Today’s…challenges demand that teachers work in collaboration with other experts. If educators embrace the resources of the new knowledge economy, our schools could become hubs in a new kind of learning community, led by teams of experienced and novice teachers, consulting technology and content experts, and learning coaches. Yet to coordinate these opportunities and ensure that resources are directed toward student learning, teachers cannot continue to work alone. (http://www.nctaf.org/strategies/create/index.htm)
Our interest in building partnerships with other institutions that prepare teachers and with local schools and districts stems from our belief that teacher education and professional development are responsibilities that are best shared by institutions of higher education and P-12 schools. The expertise of teachers, administrators, and university faculty members can all contribute to teacher professional development at all stages in a teacher’s career, to enhanced action research, and to better learning environments for everyone involved. These kinds of partnerships between teacher education programs and P-12 schools are mutually beneficial as they lead to better teacher preparation, better ongoing professional development and, most importantly, higher P-12 student achievement. The partnerships also create efficiencies as planning for the use of professional preparation and professional development dollars is collaborative and targeted toward the highest needs of the school districts.
What kinds of partnerships are we talking about?
- Partnerships for teacher preparation. Pre-service teachers who experience coherent, extended student teaching placements with qualified, well-prepared mentors are more likely to stay in the profession longer, improve student achievement and receive higher evaluations from administrators who supervise them. In our partnership vision this means that:
- “Clusters” of 6-8 student-teachers from different teacher education programs will be placed in schools together (when possible, students would remain in the same school for the full length of their student teaching placement). This “clustering” would allow programs to allocate more resources to each school where student teachers were placed as each program would be working in fewer schools. It would also allow teacher education programs to assign one supervisor to a group of student teachers and increase the presence of professionals associated with these programs in each school. This will facilitate communication and support both for pre-service teachers and for cooperating teachers (CTs) and administrators working with student teachers.
- Cooperating teachers, teacher education faculty and school staff would have opportunities to share their expertise with each other and with student teachers through co-led workshops and/or other instructional collaborations (e.g. CTs co-teaching methods classes with college and university instructors, or CTs inviting faculty into their classrooms to co-teach and/or to model instructional practices).
- Cooperating teachers and others in the school would have opportunities (potentially credit-bearing) to work with university faculty and supervisors to develop skills needed for successfully supporting pre-service teachers (including strategies for conducting formal and informal observations, helping new teachers identify areas needing growth, and giving feedback on teaching).
- Cooperating teachers will have opportunities to meet regularly with other CTs and supervisors and cohort leaders to review program goals, learn about and provide input on university assignments, reflect on the progress of the pre-service teachers and discuss other issues that arise in the course of the student teaching experience.
- Higher education institutions with teacher preparation programs will collaborate with one another and with district leaders to build more common approaches to placement and support for student teachers. This will help ensure common understanding of program similarities and differences and ensure that lines of communication are opened between teacher education programs and schools where student teachers are placed.
- Partnerships for teacher induction and support. Induction and mentoring are an essential part of ensuring that teachers successfully make the transition from their teacher education program into the teaching profession. In our partnership vision this means that:
- College and university faculty already working with student teachers in the schools will also work with school administrators and experienced teachers to develop mentoring programs designed to increase the support provided to teachers in their first three years of teaching. Cooperating teachers and others will have opportunities to extend their knowledge of teacher professional development and become school-based mentors for new teachers.
- Support for new teachers would include one-on-one mentoring as well as participation in Professional Learning Communities lead by teacher-mentors or university or college faculty or supervisors.
- Higher education institutions with teacher preparation programs will collaborate with one another and with school district leaders to develop and implement models for new teacher induction and support during the first three years of teaching.
- Partnerships for ongoing teacher professional development. Ongoing professional development is essential to the teaching profession; not only does it result in increased longevity for teachers, it promotes the development of teacher leaders who can assist administrators in school-wide reform efforts designed to improve student learning. In our partnership vision this means that:
- College and university faculty and staff will work with school administrators and other professionals to establish Professional Learning Communities for all interested school personnel. The nature and structure of these PLCs will be tailored to the needs of each school’s community, staff and students.
- Teachers and other school professionals will have opportunities to extend their learning in areas specifically designed to meet the needs of their students. For example, groups of staff might participate together in workshops or classes designed to increase their understanding of how to use data for school improvement, how to conduct action research on classroom practice, or how to implement proficiency-based instructional strategies in the classroom.
- Higher education institutions with teacher preparation programs will collaborate with one another and with school districts to develop and implement effective models and programs for ongoing teacher professional development.