Supporting struggling pre-service teachers: A guide for mentor teachers


In 2017 I joined a project led my my colleague, Dr. Amy Burns, in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. 

The project was called “Pre-service teachers at risk: Intervention strategies for and by teachers“. It was funded by the Alberta Advisory Committee for Educational Studies (AACES).

The primary question our research addressed was: (RQ1) What strategies do in-service teachers employ to support struggling pre-service teachers in field education?

A secondary question addressed was: (RQ2) How can postsecondary institutions better facilitate placements where a pre-service teacher is struggling before the field placement begins, given the legislative restrictions that exist with regard to privacy?

The research is complete now and as a result, we have developed an entirely open access educational resource to help both pre-service teachers (e.g. teacher trainees) and the mentor teachers they work with. Here are the key themes we identified through our research:

  1. Don’t Do This Job in Isolation: Seek Support
  2. Guide and Model What You Want to See
  3. Provide Immediate and Frequent Feedback
  4. Communicate: Early, Often, Directly, Honestly, and Clearly
  5. Remember the Big Picture
  6. Set Clear and High Expectations
  7. Support Engagement in Self-Reflection
  8. Reflect on the Preservice Teacher’s Difficulties
  9. Recognize Early Warning Signs and Don’t Ignore Them
  10. Identify the Preservice Teacher’s Current Skill Level
  11. Create Goals


Download a full copy of the resource free of charge here:

Burns, A., Eaton, S. E., Gereluk, D., Mueller, K., & Craig, H. L. (2019). Supporting Struggling Pre-Service Teachers: A Guide for Mentor Teachers. Retrieved from Calgary, AB:


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

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