Home » Teacher Education » Supporting Pre-Service Teachers – A New Model

Supporting Pre-Service Teachers – A New Model

By Joe Mazza

Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting the Normal Lyceum of Helsinki, a 7-9 school in downtown Helsinki Finland. This school is unique, as it is owned by the University of Helsinki and serves as a teacher training school.

When a student teacher, referred to in Finland as a trainee, is working toward completion of practicum, they are placed with a teacher trainer from a University. The University of Helsinki is one of eight practice schools in the country of Finland, and has a partnership with the Normal Lyceum of Helsinki.

We arrived to the school at 8:45AM, and we were provided an overview of the facility by school officials. Then were sent off in three groups to attend 75-minute lessons in math, chemistry and English. Sure I was interested in what was happening in the teacher-student interactions as the lesson proceeded, but it was the back of the room that really got me thinking of some new possibilities.

Three trainees and teacher trainer watch on

Three trainees and teacher trainer watch on

#PennFinn13 colleagues Jen and Mike also sat in student desks to observe the lesson. When we turned around in our seats, there in the back of the room sat three student teachers and the teacher trainer/University professor. Each took notes on the lesson using a simple observation document. They watched on as the trainee proceeded with her lesson and engaged the students.

During various segments of the lesson, students worked independently at their desks and in groups. At these times, the adults in the back of the room got up and joined different areas of the room to offer support and guidance, providing a 5:20 ratio of adult to student within the classroom.

Multiple adults work around the room to support student needs

Multiple adults including trainees and teacher trainer work around the room to support student needs

At the end of the lesson, the trainee receives feedback from her three peers, plus her professor/teacher trainer. How does this level of support compare to that of a student teacher working with only one mentor teacher for a period of weeks?

For one, this trainee has the feedback of four adults at the end of her lesson, as opposed to only his or her supervisor or mentor teacher. The feedback form (pictured below), asks three questions. (Thanks to Olli Maata for tweeting me the translation mid lesson!)

Feedback Form

1) What did the trainee succeed with? (Mention at least three things)

Peer Observation Form

Peer Observation Form

2) What would you have done differently?

3) Other feedback or thoughts on this lesson.

Once the students have left the room, the teacher trainer meets with the trainee to process the beginning middle and end of the lesson, and offer ideas for growth. The three peer feedback forms are submitted directly to the trainee and are used to fuel dialogue about teaching and learning. The conversation continues until the lesson is thoroughly processed according to the teacher trainer.

[End of class period]

Now, if we were fortunate enough to have a school-University partnership in place back at my school, I’d look to change the look of one piece in place here. The teacher trainer should encourage the other three teachers to remain in the room through the post lesson conversation. Given a supportive culture set up by the teacher trainer, there is a good amount of collaborative and transparent opportunities to share ideas, while offering support and affirmation of the lesson to the pre-service teacher.

Much like many of today’s medical professionals, the teacher trainer has the opportunity to formulate a team of teacher trainees to learn together much like Bailey leads her “interns” on Grey’s Anatomy. They have conversations about their craft, covering concepts and working through challenges in a supportive and safe little cohort.

Image credit: abc.go.com/shows/greys-anatomy

Image credit: abc.go.com/shows/greys-anatomy

New teacher preparation is absolutely vital to the future of education in any country. We must constantly be in search of innovative ways to provide as much support to these students as possible. I’m certainly interested in exploring this model further, and feel it might offer a deeper level of ongoing support to pre-service teachers.

For more information on what it takes to become a certified teacher in Finland, check out this link. Many thanks to Normal Lyceum of Helsinki and the University of Helsinki for exposing us to your teacher trainer program.


  1. Hannagrrr says:

    When I did my teacher training at the same place we did get feedback directly from our peers but it depended on our schedules whether or not we had time to stay afterwards.

    • Joe Mazza says:

      Hannangrr- Thanks for sharing this. I am sure it is a bit different in each place. We’re learning there are no absolutes in Finland. Especially the fact that each Finnish school has it’s own unique culture.

  2. Joe Mazza says:

    Hi Sue – Please share any resources on W Australia’s system. I’d like to learn more about it.

  3. mrichmond250 says:

    It seems that in varying degrees in both Finland and the US teacher training involves at least one colleague sitting in and giving feedback but this collaboration and transparency seems to continue in Finland while in the US it seems once the period of student teaching ends, the classroom door closes and the practice of teaching becomes a private enterprise

    • Joe Mazza says:

      Marti- You’re right. I can’t think of a good reason to cut off or limit the support when it is needed the most. Early intervention is necessary in teachers as well if we want them to become great.

  4. Lee Ann Wentzel says:

    A couple thoughts come to mind with this feedback model. Do students have the opportunity to provide developmentally appropriate feedback regarding teacher performance? How or is this model modified as teachers advance in the career?

    • Joe Mazza says:

      Lee Ann- The teacher trainer facilitates the conversation folling each lesson based on the feedback from teacher, student-colleagues & her own support recommendation. The key words are supportive and safe, not coercive, evaluative and measured against others.

  5. […] Transparency is evident everywhere in the Finnish schools we visited. The amount of glass I was immersed in allowed me to sit in one setting and understand what the spaces around me, and how it all connected to teaching, learning and leading. Pre-service teachers are part of a supportive cohort to harness the experience and expertise in the room. […]

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