Module 3: Coaching Your Teacher Candidate

Using the Instructive-Collaborative-Facilitative Framework

As classroom teachers, we are used to talking to our students and very comfortable giving direct instructions. With adults, however, the same approach may not be well received. “Telling” adults what to do tends to be less effective than helping them find their own answers. So, instead, we suggest using the Instructive-Collaborative-Facilitative (I-C-F) framework as a guide for conversation with your teacher candidate.

Instructive: Flow of information is mainly from the cooperating teacher to the teacher candidate

Collaborative: Flow of information is relatively equal between the cooperating teacher and teacher candidate

Facilitative: Flow of information is mainly from the teacher candidate to the cooperating teacher




Cooperating Teacher Role

Give directions, explain options

Guide the interaction, ask focusing questions, co-construct solutions and materials

Listen, ask open and reflective questions, support self-assessment

Teacher Candidate Role

Follow directions, select from available options

Narrow ideas, determine next steps, co-construct solutions and materials

Actively direct the flow of information, self-assess, self-prescribe

Language Examples

“Would you like me to offer some ideas?”

“Perhaps I can share some strategies that might be useful here?”

“It sounds like it might help if you had a few more ideas about how to do quick checks for understanding. Do you want to brainstorm a few possibilities together?”

“What next steps do you think we should take?”

“What would you like to try?”

“What next steps are you considering?”

“It sounds like you have given this a lot of thought, what would you like me to do?”

Activity Examples

Suggest a strategy for assessing student work.

Provide classroom management policies.

Offer ways to differentiate instruction.

Co-develop a lesson or curriculum unit.

Analyze examples of student work together.

Observe another teacher and then discuss.

Listen as the Teacher Candidate analyzes observation data.

Pose questions that clarify and deepen the Teacher Candidate’s thinking.

The I-C-F framework in action

The videos below show examples of using instructive, collaborative, and instructive stances. As you watch the videos, listen for language the cooperating teacher uses to support each stance.

Shifting along the continuum

Although it’s the “Instructive-Collaborative-Facilitative” framework, we recommend starting with the facilitative stance and moving to the collaborative or instructive stances only when needed.

Why? Ultimately, your teacher candidate will have to be able to manage their own classroom and their own students without you for guidance and support. Providing opportunities for your teacher candidate to practice this independence will help them become autonomous teachers.


Whenever possible, remain in the facilitative stance and help the teacher candidate develop their own solutions.


If facilitating isn’t possible, shift to the collaborative stance and co-construct solutions.


When necessary, be prepared to be direct and give specific instructions in the instructive stance.

As you become more comfortable with the I-C-F approach, you will find yourself moving fluidly from one stance to another and back again as the situation and conversation warrants.

Depending on the context, the same topic might be approached using the facilitative, collaborative, or instructive stance.

For example, let’s say your teacher candidate is explaining a lesson plan…

“What will students produce to demonstrate their learning?”


“I can show you a couple models, and we can think about what changes might work for your lesson.”


“If you send out all these students with IEPs, they won’t receive the same educational opportunities as the others, which isn’t fair. What supports might some students need to be successful?”


We all tend to have a stance (instructive, collaborative, or facilitative) that is most comfortable. What is your most comfortable stance and how might this affect your work with a student teacher?

How Teaching Adults is Different

Understanding the differences between young learners and adult learners is critical for helping your teacher candidate learn.

An adult learner is someone who has achieved the concept of being responsible for their own life. Although some teacher candidates might not yet have this concept of themselves, most probably will.

The idea that adult learners are different from young learners was sparked when researcher and educator Malcolm Knowles suggested that the same methods for teaching children does not apply to adults. Knowles pushed for the idea of “andragogy,” or the science of helping adults learn (though it’s still typically called “pedagogy”).

Characteristics of young versus adult learners

As part of his Adult Learning Theory, Knowles determined there were several general assumptions, or characteristics, of adult learners that differentiated them from young learners.

Tips for teaching adults

Based on Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory, we suggest considering the following three tips when working with your teacher candidate.

Tip #1: Wait for the teachable moment

If your teacher candidate is not ready to learn something, no matter how hard you may try, it just won’t work. Look and listen for clues that might indicate your teacher candidate is ready for a next step.

For example, a teachable moment might be indicated by the teacher candidate saying things like…

“I wonder if they understood my directions…”

“I’m not sure what to do if they ask a question I don’t know the answer to.”

Tip #2: Explain the “why”

Adults want to understand why or how they will use specific information in the near future.

For example, you might say things like…

“It’s helpful to place students in a seating chart on the first day in order to learn their names more quickly.”

“Let’s lesson plan together so that if either of us is absent, the other one will know exactly what to teach.”

Tip #3: Recognize and use life experience

As adult learners, teacher candidates bring a wealth of life experience with them to your classroom. They will learn best and most willingly when allowed to make use of this experience.

For example, you might say things like…

“How have you handled disruptive students in the past?”

“Since you seem to already know a lot about assessment practices, let’s shift to classroom management.”

Try to stay mindful of high expectations. In the hands of an experienced educator, teaching often looks easy. This can be disconcerting to a student teacher who tries to replicate what the cooperating teacher is doing only to find that things don’t go nearly as well.

Many novice educators have very high expectations for themselves and are devastated by their early results in the classroom. It is also possible for us, the experienced teachers, to set our expectations too high for someone just beginning in the classroom.

It is important to remember that student teachers have a lot to learn during their time with you.

Providing Feedback

Providing feedback is an important aspect of observation and evaluation, but it can also be one of the most difficult tasks for cooperating teachers. You want to give developing educators a fair understanding of their current level of performance without crushing their spirits or dampening their enthusiasm. Fortunately, providing this kind of feedback is a skill you can improve over time.

What makes feedback effective?

Generally, effective feedback is:

Specific and actionable

Provide tangible examples of the behavior in question, not vague, “drive by” feedback like, “You could improve on classroom management.” Comments like that leave your teacher candidate confused and in the dark about what exactly needs to be improved. Instead, make sure you both know what needs to be done to improve the situation. The main message should be that you care and want to help the teacher candidate grow and develop.

Focused on performance, not personality

Focus on teacher candidate’ behaviors (what they do) rather than on their personality traits (what they’re like). For example, “When you interrupt me in front of the class, it causes a problem” (behavior) will probably be heard better than…“Your over-confidence is causing a problem”(personality trait).

Limited in scope

Ideally, an informal feedback session should discuss no more than two issues. Any more than that and you risk the teacher candidate feeling attacked and demoralized.


Feedback is a process that requires constant attention. When something needs to be said, say it. The Teacher Candidate will know where they stand all the time and there will be fewer surprises. Also, problems don’t get out of hand. It’s not a once-a-term event, though this may be the timing of formal feedback. Informal, simple feedback should be given much more often than this – possibly daily, depending on your Teacher Candidate. By providing frequent, informal feedback like this, nothing said during the formal feedback sessions should be unexpected, surprising or particularly difficult.

Feedback language tips

Your Teacher Candidate wants your feedback. They know that if they listen to, and take action on, clear and constructive feedback, their overall performance will improve. And when feedback is given in the right way and with the right intentions, it can lead to outstanding performance. For your teacher candidate to really hear your thoughts and suggestions, though, that feedback has to be delivered in the right way. Listed below are three tips with language examples for providing feedback that is powerful and positive.

Tip #1: Practice mirroring

Mirroring involves repeating what you have heard in your own words until you are sure that you have indeed heard it fully and accurately. It also includes asking your teacher candidate if they have been heard. This process is also called reflective listening. Mirroring is a good habit because it shows empathy and respect, allows for the most accurate information exchange, and, most importantly, encourages you to stay in a stance where the answers come from the Teacher Candidate

Examples of mirroring with words
  • From what you’re saying…
  • It sounds like…
  • What I hear you saying is…
  • Let me see if I understand…
  • So you’re primarily concerned with…
  • Would you tell me a little more about…?
  • What do you mean by…?
  • There are several key points you’re bringing up…
  • So you’re suggesting…?

Tip #2: Use “how” and “what” instead of “why”

“Why” often implies judgement. As adult learners, your teacher candidate is able to self-assess and will often recognize and correct missteps on their own. In many cases, simply making some non-judgemental responses helps the teacher candidate come to the “solution” on their own. Additionally, non-judgemental responses help communicate that you are open-minded, encouraging, and interested.

Examples of “how” and “what” questions
  • What criteria do you use to…?
  • How was … different from…?
  • What is your reaction when…?
  • What instructional decisions were successful?
  • How are you feeling about…?
  • How did you decide to…?

Tip #3: Ask mediational questions

Mediational questions help bring about a new understanding by posing questions that extend thinking, learning, and planning. They help the teacher candidate make hypotheses and think outside the box.

Examples of mediational questions
  • What’s another way you might…?
  • What do you think would happen if…?
  • What sort of an impact do you think…?
  • What do you think about…?
  • What might you see happening in the classroom if…?
  • What might have contributed to…?
End of Module 3
Continue to Module 4