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Professional Development Schools: Schools for Developing a Profession

reviewed by Patricia Bonner - 2006

coverTitle: Professional Development Schools: Schools for Developing a Profession
Author(s): Linda Darling-Hammond(Ed.)
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807745928, Pages: 240, Year: 2005
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The reissue of Professional Development Schools edited by Linda Darling-Hammond provides a helpful history of the early emergence of Professional Development Schools during the 1980s and 1990s.  A realistic portrayal of the problems, conflicts, and successes of what requires an intense collaborative effort between university teacher educators and K-12 teachers and administrators is transparently and convincingly portrayed through case studies of seven professional development school efforts at elementary, middle, and high schools in locales ranging from California and Washington state to New York, South Carolina, and Maine.

The Introduction by Darling-Hammond and the stories of schools, teachers, administrators, and university faculty in the throes of implementing Professional Development School endeavors make a convincing but unvarnished case for a PDS approach, not only for the preparation of pre-service teachers but also for the effective, ongoing professional development and improvement of practice for early, mid-, and late-career classroom teachers.

An underlying theme of the book is the desirability of a shared preparation of teachers, giving appropriate attention and credence to the "formal, research-based knowledge" of the university as well as to the less "formal, context-based knowledge" of classroom practice (p. 14).  This sharing of responsibility for preparing new generations of teachers implies and requires a rejection of the traditional solitary professional practice of classroom teachers in which they carry out their instruction and interaction with students in isolation.  In its place is pervasive, inescapable collaboration.  K-12 teachers and administrators and university faculty and pre-service teachers join forces at all points and thus completely eradicate any possibility of individual seclusion in practice.

A strength of the case studies is that they do not attempt to sugar coat the reality of the conflicts, problems, and barriers in the implementation and maintenance of the Professional Development Schools.  A consistent issue throughout the case studies is the difference in perspectives, interests, and priorities of the K-12 educators and the higher education faculty.  One is reminded of Grant and Murray's (2002) description of parallel, but generally not intersecting, tracks of professors and pre-college teachers who engage in the same fundamental acts of teaching and encounter the same questions, but are not perceived to be members of the same profession nor do they share the same working conditions and status.  These case studies describe a fledgling intersection of the two different cultures, that of schools and schools of education, toward the needed end of the rethinking and redoing of initial and ongoing teacher learning and teaching.

Although these differences are evident in all of the case studies, Snyder's case study on the joint efforts of Teachers College, New York City's Community School District Three, and the United Federation of Teachers synthesize the nature of the conflicting priorities of the members of the dissimilar organizations.  In terms of fundamental interests, Snyder describes the college educators as interested in their students, the pre-service teachers, and in the generation of knowledge and theory.  The K-12 educators are also described as fundamentally interested in their students—the children.  The K-12 principals are noted to be interested in their staff and their school; and the union is described as interested in teachers as a collective group, particularly as it relates to compensation, rather than in the success of the PDS efforts.  These underlying and differing fundamental interests help the reader to understand the clashes that inevitably arise and to experience vicariously the manner in which these competing professional foci are made explicit and dealt with in such a manner as to enable the overarching purposes of the PDS to move forward.  This resolving of conflicts and overcoming of barriers inherent within the effort of disparate organizations to work in partnership toward a mutual goal is one of the most helpful and instructive elements of the book.

The case studies also make evident the tensions within school staffs with the competition and resentment that ensues when some teachers are part of a PDS effort and some are not.  A high school principal tackling the challenging task of restructuring her school around a PDS describes in a positive way the roles to be played by what she identifies as three groups in a school: the "restructurers who are really doing things differently," "the reviewers who watch and sit on the fence before they decide what they want to do," and the "resisters who keep us on track" (p. 83).

A between-organization factor that was made explicit in a couple of case studies was the poor reputation in the schools of the participating university.  This obviously delayed the development of the trust necessary to begin a serious alliance that was to change fundamentally the way pre-service teachers were prepared and the way that teaching and learning and professional development was conceived and carried out in the schools.  The value of acknowledging the existence of this mistrust is in observing how it is overcome and how trust and shared efforts toward mutual goals are forged in spite of initial negative preconceptions between organizations.

A higher education factor that clearly erodes the ability of teacher educators to make the necessary commitment of time and work effort to a PDS endeavor is the reward structure of a university.  Although the issue is woven throughout the case studies, Barry and Catoe in chapter 8 specifically focus on the College of Education within the University of South Carolina.  They describe the relative lack of status of teacher education faculty within the university as evidenced by the discrepancy in the funding and student/faculty ratio of teacher education as compared with other disciplines, such as engineering.  In terms of recognition of worthy faculty work, they quote an administrator who affirmed the "oppressive reality" (p. 114) of the "publish or perish imperative" (p. 193) which deters the investment of faculty time and effort in K-12 schools: "Other universities don't come and try to steal our teachers very often; they try to steal our researchers 365 days a year" (p. 193).

Whether one is a K-12 educator or a higher educator, she will recognize in these stories the professional self-interest that permeates human interaction in even the loftiest and noblest of endeavors, such as teaching.  However, in these case studies, the admirable goals eventually took precedence over self-interest and enabled the efforts made toward improved teacher preparation and professional growth to flourish.

The well-described barriers and conflicts notwithstanding, the book makes a convincing case that the preferred and promising method of preparing new teachers and renewing and reenergizing K-12 teachers and teaching is through explicitly merging the efforts of university faculty and K-12 educators using the vehicle of Professional Development Schools.  

Since the case studies described efforts taking place 10 to 20 years ago, I would have appreciated an update on each of the case studies, describing the present status of each Professional Development School effort.  It appears that the only change to the 1994 publication was the short Introduction by Linda Darling-Hammond.  Even the "About the Contributors" section was not updated.  Darling-Hammond was at Stanford University at the time of the reissue but was still listed as Professor at Teachers College Columbia.  To the extent that a reader engaged in the case studies, he would be interested to know the present status of each PDS.  Nevertheless, the value of the descriptions of the process of bringing together the contrasting interests, priorities, and perspectives of the required participants in a Professional Development School justifies the reissue.  The book would be a valuable resource for universities and school districts considering the daunting undertaking of initiating a Professional Development School endeavor.


Grant, G., & Murray, C. (2002). Teaching in America: The slow revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 8, 2006, p. 1688-1691
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12256, Date Accessed: 1/22/2022 9:45:31 PM

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About the Author
  • Patricia Bonner
    Azusa Pacific University
    E-mail Author
    PATRICIA BONNER is Professor and Chair of the Department of Doctoral Studies in Education at Azusa Pacific University. She has also served as Dean of the School of Education and Behavioral Studies and as Director of Teacher Education at Azusa Pacific. Her interests and research include the professional development of teachers, resiliency and coping in school superintendents, and achievement motivation. She regularly reviews manuscripts for Teachers College Record and has served on the Editorial Review Boards of Educational Leadership and Administration and Teachers in Focus.
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