Dialogue and Difference in a Teacher Education Program: A 16-Year Sociocultural Study of a Professional Development School
reviewed by Tiffany A. Flowers - April 12, 2013
Title: Dialogue and Difference in a Teacher Education Program: A 16-Year Sociocultural Study of a Professional Development School
Author(s): Marilyn Johnston-Parsons
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1617357650, Pages: 328, Year: 2012
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The Foreword of the texts opens with Dr. Jim Nolan affirming the uniqueness of this work as multifaceted and multilayered regarding five main goals: (a) Reforming preservice teacher education; (b) reforming professional development; (c) focusing on equity; (d) focusing on diversity; and (e) preparing teachers for urban schools. Nolan goes on to highlight the longitudinal nature of the study, the multiple natures of voices in this work, and the representation of the Professional Development School with the work in the community. The Preface of this work explains the rationale for this body of research as well as the policy implications for this work. Marilyn Johnston-Parsons did an excellent job of conveying the importance of doing longitudinal work such as this in the field of education. Professional Development Schools are important institutions as they represent the partnerships between colleges and schools.
The next three chapters of this text delve into a rich overview of this longitudinal study. Chapter One About the Program provides the background for this study. This was a longitudinal study that included a professional development school (PDS) and graduate teacher certification program. This study took place in the early nineties, and the focus of this project was to reform and reflect on current methodologies throughout the study of the PDS. Chapter Two About the Research and Program Evaluation described the fluid nature of this research. This is a longitudinal study that includes ethnographic research strategies. This was a well written chapter that included useful dialogue about how this study was crafted. In Chapter Three About Theorizing our Practice was a critically important review of the current research theories in education. Theories of difference, communities of practice, and democratic classrooms are covered in this chapter.
The next four chapters of this work focused on the experiences of interns and advanced graduate students who worked in these urban settings. Chapter Four About the Mentoring and Professional Development was a crucial chapter for those that plan similar models for partnerships between professional development schools and colleges of education. This chapter focused on the decisions regarding interns, pedagogical practices, and issues regarding supervision. The reflections regarding teaching children in urban schools provided a personal touch to the research not normally seen in most texts. In Chapter Five About the University Teacher Education Reforms included case studies of students working in the field. This chapter really rounded out this body of research by provided experienced accounts of the teachers working in the field. Chapter Six About the Doctoral Students includes accounts or case studies of graduate assistants and research assistants working in collaboration with faculty at the Professional Development School. In Chapter Seven About the Med Interns the teachers discuss their experiences training in the Professional Development School, the university, and then the transition to the field. These experiences were critically important for those looking to train teachers for urban classrooms.
The next two sections Chapter Eight About the Quantitative Research Findings and Chapter Nine About the Qualitative Research Findings provide details about the survey responses and the in-depth interviews with the participants. The qualitative chapter provides the findings in a themed format.
In the final chapter, Chapter Ten About our Learning included a reflection on the ten-year experience. There were thoughts included on the reform efforts, the value of the research, and, most importantly, the sustainability of this initiative.
I highly recommend this work for all teacher education faculty teaching students about reform efforts, qualitative research models, and professional development schools. There are very few longitudinal studies such as this one in the field that include such a broad scope of teachers, students, doctoral students, and masters degree students. This study included both quantitative and qualitative measures. Additionally, there was an emphasis on the reform initiatives and the need to document those experiences. This work included candid dialogue regarding issues related to teachers surviving in urban schools, and the work that universities are doing to prepare those professionals.