Dr. Rebekah Louis’ DOE grant explores the possibility of certifying teacher supervisors

LouisA hallmark of teacher preparation organizations, including the School of Education, are mentors in the profession and supervisors for pre-service teachers and novice educators who help to refine the teaching practice.

Though there are licenses and standards in place to ensure teachers themselves are fully qualified to lead in their classrooms, thus far there isn’t a model for certifying the skills of supervising practitioners and program supervisors who work closely with teacher candidates.

Dr. Rebekah Louis, lecturer in Special Education, received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education to implement a pilot Supervisor Certification program beginning this fall.

“The idea behind the program and the certification is to set a high bar for supervising practitioners and program supervisors,” Dr. Louis explained. “This certification would in turn provide a group of high quality professionals that all sponsoring organizations can draw upon to use as supervising practitioners of teachers in the field or program supervisors.”

The notion is that the certification would be an additional measure of merit that supervising practitioners and program supervisors could pursue, allowing them to demonstrate that they possess effective supervising skills such as how to develop action plans for teacher candidates, how to effectively supervise in the field, and how to give effective feedback.

“That’s probably the most important part of this work,” Dr. Louis said, “ensuring that supervisors are able to give impactful feedback that will help prepare high-quality educators.”

During this pilot year of the certification program, Dr. Louis will work with 11 supervising practitioners—teachers in the field who host and mentor teacher candidates in their classroom throughout their student teaching semester—  and nine program supervisors—faculty or other professionals who act as liaisons between teacher preparation organizations and partner schools. Program supervisors also ensure that teacher candidates are implementing practices learned in their courses, and meeting licensure standards. Five participants that Dr. Louis will work with are SED faculty.

“Throughout the year we’ll be documenting different aspects of supervision and then we’ll submit the documentation to the state to determine what makes a highly-qualified supervisor.”

The certification requires each participating supervisor to work with a teacher candidate either in the fall or the spring, document through video and reflection their experiences working with the teacher candidate, document feedback they’ve given the teacher candidate, videotape lessons of the teacher candidate, and then show their conversations with the candidate after the lesson to determine whether they’re providing effective feedback.

“There’s nothing like this in the country so far, and I would say that Massachusetts is pretty ahead of the curve in terms of thinking about the prospect of certifying supervisors,” Dr. Louis said. “It would be a great way to add another measure of quality to the field of education and teacher preparation.”

By Lisa Randall