Volume 42 - Number 3 - 2001 | DOI: 10.5032/jae.2001.03030



Two purposes of this study were to describe selected characteristics of cooperating teachers/ schools and to identify teachers' perceptions about important elements of student teaching. Some researchers contend that to better understand complex phenomena, a "soft systems" approach (e.g., focus groups) may be more appropriate than quantitative methodologies. So, another purpose was to compare teachers' perceptions when determined by focus groups and by a mail questionnaire. Five teacher focus groups provided the perceptions (35 teachers; 23 schools); each group represented a "core" area of student teaching. Thirty-four elements were identified as being "important." Then, via a mail questionnaire, teachers rated the elements using a Likert-type rating scale ("5" = "High Importance,"..."1" = "No Importance"); return rate was 89% for teachers. Cronbach's reliability estimates for importance ratings of the "core areas" ranged from .49 to .86; overall reliability was .91. Items were perceived to have "much" or "high importance" (overall M = 4.54). "A well rounded program emphasizing instruction, SAEs, and youth leadership activities" received the highest rating (M = 5.00). Teachers' ratings by mail questionnaire confirmed their earlier perceptions, thus supporting the assertion that a "soft systems" approach can be useful when examining a complex phenomenon.

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