‘You’re kind of taking this person under your wing…’: The experiences of cooperating primary teachers in engaging with student teachers during school placement in the Midwest of Ireland.


  • Mark O'Sullivan N/A
  • Neil Ó Conaill Mary Immaculate College




This paper stems from a larger body of work undertaken as part of a postgraduate research study on co-operating primary teachers’ experiences of the school placement process in Ireland. Given that co-operating teachers play a key role in the initial teacher education process in Ireland (Teaching Council, 2013), the paper focuses on the types of engagement and interaction currently evident in the practice of a select number of co-operating primary teachers who intermittently host and work with student teachers in classrooms and schools. The factors which inhibit the development of significant pedagogy-focussed interactions are also explored. Through using a qualitative methodological and analytical lens, findings indicate that there are a range of factors which constrain engagement, and that co-operating teachers rely heavily on verbal pedagogic discussion to interact with student teachers. Participants also emphasised the challenges to engaging with student teachers as a result of uncertainty or unwillingness from the perspective of either party. The implications of this research are considered in terms of future research to extend the findings presented herein, and the current national priority to develop a formalised programme of co-operating teacher professional development in the Irish context (Teaching Council, 2019). While the research was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic has underlined the key role of co-operating teachers in the placement process and has highlighted the need to formally acknowledge and support them in their work with students.

Author Biographies

Mark O'Sullivan, N/A

Mark O'Sullivan is a cooperating primary teacher for student teachers on school placement. He completed his M.Ed. in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick in 2019. 

Neil Ó Conaill, Mary Immaculate College

Dr. Neil Ó Conaill is Director of School Placement in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.