What Is Student Teaching?

Student teaching is an unpaid professional experience that gives you the opportunity to develop your skills as an educator. Learn more about how it works.

portrait of Dr. Samantha Fecich
by Dr. Samantha Fecich

Published on March 8, 2022 · Updated on May 3, 2022

Edited by Hannah Muniz
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What Is Student Teaching?


You're one step closer to graduating college with your teaching degree. Now, it's time to begin your student teaching experience. You may feel nervous or excited — or a combination of both. But this is what your coursework has prepared you for.

So what is student teaching exactly? How long does the experience last? Do you get paid for it? We answer these questions and more below.

What Does Student Teaching Entail?

Student teaching is a culminating learning experience that education majors typically complete in their final year of college. You'll intern in a classroom or setting where you're pursuing your teaching certification. These experiences are usually unpaid and can last anywhere from 14 weeks to a year. 

Becoming a student teacher is essential to your growth and development as a teacher. It gives you the opportunity to apply what you've learned from your education courses to the real world.

In addition, student teaching provides you experience in different types of classroom settings. This helps you figure out which grade level or subject area you enjoy working with the most.

For example, a future teacher who's studied pre-K through fourth grade may work as a student teacher in a second-grade classroom. Or, if you were double majoring in elementary education and special education, you would get two placements: one in a regular elementary classroom and another in a special education classroom.

Student teaching is ultimately a cooperative experience. You'll be paired with a certified educator at a partner school. This person, known as the cooperating teacher, will work with and support you throughout your student teaching experience.

You'll also have a college supervisor who will come in and observe you teach. They'll then give you feedback based on the evaluation system used by your college and state.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Student Teacher?

Student teaching responsibilities vary depending on your certification area. While a student teacher's tasks can shift slightly each day, there are many responsibilities that help them learn what it means to be a teacher.

Here are some of the most common responsibilities of student teachers:

7 Essential Student Teaching Tips

The most effective student teachers have a positive, professional presence in the classroom and strong working relationships with their colleagues. Here are some student teaching tips to help you succeed as a student teacher.

1. Introduce Yourself and Get Involved Right Away

It's important to get to know your cooperating teacher, the administration, the administrative assistant, the custodian, and all other people who work at the school right away.

Then, as soon as possible, start working on getting more involved with your students (with the permission of your cooperating teacher). This will likely require you to have a conversation with your cooperating teacher about how you can work more closely with students.

For example, you could lead a read-aloud or greet students as they walk into the classroom each morning.

2. Observe Other Teachers and Education Professionals

Watching how others lead classes can introduce you to teaching methods and classroom-management strategies you may want to try out in your own class.

Similarly, seeing what your colleagues do, such as coaches and specialists, can help you learn about other roles in education. It may even give you ideas for new techniques and strategies to use in your own classroom.

3. Plan With Intent

Make sure you spend ample time lesson planning and preparing for class. You should submit well-written lesson plans on time and in the format required by the cooperating teacher.

4. Try Out New Tools

As you student teach, consider testing out new instructional strategies or educational technology tools to vary up your teaching and see what works.

5. Engage in Meaningful Reflection

Don't just go through the motions of reflection at the end of the day or end of the lesson — reflect instead in a meaningful way that can help you learn. When analyzing your lessons, come up with specific reflection questions that relate to the lesson you're teaching. Don't fall into the habit of using the same reflection questions for every lesson.

For example, if your lesson entailed using student groups or station rotation, you should reflect upon how students worked in groups or your instructions provided for each station.

6. Ask for Lesson-Specific Feedback

Feedback is essential to becoming an effective teacher. For example, if you're trying out a new grouping strategy, ask your cooperating teacher for feedback on how you used that strategy and its overall effectiveness.

And don't just ask your cooperating teacher for feedback — the administration, like your school's principal or assistant principal, can offer a unique perspective on your progress as a student teacher.

7. Continue to Update Your Portfolio

Set aside about 20 minutes each week to update your digital portfolio or professional website. With a blog, for example, you can discuss lessons that worked well. Only include pictures of students if you have permission to do so.

Can Student Teaching Help You Land a Job After College?

Aside from including your student teaching experience on your resume, how else can the role help you land a job after college?

For one, make sure you describe exactly what you learned and accomplished as a student teacher on your resume, in your cover letter, and in your portfolio. The key here is to tell a story. Explain what kind of lesson you led, how your students reacted to the content, and how you delivered that lesson.

One excellent way to track your experiences as a student teacher is to set up a digital portfolio or blog. You can then include a link on your resume that links to your portfolio.

Additionally, ask your cooperating teacher and college supervisor for a letter of recommendation. You can add these testimonials to your portfolio and/or LinkedIn profile. Just make sure to ask your recommenders first if you can publish their letters.

Frequently Asked Questions About Student Teaching

true Who gets to become a student teacher?

Student teaching is for future teachers who are actively seeking teaching certification in their state. While you generally don't have to pass a test to student teach, the requirements for student teaching will vary depending on your state and college.

Reach out to your academic advisor to ensure you understand the requirements for student teaching. These may include having a certain GPA, enrolling in specific courses, and field experience.

true Am I really ready to student teach?

This question usually relates to confidence. Some student teachers may wonder whether they're truly ready to teach. One way to approach this is by engaging in positive self-talk. Reflect on the teaching experiences you've had in the past, and remind yourself that you completed all the necessary coursework to get to this point.

Learning curves are a normal part of the process. If you weren't ready to teach, your professors would let you know.

false Do you get paid for student teaching?

Most student teachers don't get paid, though it depends on the college. Student teaching is generally an unpaid internship. However, some students can pursue substitute teaching while they're student teaching. To apply to be a substitute teacher, check the regulations with your school placement and college.

false What should I do when I receive my student teaching placement?

Some student teachers are required to find their own placement for student teaching. In other cases, your college supervisor may assign you a cooperating teacher to work with. In either case, you should introduce yourself to the cooperating teacher.

Send an email introducing yourself and explain how you're looking forward to being a student teacher at their school. Remember that this is essentially a virtual handshake with your cooperating teacher, so keep it professional.

Feature Image: Maskot / Maskot / Getty Images

Ready to teach online? We offer 10 tips for successful online teaching. If you love education and want to become a teacher, going back to college for a teaching degree can set you up on an exciting and fulfilling career path. Unlike traditional teaching methods, culturally responsive teaching embraces student diversity and promotes culture, collaboration, and engagement.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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