In order to receive an initial educator license in the state of Illinois, every candidate (with some exceptions) must complete a rigorous student teaching experience. In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Northern Illinois University, the length of student teaching assignments varies by program, with anywhere from fourteen to sixteen weeks being required. Student teaching is not a paid experience.
Student teachers assume the class schedule and supervisory responsibilities of their cooperating teacher(s). A full-load for a student teacher usually consists of five classes, with two or three preparations per day. There is usually a phase-in period, when the student teacher initially observes the classes of his or her cooperating teacher(s) and then is gradually given more responsibility. Usually by the second or third week the student teacher assumes full responsibility for all of his or her classes. At the end of the student teaching assignment there is usually a "phase-out" period as well, so that the students can again be acclimated to their regular teacher.
University supervisors have prior teaching experience and expertise in their content field and are hired by the college to act as liaisons between the secondary school personnel and the university. They visit the student teachers in the schools five to six times during the candidate's experience. The length of these visits varies, but the university supervisors always complete a visitation report and usually meet with the student teacher and/or the cooperating teacher(s) to give feedback and offer advice and encouragement.
Licensure candidates must submit an application for their final observation student teaching assignment to their discipline coordinators the semester before their final clinical (or discipline-based equivalent). Our program attempts to place students in the same school for their last clinical and their student teaching in order for candidates to acclimate themselves to the school and classroom environments prior to their student teaching. Placement decisions are ultimately made by the secondary schools. Many factors affect the placement decisions, such as the qualifications of the teaching candidate, the availability of qualified cooperating teachers in the school, and the number of student teachers and clinical students currently or previously placed in a school and/or department.