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Can you fail student teaching?

Student teaching is a critical part of becoming a licensed teacher. During this time, teacher candidates work under the supervision of a cooperating teacher to gain hands-on experience in the classroom. While most teacher candidates pass student teaching, it is possible to fail this important step. Understanding why student teachers fail and how to avoid it can help teacher candidates successfully complete this final requirement.

Reasons Student Teachers May Fail

There are several reasons a teacher candidate may fail student teaching:

  • Inadequate content knowledge – Teacher candidates must demonstrate proficiency in the subject area they will teach. Gaps in content knowledge can lead to failure.
  • Classroom management challenges – Managing student behavior and creating an organized, productive classroom environment are essential teaching skills. Teacher candidates who struggle with classroom management may fail.
  • Difficulty planning lessons – Developing engaging, thoughtful lesson plans is a critical teaching skill. Teacher candidates who do not plan effective lessons often fail.
  • Problems assessing students – Teachers must be able to accurately assess student learning through tests, quizzes, assignments, and other measures. Failure to do so can result in failing.
  • Poor professionalism – Lack of punctuality, professional dress and demeanor, communication with the cooperating teacher, and other aspects of professionalism can lead to failure.
  • Personality conflicts – Interpersonal problems between the teacher candidate and students, cooperating teacher, or school staff can undermine the field experience.

Preventing Failure in Student Teaching

Teacher candidates can take proactive steps to avoid failure during student teaching:

  • Thoroughly learn the content prior to student teaching – Teacher preparation programs provide opportunities to build content knowledge. Take advantage of these.
  • Observe experienced teachers and learn classroom management techniques.
  • Practice lesson planning extensively before and during student teaching.
  • Study student assessment practices and ask the cooperating teacher for feedback.
  • Be professional in dress, speech, timeliness, communication, and all interactions.
  • Build rapport with the cooperating teacher through communication and hard work.
  • Be receptive to feedback and willing to improve.

Consequences of Failing Student Teaching

Failing student teaching can seriously set back or derail a teaching career. Typical consequences include:

  • Need to complete remedial coursework or training before attempting student teaching again.
  • Delay in completing the teacher preparation program.
  • Additional tuition expenses if student teaching must be repeated.
  • Poor prospects for employment if failure occurred late in the program.
  • Potentially needing to change majors if teaching skills do not improve.
  • Difficulty finding a new cooperating teacher and school willing to take the candidate.

Appealing a Failed Student Teaching Experience

If a teacher candidate believes they were wrongly failed for student teaching, an appeal may be possible. Typical steps include:

  1. Speaking with the cooperating teacher to understand areas for improvement.
  2. Providing evidence of satisfactory teaching ability such as lesson plans, assessments, and communication with families.
  3. Filing a formal appeal with the teacher preparation program and any larger institutional process.
  4. Requesting a new student teaching placement with a different cooperating teacher.
  5. Consulting with education program advisors and mentors for guidance.
  6. Considering legal advocacy if discrimination or unfair treatment is suspected.


While most teacher candidates pass student teaching, failure is a real possibility if skills, knowledge, and professionalism are inadequate. Preventing failure requires extensive preparation and self-improvement. With strong teaching abilities, teacher candidates can meet the high expectations of student teaching and become licensed educators.