Professional Development Schools (PDS)
Dr. Barb Black
113 Brandenburg Hall
Dr. Robert Sweetland
Mrs. Joni Irlmeier
Learning in a community - Professional Development Schools
During the decade of the 1990s and into the new millennium, schools and universities developed a variety of partnerships to address new mandates, improve student outcomes, meet accreditation, and deal with other reform initiatives. Gradually, many of these early partnerships and initiatives led to the creation of professional development schools (PDS). The goal of most (if not all) partnerships, learning communities, and professional development schools is to provide the best education possible to children by improving teaching and learning at some or all levels.
What then is a PDS?
The idea of a "professional development school" began with the Holmes group in the mid-1980s; however, an agreed upon definition for a PDS did not come together until the late 1990s. it was not until 2001, when NCATE published the first PDS Standards, that an agreed-upon definition for a professional development school (PDS) was established: Professional developments schools are collaboratively planned and implemented partnerships for the academic and clinical preparation of interns and the continuous professional development of both the Pre-K through 12 school system and the institution of higher education faculty. The focus of a PDS is improved student performance through research-based teaching and learning.
Most PDS have FOUR overall goals.
1. Improvement of Teaching and Learning for Pre-K-12 Students (student learning)
The advantage of a PDS design is that college interns (student teachers) begin their internship on the first days of the academic year and continue throughout the entire year. In essence, the students have two teachers working together as a team in their classroom all year long. Pre-K through 12 students do not have the adjustment to a new teacher, as in the past, when a student teacher would begin in the middle of the year. The student-teacher ratio is improved; thus, there is extra help and attention to meet the needs of students.
2. Better Preparation of Student Teachers (interns / teacher candidates)
The PDS combines the clinical experiences of the pre-student teaching semester with student teaching, as well as offering classes on-site at the school. There are many approaches. Each design is unique to the needs of the individual school - at all levels. The advantage for the intern is complete immersion into the culture of teaching. In addition, there are usually a minimum of three interns at one school (six or more is ideal) and this provides an excellent support system for the group as they progress through the final stages of their teacher preparation program. It is often said that graduates of a PDS begin their first year of teaching as "second-year" teachers.
3. Professional Development for Both School and University Faculty
What is the advantage of a PDS for school faculty? There is a second set of hands and eyes for the classroom - all year! In a typical PDS, there are 3-6 or more interns. Throughout the year, their responsibilities increase, so they transition from teaching assistant to student teacher. As the interns increase their teaching time, the tradional classroom teacher's load is decreased and, therefore, the regular teacher has more flexible time for renewal, organization, study, and forward preparation. During the first semester, the regular classroom teacher is the lead teacher of the team; whereas, the second semester places the intern as the main teacher with more free time for the regular teacher. Typically, the intern assists in the morning during the first semester and then studies or takes classes in the afternoon. During the second semester, the intern takes on more responsibility.
What is the advantage of a PDS for university faculty? it is an opportunity to get back into Pre-K through schools and classrooms! Too often, university faculty are accused of being in their "Ivory Tower" and far-removed from the realities of Pre-K through 12 day-to-day teaching. Every PDS offers methods classes and other appropriate education courses on-site. How is this done? Faculty will teach classes (on-line) in the afternoon or after school. What better way to teach classroom management, strategies, or methods than presentations and discussion on-line, with immediate application and follow-up. There is also opportunity for university faculty to practice and showcase their teaching skills as well as observe, study, enjoy, and engage in Pre-K through 12 teaching and learning.
A final benefit is the blending of professionalism - at all levels. practitioners become part of the university faculty and university faculty become part of the school's community. A new awareness is created (what is happening at the school, what is happening at the college) and a new and better way to communicate evolves.
4. Research - Focused on the Three Target Populations
A site coordinator (principal or head teacher) and university supervisor (a faculty member assigned to the PDS) can lead the effort to collect meaningful data and analyze it. There can be informal inquiry groups, book clubs, or action projects that are directly connected to the needs of the school. Other possibilities might include research of mentoring, induction, teacher and candidate assessment and evaluation. Commitment to self-study and assessment are necessary and alignment to the NCATE PDS Standards to frame research is important.
A true professional development school (PDS) is much more than simply a partnership between a school and university; it is also different from and more than a learning community. The Professional Development School movement has grown and matured significantly since the beginning partnership initiatives and throughout the last decade. Professional Development Schools have the potential to profoundly change the way we prepare teacher candidates.