assessment

The process for conducting the final assessment is similar to the process for conducting the mid-semester assessment. You, your mentor teacher, and your university supervisor complete the Penn State Performance-Based Assessment of Student Teaching. Once again, a three-way conference is held to review performance and discuss ratings on the assessment form and determine if your Mid-Semester Goals and Strategies have been met for the second half of the semester. Although it is desirable that consensus between your mentor teacher and university supervisor be reached concerning the grade to be issued, the final decision and subsequent reporting of the grade is the responsibility of your university supervisor.

After the conference, the university supervisor forwards all necessary documentation of your performance to the Field Experience Office. 

The Pennsylvania Statewide Evaluation Form for Student Professional Knowledge and Practice (PDE 430), as previously noted, is mandated by the Pennsylvania State Legislature and must be administered by all Pennsylvania institutions offering teacher certification programs.  The assessment form will be utilized twice—at mid-semester and at the end of the semester (final) and is completed by the University Supervisor only. 

Final Grade

A final grade for student teaching reflects the quality of your overall performance during your student teaching semester. Your university supervisor, in consultation with your mentor teacher, will assess your performance in the classroom. Overall performance includes participation and accomplishment in non-classroom components as well, such as the student teaching seminar. The final grade, therefore, will be based upon all aspects of your performance. This includes the quality of (1) your achievement of the standards specific to the individual’s certification program; and, (2) other practicum and seminar requirements. 

A letter grade of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, D or F will be assigned.

Criteria for an “A” Grade:  A student teacher may be awarded an “A” grade when it can be stated unequivocally that:

  • The student teacher is: fully capable of beginning the first years of teaching demonstrating true excellence.
  • The student teacher must have met all the provisions of the “B” grade in an exceptional manner and demonstrated a high degree of effectiveness in working cooperatively with peers and other educational professionals in the setting of the student teaching assignment.
  • The student teacher will demonstrate exceptional achievement in attaining competency as judged by qualified professionals charged with supervision and will require minimal support as a beginning teacher.

Criteria for a “B” Grade: The “B” grade in student teaching is indicative of:

  • Moderate achievement in student teaching as judged by qualified professionals charged with the supervision of student teachers.
  • Having successfully completed all course requirements.
  • Being above the level of minimally acceptable achievement. The student teacher may require some support at the beginning of the first teaching assignment, as is common for beginning teachers, but has the earmarks of becoming a highly successful teacher.

Criteria for a “C” Grade: The “C” in student teaching is indicative of a student teacher who:

  • Has demonstrated, at least, minimally acceptable achievement across all competencies.
  • Has performed on a level that suggests the student teacher will need considerable mentoring when entering the teaching profession.

Note: Performance below a “C” level is indicative of a student teacher whose performance in student’s teaching did not reach a threshold of acceptability for certification. Such performance may result in removal from the practicum. 


Domain A: Planning and Preparing for Student Learning

The Penn State teacher plans instruction and assessments based upon robust knowledge of subject matter, students and their learning and development, curriculum goals and standards, and the community. 

A1.  The teacher demonstrates an understanding of subject matter and subject-specific pedagogy during planning.

A2.  The teacher uses principles of learning and development, and understanding of learners and learner diversity during planning of instruction and assessment.

A3.  The teacher uses relevant community, district, school, and classroom factors and characteristics in planning.

A4.  The teacher develops and selects appropriate instructional goals and objectives.

A5.  The teacher designs coherent short range and long-range opportunities for student learning and assessment.

A6.  The teacher selects, adapts, and/or creates appropriate instructional resources and materials, including instructional technologies.

A7.  The teacher plans for an inclusive, nurturing, stimulating, and academically challenging learning environment. 

Domain B: Teaching

The Penn State secondary teacher actively encourages students’ development and learning by creating a positive classroom learning environment, appropriately using a variety of instructional and assessment strategies and resources, including instructional technologies. 

B1.  The teacher actively and effectively engages all learners

B2.  The teacher assesses student learning in multiple ways in order to monitor student learning, assist students in understanding their progress, and report student progress.

B3.  The teacher appropriately manages classroom procedures.

B4.  The teacher appropriately manages student learning and behavior.

B5.  The teacher communicates effectively using verbal, nonverbal, and media communication techniques while teaching. 

Domain C: Inquiry and Analysis of Teaching and Learning

The Penn State secondary teacher continually and systematically inquiries into the quality of his or her teaching and the conditions of schooling in order to enhance student learning and development. 

C1.  The teacher monitors and adjusts instructional and assessment strategies during teaching.

C2.  The teacher systematically analyzes assessment data to characterize performance of whole class and relevant sub-groups of students.

C3.  The teacher uses data from his/her own classroom teaching to evaluate his/her own strengths and areas for improvement. 

Domain D: Fulfilling Professional Responsibilities.

The Penn State secondary teacher exhibits the highest standards of professionalism in all that he/she does. 

D1. The teacher consistently meets expectations and fulfills responsibilities.
D2. The teacher establishes and maintains productive, collaborative relationships with colleagues and families.

D3. The teacher values and seeks professional growth.
D4. The teacher continuously demonstrates integrity, ethical behaviors, and appropriate professional conduct.

The Performance-Based Assessment of Student Teaching focuses on performances within four major domains included in the Penn State Model of Teacher Preparation Performance Framework:

Domain A: Planning and Preparing for Student Learning                                      

Domain B: Teaching

Domain C: Inquiring and Analyzing Learning and Teaching

Domain D: Professionalism 

Each of the four domains identifies critical understandings, abilities, and dispositions of Penn State teacher candidates. This mid-term and end-of-term assessment process is part of your field experience assessment, as specified in Chapter 49 of the Pennsylvania School Code

This form involves three kinds of assessments:

  1. The student teacher’s performance on each standard of the performance framework is assessed.
  2. The student teacher’s performance in each domain of the performance framework is assessed.
  3. An overall assessment of the student teacher’s performance is made.

The level of candidate performance for each domain is determined by examining a sampling of the candidate’s work.

Success in reaching the goal of each domain is assessed using the following descriptors:

  1. EXEMPLARY: The candidate is highly sophisticated and insightful, unusually thorough and consistent in ability to draw on extensive knowledge of learners and teaching to create and adjust powerful learning opportunities; is highly aware of strengths and limitations; actively pursues professional growth.
  2. SUPERIOR: The candidate’s performance is of moderately high quality. In nearly all circumstances the candidate is able to adequately draw on knowledge of learners and teaching to create appropriate learning opportunities and can articulate strengths and limitations as well as plans for continued professional growth.
  3. SATISFACTORY: The candidate is performing at the minimum level expected of a new teacher. The candidate has limited but appropriate understandings of learning and teaching. Ability to be adaptive, creative, and innovative is limited; appears to be somewhat aware of limitations.
  4. UNSATISFACTORY: Candidate relies on a limited repertoire of routines, can perform only with coaching, relies on highly scripted procedures or approaches, and is generally unaware of limitations.

Each standard (within each domain) is assessed by considering the frequency that the standard has been met: Consistently, Often, Sometimes, Rarely, and Not applicable. Each individual standard includes “indicators” to guide this decision.

This form is used twice during the semester—once at the mid-point in the semester, and again at the end of the field experience.  Supervisors are given the choice of assessing the candidate at the mid-point in one of two ways: Their assessment may reflect (1) whether the standards and domains reflect appropriate progress to the mid-point in the semester; or, (2) whether the assessment reflects the mark that the student would receive if no further progress is made in the second half of the semester—in other words, if the student were already finished with his/her practicum. The supervisor should make it clear to student teachers which approach was used. 

This assessment is to be individually completed by the supervisor, the mentor teacher, and the student. The mentor teacher and the supervisor assess the student teacher. Student teachers assess themselves. All efforts should be made to have a three-way conference to discuss the assessment results at both the mid-point in the semester and upon the end of the field experience. The student teacher, the mentor teacher, and the supervision should have access to these forms for their own records. 

The student teacher will establish goals for continued growth and development during the second half of the semester at the mid-semester conference with the mentor teacher and university supervisor. The Penn State Teacher Education Performance Framework and Performance-Based Assessment are used as the bases for setting goals. Progress towards fulfillment of these goals will be reviewed and discussed at the final conference with the mentor teacher and university supervisor.

Download and print the Mid-Semester Goals and Strategies for the Second Half of the Semester form here.

Secondary and World Language Student Teachers also will be assessed by mentor teachers and university supervisor through the use of a discipline specific assessment form.

University supervisors will provide student teachers with a copy of the appropriate assessment form.

The discipline specific assessment form is applicable to student teachers in the areas of:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • World Languages