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Changing Teacher Education through Professional Development School Partnerships: A Five-Year Follow-up Study

by Lee Teitel - 1997

This article uses a five-year retrospective approach to examine the effect involvement with professional development schools (PDSs) has had on the way colleges or universities prepare teachers.

This article uses a five-year retrospective approach to examine the effect involvement with professional development schools (PDSs) has had on the way colleges or universities prepare teachers. John Goodlad (1988), the Holmes Group (1986, 1990), and other PDS advocates have frequently commented on the potential for PDS-type partnerships to provide for the “simultaneous renewal” of schools, on the one hand, and of colleges or universities on the other. In 1990, I conducted a modest study to look at one side of the PDS equation—the extent to which involvement in professional development schools was in fact bringing about changes in teacher education at colleges and universities. The initial study, done in 1990 and published in 1992 (Teitel, 1992), focused on three colleges in Massachusetts, which at that point had the longest and most successful records of involvement in PDS partnerships around the state (at least four or five years). The current research follows up the original three institutions five years later. This natural case study comparison offers some fascinating contrasts. Two of the original institutions have seen real growth in the use of PDSs and are starting to see some changes as a result, although the directions taken appear to be different. At the third institution, the departure of a key individual at the college came close to ending the PDS partnership; it persists in large measure because of the efforts of the teachers in the PDS.

The current research report is divided into five parts. The first describes the methodology of the study and the institutions involved, and summarizes the principles and key findings that emerged from the first study. The second part provides an update on where the colleges and universities are now. Part 3 looks at what changes in teacher education, if any, can be attributed to the involvement with professional development school partnerships. The fourth section examines the question of institutionalization what it means in each setting, what evidence there is that PDSs are becoming a permanent part of the way that these colleges and universities prepare teachers. In the conclusion, I return to the issue of simultaneous renewal, and look briefly at what light this study can shed on the ways in which PDS partnerships are in fact renewing teacher education.


The original three sites were selected from among recipients of 1989-1990 Professional Development School Awards administered by the Massachusetts Field Center for Teaching and Learning. Only programs with several years of partnership involvement were asked to participate; all agreed to do so. Data were drawn from available written materials and from interviews with key liaison personnel from the colleges or universities. For the five-year update, the interview pool was expanded to include perspectives of key individuals at some of the schools involved in the partnerships. This research methodology has not, however, led to the creation of rich qualitative case studies about the development of each PDS partnership (see cases in Darling-Hammond, 1994, for examples of this). There has been no firsthand examination of teacher education course syllabi, or observation in classes or seminars. Rather, this study remains limited in its focus to the impact that PDS involvement has had on changing teacher education and, although there is some “triangulation” of perspectives through interviews with teachers in collaborating schools, the primary sources of data are interviews with faculty and administrators at the colleges or universities involved. The sites ranged in size from an institution with over forty full-time faculty members engaged in teacher preparation to one with only three. The largest site (given the pseudonym here of Alpha University) had several different teacher preparation tracks, only one of which had, in 1990, been involved with a PDS. Of the seven full-time faculty members in the PDS-affiliated track, three had been actively involved with the PDS, and about half of the approximately sixty student teachers were placed there each semester .

The smallest site was a private college (Beta College) with only three full-time faculty members in either graduate or undergraduate education. In 1990, one professor was involved with the PDS, where about one-fifth of the thirty graduate and undergraduate student teachers were placed each semester. The third site was a medium-size private college (Gamma Col-lege) with a variety of undergraduate and graduate education programs, although only graduate students were involved in the PDS. Of the full-time graduate faculty of seven, only two were peripherally involved (as supervi-sors of students placed in the PDS). The university liaison/coordinator was a part-time faculty member. In 1990 the PDS served about one-third of the forty to forty-five graduate students placed annually.


The original study was guided by the perspective that most collaborative arrangements between schools and colleges or universities could be described in Ann Lieberman’s words as “little projects that do little things—maybe even important things—but they are not part of the institutional fabric” (quoted in Watkins, 1989, p. A1). It was shaped by the belief, since substantiated by others (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Grossman, 1994); that most PDSs grow up on the margins of their respective institutions; and driven by the notion that, if PDSs are to bring about the “simultaneous renewal” of schools and of teacher preparation institutions, more attention must be paid to the impact involvement in a PDS has on colleges and universities. Specifically, I argued in 1990 that three conditions had to be met for PDS involvement to have an impact on teacher education:

For any effect of involvement with PDS to be observable, first there must be evidence that distinct approaches, techniques, or philosophies have evolved which distinguish PDS-related teacher preparation activities from those in the mainstream of the university. Second, evidence must exist that those approaches are being structurally or ideologically integrated into the university mainstream. Finally, for any impact to be long-lasting, there must be si ns that PDS-inspired approaches, and the structures that support them, are being institu-tionalized. (Teitel, 1992, p. 77)


The modest study I conducted in 1990 concluded that there were real changes in approach and philosophy, as well as changes in the attitudes of college and university faculty members. In fact, the site-based portions of the three PDS programs were more similar to each other than to the traditional programs offered on each of their respective campuses. Changes included the placement of students with teams and collaborative supervisory structures that honored and took seriously the input of cooperating practitioners, through innovative programs like “grand rounds” where the medical model was used and interns observed experienced teachers and then talked to them about their lessons afterward. At all three sites, the professional development of veteran schoolteachers stood out as an important positive element of the experience. Of particular importance in this research were the changes in the views of the college and university faculty members about the way they thought about, and worked with, schools, cooperating teachers, and student teachers. In all the PDS partnerships, new and flexible roles were evolving. Schoolteachers were coteaching, or in some cases teaching college teacher preparation courses on their own. University faculty members were taking expanded roles at the school sites, spending more time building deeper relationships with school faculty, sometimes offering mini-courses on site that worked with and drew on the expertise of the teachers of the PDS. These new roles had important impacts on their thinking and teaching: One professor described several specific examples of what he had learned from practicing teachers on approaches to whole language, or cooperative learning, as well as to the subject areas they teach. Furthermore, he noted that he had “learned about how to teach student teachers [more] effectively. I learned the educational thinking behind the practice [of the cooperating teachers]. The whole thinking process is incredibly enhanced in the collaborative setting. ”1 Another long-time university faculty member summed up the PDS experience as “the most satisfying teacher education I have ever done. I love walking into the building and feeling welcome. The PDS helps us get past the false dichotomy between theory and practice.”

Overall, however, the approaches described in the 1990 study, distinctive as they were, coexisted with the more traditional approaches to student teaching and teacher preparation and had only limited effect on changing them. Although the coordinators or college officials associated with each 312 Teachers Col lege Record.PDS were enthusiastic about the differences in the PDS approach and each thought that most of the education faculty members were at least aware of what was going on, there had been little “ripple” effect. This lack of impact seemed to be due to several factors. Organizing structures tended to isolate the PDS and its essentially off-campus activities from the mainstream of the college or university. This, along with the tendency to identify the PDS as the special project of one or two individuals who had been putting in the extra time at the school sites, helped create an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” effect that marginalized the PDS. A third explanation for the absence of widespread consideration or discussion of the ideas associated with the PDS has been the lack of many mechanisms or forums for serious exchange to take place. Except for rare presentations at faculty meetings, institutions reported little dialogue about teaching methods or approaches, leaving little or no opportunity for faculty members not involved to learn about and discuss the PDS-inspired ideas. A fourth factor has been the limitation on trying to implement the PDS-style collaborative approach in a traditional student teacher placement program. An enthusiastic PDS advocate, who also supervised student teachers in traditional placements, noted how hard he found it to carry over the approaches that he knew were working well with the PDS-based student teachers. He described how frustrating it was to work with non-PDS student teachers,
not having the time and space to change [the situations they were working in]. I encourage student teachers to go beyond classes [to build collaborative relationships] but logistically and philosophically it is very constraining. So I end up doing what I do—[working with them in a] traditional way.

One of the few positive mechanisms reported as having an impact was the use, at one of the teacher preparation institutions, of members of the professional development school faculty as teachers or co-teachers of sections of courses on the campus. Where these courses were co-taught or coplanned with other (noninvolved) college faculty, they provided an opportunity for the influx of ideas from the PDS to be felt. The section on impact concluded by noting the degree of frustration felt by each of the individual coordinators. Firm believers in the usefulness of the PDS innovations in improving teacher education, each was aware that, despite presentations, enthusiasm, and invitations to others to participate, there were limited or negligible gains in changing the way the others on campus were preparing teachers. They noted that it was not that the PDS approaches were competi ng wi th mai nstream t eacher educati on, but that the approaches coexisted with relatively little conflict, but virtually no change. One professor who viewed himself as a “catalyst” captured the flavor of this :
I have hoped that the ideas engendered by the PDS would be pretty compelling, gradually building awareness [on campus]. I’m really the only agent in that process. I have support from the administration and the department and—not opposition from my colleagues-they are just pulled in other directions.

In terms of institutionalization, although all three colleges and universities reported pl ans for expansi on to other sites, each also had some evidence of insecurity and instability about levels of institutional support for their current efforts, including the time and money needed to support the PDS. Most of the extra money that was going into their PDS was “soft”—discretionary or externally derived, from grants. The close identification of the PDS with one, or at most three, faculty members on any one campus raised questions of whether it could survive the departure of a key individual. The strongest single piece of evidence of institutionalization showing up in the entire study was a change in language of the job description for new hires on the faculty at one institution that called for faculty members to “work in and with schools in developing clinical sites.” (At the same time, even at that institution, the traditional reward structure for advancement of junior faculty was still publication in refereed journals.) The other positive indication was the increase in student interest in the PDS sites.


At the time of the first study, all three institutions were in the process of expanding to work with other professional development school sites in neighboring cities or towns or at different grade levels. These expansions all went ahead as planned; these and other follow-ups are described below.


At the large university the number of partnerships with schools has expanded dramatically and there are now nine sites—three high schools and six middle schools, with another middle school connection being begun by a different teacher education program (that has previously not been involved with PDSs or clinical sites). During this period of expansion, the concept and the model for working with schools proved very transferable. As each of the new professional development school partnerships was set up, faculty from the university, and in some cases faculty and administrators from the existing PDSs, came to present models and discuss them. When a state initiative for developing partnerships with middle schools came along, the model was already in place for collaborating with the school and Alpha University moved quite naturally into expanding to several middle school clinical sites.

Although the ideas have been shared site to site, each partnership has developed its own agreements, customized to meet the needs of the school and the situation. The university advocates of the partnerships have been clear that no one model will work best for all circumstances. Most of the partnerships have several common features: expanded roles for on-site supervisors (who are often classroom teachers), clusters of student teachers, a course/seminar taught at the school by a university faculty member that cooperating teachers can take at no (or reduced) cost. The seminars have generally focused on mentoring strategies or on specific topics requested by the teachers (or a mixture of both). At most sites, the school faculty provide on-site support for student teachers on a range of topics, often determined by a student teacher needs assessment.

Recent activities have included efforts to involve arts and science faculty members. One of the middle schools held an open house where throughout the day, faculty from Alpha University and from another partnering college could meet school faculty and discuss common interests. The session has led to several jointly written grant initiatives.

The number of university faculty members involved with these partnership has grown from two or three at the time of first study to more than half (six out of eleven) of the current faculty members. This includes the one new faculty member who has been hired in the last five years. One indication of the university’s moves to institutionalize work in the PDS was that when the job was posted, the job description specifically mentioned work in the school partnerships as a part of the job. Another sign of growing institutionalization of the notion of clinical sites has been the successorship transition planned for the replacement of one of the retiring PDS faculty coordinators. The replacement faculty member was identified early and began to become familiarized with the site a full semester before the retirement.

Despite growth of the PDS concept within that particular teacher education program, there has been little spread to the rest of the College of Education. When another program focused on developing a PDS at a different grade level, they seemed to be starting from scratch, with little or no carryover.


In the year following the first study, the small college went ahead with its plans to work with a neighboring community to open a new magnet school that would be designed from the beginning as a professional development school. Staff and administrators from the original PDS cross-visited with the magnet school staff to familiarize them with the model; partnership planning became a three-way proposition. Although the one college faculty member at Beta engaged in PDS hoped that the start of a new PDS (one that was not so clearly seen by others as “his” PDS) would engage another of his teacher education faculty members, it did not work out that way. He continued to be the only professor substantially involved in the two PDSs. Not only was he unsuccessful in looping in other college faculty; another poor sign of institutionalization at the school site was that when the principal who had been key in starting the PDS partnership left in 1993, his position was posted without any mention of the school’s status as a PDS. The college coordinator, who was a member of the PDS’s school council, argued in vain that this was an important part of the job description and recruitment strategy; a year later when the search for the principal was reopened, there continued to be no mention of the PDS in the job description.

When the college liaison himself decided to leave for a position coordinating professional development schools elsewhere, it seemed likely that the program would fold, dribble out, and die. There was no real continuity at the college, where none of the remaining faculty members stepped in, or at the school administration level, where the principal and superintendent committed to the PDS had since departed. But the core of teach-ers at the original PDS retained their commitment and worked with the college faculty member hired to replace the outgoing PDS liaison. A powerful part of this continuity was that six of the eighteen classroom teachers at the original PDS were graduates of Beta College who had done their prepa ration at that PDS. Along with the teacher mentors who had been involved in the program, they worked to keep it going. Relatively few Beta students were doing student teaching during that year. This, plus the increased demands on the newly hired PDS coordinator at the college, has led her to run the PDS alternating each semester between the first PDS and the magnet school PDS. In addition, the magnet school with less of a history with the PDS model has been open to rethinking what it means to be a PDS. Beta is also in the process of setting up PDS partnerships with other schools in the same district as the original site, largely at the impetus of the teachers in that community who saw the model working well.


At the third of the original schools, the teaching college, professional development school partnerships have expanded considerably beyond the one partnership that existed five years ago. The dean who five years ago referred to the professional development school partnership as largely “tinkering at the margins” of both institutions has embraced the PDS as the way in which he would like the institution to move. The original partnership has grown to include teams in nine schools and two districts, drawing on students from Gamma as well as another college. In addition, Gamma has more than a dozen other PDSs, which have very different kinds of governance structures. Some have developed as part of a partnership with another nearby school district; several more are part of a program for teachers of students with special needs. A few other PDSs are “independent”—usually having grown out of informal linkages between school and college faculty. In addition, recently undergraduate teacher education programs have begun developing PDS relationships, as has the graduate administrative preparation program. Although the degree of formalization and the structure and governance of these PDSs vary enormously, they share a growing commitment to a collaborative ideal of working closely with schools in involving the voice of practice in the teaching of the college. School-based teachers have been very vocal in ensuring that the partnerships are mutual; they have pushed for roles in decision making and to have the partnerships make increasingly higher-stakes decisions collaboratively.

All these apparently disparate PDS partnerships are starting to have a powerful integrated and interactive impact. A full-time faculty member has been hired to coordinate the PDS partnerships; she has begun to meet with the liaisons from all the different PDS-type initiatives. Gamma’s dean has become a passionate advocate for PDSs; he sums up the types of interconnections he envisions: “Although the structures are very different, I see all these PDSs moving toward a similar form—not at the detail level, but up one, at the concept level. We are working at the college on this conceptual overview, bringing together all these different PDSs—not to try to standardize their structures, but to pull together and help fill in the pieces of our direction together.” Because of the proliferation of PDSs, more than half of the Gamma faculty are involved with one or more partnerships; as many as a half a dozen school-based educators are playing roles in planning, teaching, and (to a lesser extent) serving on committees at the college. Some of this additional work is stipended for the teachers; college faculty get additional release time for their partnership work. At the college and in the district, the PDS partnership is a line item in the budget.


This section draws on data from all three partnerships to look at the impacts the last five years of PDS involvement have had on pre-service teacher preparation. The 1990 study detai led the many substantial changes in pre-service teacher preparation brought about by the move to a PDS model; these are not repeated here (see Teitel, 1992, as well as a com-prehensive review of changes PDSs have made in the school-based portion of teacher education by Zeichner & Miller, 1997). I focus here on the changes or increased impacts over the last five years, dividing this section into two parts to reflect changes in the school-based and the campus-based components of the pre-service teacher’s experience.


The dramatic changes in the student teaching or practicum parts of teacher education brought about by PDSs took place when the PDS models were first started. The last five years have led to some subtle refinements due primarily to the maturation of the relationships between school and college, providing for greater understanding and colleagueship on the part of the cooperating teachers as a well as a greater involvement of the college supervisor in the life of the school. Both have contributed to enhancing the experience of the student teacher.

In most cases, a stable group of cooperating teachers has worked in the PDS, some now for close to ten years. Not only have they been involved with student teachers for that time, but many have worked more closely with college faculty, sometimes as co-teachers or guest speakers in classes. In one setting (at the university), many teachers have enrolled in graduate programs, strengthening their institutional and personal ties. A college supervisor sums up the impact of this by comparing the experience of working wi th cooperati ng teachers who have had fi ve more years of involvement with the PDS to the appreciation of a fine wine that has reached maturity.

The cooperating teachers with whom they [the student teachers] are working are more experienced about student teacher development, more welcoming and less skeptical about the university teacher preparation program. Student teachers may not see the difference, but the cooperating teachers appreciate the connection more with the university. The relationship is deepening: less the fresh excitement of the start up and more the thoughtful and mature appreciation of a fine wine


In addition to knowing more about the college’s program, the supervi-sor continues, cooperating teachers have changed their own role in work-ing with student teachers from a “cognitive” role in helping with the trans-fer of knowledge, to a “developmental” role in working holistically with the pre-service teachers. A teacher coordinator in another site confirms these changes, attributing them to a greater understanding of the expectations of the college (as well as an opportunity by some of the teachers to help shape those) along with considerable attention to the training of the coop-erating teachers as mentors.

One college supervisor describes the evolution of his relationship with the cooperating teacher faculty over the last five years. He notes the increase in “colleagueship,” and points as an example to the course he has taught/facilitated at the site for the cooperating teachers. Initially it was a course in mentoring, developed at the university, and delivered for the teachers. As years went by, that began to seem redundant and they branched out to other topics that might be of interest to the teachers, but always at the suggestion of the college professor. By this year, however, the school faculty, through its steering committee, is selecting the topics and overall, the seminar has evolved to one characterized by “collaborative, nonhierarchical, equitable teaching.” These changes impact the student teachers, sometimes directly and sometimes through the modeling done by the cooperating teachers. For example, at one site the teachers have moved into technology and created a World Wide Web site; at another the teachers are sponsoring a conference on the impacts of block scheduling.

The other major source of change is in the role of the college supervi-sor. As these relationships have matured, many of the college faculty have been working in the same schools for five, six, or even more years. The deepening of their relationships with the school has led to modifications in the supervision they provide. The first is time. As one supervisor puts it: “In the early days of the PDS, I came in, did my supervision and left; now I feel I am there all the time.” In part the change is due to the stronger per-sonal connections she has to the staff of the school and clearer roles for her to take at the school; in part it is due to a recognition at her college that PDS work takes additional time so she is eligible for an extra course load reduction (in addition to her supervising load). Another change that affects student teachers is the closer collaboration with the teachers. A supervisor notes, “If there is a problem [with a student teacher], I know the key people and have a history with them. It helps enormously.”

Other minor refinements to partnerships have continued to add features that help lead to “the real integration of theory and practice,” according to one teacher coordinator. She elaborates:
Everything the student teacher does now is linked with the real life of the classroom. They don’t just come in and develop a poetry corner; there are real efforts to involve them in real co-teaching as part of a teaching team. In one site, student teachers meet with veteran teachers in teams for five hours a month outside of school time to plan and process the work of the year. They listen to and participate with experienced teachers, in sorting out the issues that the experienced teachers bring—the use of different approaches to organizing reading groups, for instance. In some sites, clusters of student teachers now meet weekly on their own, for support and to explore common interests and professional development.

The teacher coordinator stresses how important this different model of relating to other teachers is, and goes on to describe the impact it has on pre-service teachers:
The involvement on a team is a strong value [at our PDS]; otherwise [pre-service teachers] fall into what most teachers do—never leave their rooms. Teaming has a major impact—it makes our graduates different. As first-year teachers they are much more likely to reach out to colleagues, work on committees, and so forth.

A final factor that affects the experience for student teachers is simply the growth in PDS site possibilities. At each college, student teachers now have more choice and greater opportunities to pursue internships in PDS settings, with greater geographical options as well as more school levels (middle, elementary, and high school).


Three major mechanisms emerge in the research that allow PDS activities, ideas, or philosophy to influence the campus-based portion of teacher preparation:
—increased roles of school-based faculty as teachers, co-teachers, and guest speakers of campus-based courses
—increased roles of school-based faculty in giving feedback on and shaping college courses and overall preparation programs
—changes in attitude and approach of campus-based faculty members. Each is discussed below.


At all the institutions studied, over the last five years, school staff have begun or expanded their teaching of college pre-service courses. These courses, since they include classes of pre-service teachers who would not otherwise be in a PDS, also represent a change and broadening of influence from the PDS onto those in more mainstream or traditional programs. While in no way close to a critical mass, (at most, five or six sections or courses out of dozens and dozens), there has been a slow and steady increase. As one college faculty member describes it, “The inclusion of teachers as co-teachers, teaching assistants and faculty is not as ‘haphazard’ as it was five years ago. The word is out to all the clinical sites that we think it is important to involve teachers in what we do on campus and that here are three places for them.” The three types of openings are in the introduction to teaching course, in micro-teaching supervisions, and in specific content area methods courses. The university often employs teachers first as co-teachers, then for solo sections. At this institution, most of the teachers involved tend to be those who have enrolled in graduate programs.


College faculty in all the institutions report modifying sequencing or deliv-ery of particular pre-service courses as a result of feedback from the PDS site teachers. These changes include revisions to a course in literacy and numeracy at one college, “front-loading” more pre-service courses before student teaching at another, adjusting times for the scheduling of courses that conflicted with the student teachers’ work in schools, and so on. One college supervisor notes that this feedback probably would not have been expressed (or listened to) without the PDS model: “A lone practitioner would never speak up.”

Beyond these broad chances to give feedback, as in saying “The literacy course is not working,” the teachers interviewed do not report many opportunities to substantially shape the redesign of the course. One such joint effort, a collaborative committee of faculty from the college and the school redesigning a math course, “fell with a thud, and then dribbled out to oblivion,” in the words of one teacher. Partly this may have been due to a change in certification regulations, but partly, according to one teacher involved, it can be attributed to the reluctance of college faculty (and the cumbersome college curriculum review process) to really welcome and use the specific input of classroom teachers. As the teacher puts it, “It seems like the hardest thing in the world to change the college curriculum.” In a separate interview, a college administrator confirms the limits of teacher involvement in the curriculum redesign process:
Although there has always been the hope [in our PDS] that teachers and college faculty would look together at the teacher education curriculum, it doesn’t work out very well. Teachers come with different interests and a different level of commitment of time and energy in focusing on this. You have got to get those who are most concerned— whose jobs and salaries are on the line—to do it.

An exception to this, acknowledged by administrators as well as school-based and campus-based teachers, takes place in the teaching of individual courses. There the tradition of faculty autonomy means that school-based teachers can really shape their own courses considerably. However, this autonomy cuts both ways. While it gives school-based teachers the ability to develop their own college or university courses, it reduces their impact on other courses. There do not appear to be any concerted attempts to reduce the traditional norms of autonomy in exchange for an increase in programmatic coherence. Consequently, although in some cases when multiple sections of a course are taught, there is some interaction between school-based and college-based faculty, in others, autonomy means the changes brought by school-based faculty in one course or section have very little influence on the overall curriculum of the pre-service teachers.


One long-time college faculty member who has been involved in PDSs for the last nine years notes that there have been no big cognitive changes in the overall college-based teacher preparation program. He describes the content, course sequence, and general requirements for pre-service teachers as unchanged. Nonetheless, he does point to two subtle differences in his own teaching that he attributes to his involvement with the PDS—differences in attitude and in focus:
In the Introduction to Teaching course back in the 1980s, I used to feel ambivalent about encouraging students into the teaching profession, given the poor conditions of teaching. And now, even though the conditions of teaching are worse, I feel more positive about teaching, from my contact with teachers in the clinical site. [Another change is that] in my methods course I am more concrete. I’ve always resisted concreteness and “how-to” approaches. I wanted to plant seeds and encourage long-range thinking, figuring they will get the “how-to” from their cooperating teacher. Now I am confident that they will, but at the same time I find myself being more concrete in the classroom—the “how-to” is rubbing off on me.

A faculty member in a different college echoes the last part, noting how her exposure to and deep involvement in the world of schools affects her own teaching. She sees many more “real-world” examples and issues getting woven into her own courses. She uses the example of her curriculum design course: “I sit in on their planning meetings [at the PDS]; I hear all of their stories and see the changes they go through. And as I see them go through these changes, I watch how it affects the way I train my own students.” She notes how the PDS experience also affects her practice as an administrator at the college—“As they talk about issues of school reform, assessment, and the use of portfolios, I see connections to my own work at the college and I will talk to them about the use, for instance, of portfolios in the assessment of college students.” Her PDS connection also keeps her up to date on her own skills in working with children: It is not uncommon for a teacher to ask her to take a small science group or otherwise help out with part of a lesson.

To maximize the potential effect on faculty members in their campus-based classrooms, one of the partnerships has sought to get all college-based faculty members to join the school-based faculty and the student teacher supervisors for the several professional development workshops offered each year. That way, according to a school-based coordinator, “everyone could hear the same message, and we could start to influence the [college] coursework.” Their success, so far, has been limited to secur-ing the involvement of the supervisors and those faculty members who teach clinical courses; the nonclinical courses remain out of reach.


In this section, I explore the extent to which the impacts noted above are becoming part of the fabric of the colleges and universities engaged with PDS. I start with some definitions and signs of institutionalization, and then itemize some of the factors that seem to be helping and hi ndering that process.


At a meeting of college and district administrators specifically called to discuss institutionalization of the PDS collaborative, one of the PDS coordinators was asked by her superintendent what “institutionalization” meant. When she responded that it meant that “PDS is the way we do business around here,” the superintendent said that that was already the case. But later, when the PDS coordinator reflected on the interchange, she realized that institutionalization as she saw it was only partially in place. She commented on three areas:
—stable funding: although there is a line item for PDS at district and collegiate levels, “we still have to go each year and fight to make sure there will be enough money in it”
—codification of structure, operating procedures: a handbook is in place but needs to be updated and made more specific
—formalization of agreements: “We still have no formal agreements on paper that spell out what the college does and what the district does”

The PDS coordinator acknowledged that one key component of institutionalization is in place—the strong sense of philosophical acceptance and appreciation of the PDS notion, at the school and college levels. This belief was echoed by everyone interviewed at the two institutions that have moved ahead on PDS. As one college faculty member entering his tenth year with a PDS partnership put it, “It is almost self-sustaining. There is a real expectation of something to be happening with the sites and there would be a sense of loss if there weren’t.”


Signs that PDS is becoming the “way we do business around here” at two of the three institutions studied include the following:


When asked in 1990 what would happen to the PDS concept if he and the one other college faculty member involved in it left, a respondent estimated a fifty-fifty chance that the idea had taken sufficient root to go on. Five years later, he increased his estimate to seventy five-twenty five. In fact, the other principal faculty advocate for PDS is leaving this year and when this decision became known, the question was always who would replace her, not whether to replace her. Furthermore, a transition period was used, during which the carefully picked successor overlapped in the site-based work with the outgoing professor for a semester. In another collaborative, the departure of a key central office advocate three years ago caused some concerns about continued district support, but the concerns proved unfounded. In each of these two PDS partnerships respondents reported that now no single individual was essential to the perpetuation of the PDS.


One of the significant signs of institutionalization noted in the 1990 study was the change in job descriptions for new hires at one of the colleges, making clear that the job included working in the school partnerships. The one assistant professor hired in the last five years does serve as the liaison to one of the sites


At each of the colleges and universities that are solidifying their PDS connections, the liaison role is recognized as a time-consuming one and compensated or considered part of faculty load. At one college, faculty liaisons get a course-load reduction in addition to the course equivalency they would get for supervising student teachers. Part-time supervisors are paid more for their work in PDSs, in acknowledgment of the increased time it takes. One college has hired a fulltime partnership coordinator.


In some of the districts and colleges, PDS appears as a line item in the budget. In addition the partnerships have proved to be excellent bases from which to apply for and receive grant funding.


Another example of how PDSs have become the “way we do business around here” shows up in college brochures, where the PDS options are delineated for prospective students to consider.



“Institutionalization is all about building relationships between people,” according to one college faculty member. Those partnerships that have successfully engaged more people from school, district, and college or uni-versity have garnered additional support as well as stronger connections that help them survive the loss of a key individual. The effort to include liberal arts faculty is an important part of this. A long-term view of this also includes the hiring of PDS program graduates at the PDS. In one PDS, a third of the teaching faculty at the PDS had done their internships there, providing a powerful force for continuity even in the face of the departure of the key faculty liaison at the college.


The involvement of some of these partnerships in national conferences, or publications, or as recipients of national awards and grants has been a powerful boost to the credibility of the PDS advocates. It has helped build support among administrators at school, district, and college levels. An unanticipated effect has been the deepening of the relationships mentioned above. As college faculty members travel to conferences with their school counterparts, the informal connections grow. As one participant put it, “We talk shop at the restaurant as well as at the conference—what the role of the cooperating teacher should be, what the supervisor should do. These informal lines of communication help build the relationships.”


Some of the PDS advocates have been successful in demonstrating to key players in the district and college how the PDS contributes to their goals and objectives at a relatively low cost. In one district the PDS coordinator produced a document that listed the stated district core values and goals and identified specific ways that the PDS contributed to attaining them. Another advocate has tried to point out to the district how the interns provide many “extra pairs of hands to work with children” or how they free up cooperating teachers for many of the school’s leadership roles. Others have been successful in gaining parental support that has led both to district support and direct parent financial contributions to support some of the added costs of the PDS.


Respondents suggest a number of procedural details that they think contribute to the institutionalizing of PDS. Using the same supervisor at each PDS site helps support continuity. Joint professional development days for all participants (not just cooperating teachers) mean that all, including the college supervisors, are hearing the same message and exploring the same issues and concerns together. Some programs have found it very useful to weave in other staff members from around the college or university (and the school), so that staff from the admission and financial aid offices and the registrar are involved, have input, and are informed about the ways the PDS affects their work. Several respondents point to the importance of using the addition of new sites as an opportunity for broader involvement— as a way to expand the web of relationships mentioned earlier. Finally, organizational structures that include top-level people have been important. One collaborative uses a large steering committee that meets quarterly, along with several subcommittees that meet more frequently for the day-to-day decisions.


Some factors are the flip sides of the ones mentioned earlier. For instance, problems can be caused when junior faculty are hired with specific expectations for involvement in partnership sites, without a change in reward structures and other expectations. As one senior faculty member reflects on it: “This has not been a perfect process, since [the new faculty member] still has other pressures on his time. Writing the expectation in the job description is one thing; recruiting for it is another; making it happen is another.” In another example of how signs of institutionalization can cut both ways, a PDS liaison who cited the fact that supervisors were being paid for the extra work they put into the PDS realized when she examined it more closely that most of the supplemental money is grant-funded, raising questions about her college’s long-term commitment to this concept. Even where faculty members are given extra course release time to allow for the extra work of the relationship building in the PDS, sometimes other demands on the time of short-staffed education departments mean that faculty liaisons do not even take the course releases they are entitled to.

Other challenges are issues of maintenance and of growth, as well as of opposition that may have been triggered by the success of the PDS. In some ways, respondents indicate that it is harder to maintain a PDS than to start one up. One coordinator describes one of their PDSs as having had “a high-energy start-up” and a “great middle period,” but notes that now the “tricky part is maintaining all the faculty interest. [The PDS] is not exactly struggling, but we are working to maintain what we have already done.” Respondents note the need to “constantly overcome inertia” and put energy in, especially in dealing with the politics of keeping support for the PDS at the college and in the district. At one college, a liaison notes how with all the change that has gone on, it seems important to take some time to consolidate: “There’s so much growth [with the PDS concept] in the last few years, our systems haven’t kept pace with it.” She wants time to figure out what, for instance, is the right mix of people or the right size of the cohort at the site.

The very success of these PDSs creates new obstacles, challenges, and questions at the institutional and the partnership levels. Inside colleges and districts, harder questions are being asked than when the PDS was small and more marginalized. Within one district, for instance, success of the PDS and the attendant visibility may lead to more concerns about equity issues. As the PDS, which operates in only some of the district schools, publicizes its successes as part of a strategy to secure higher levels of stable funding, there is a risk of triggering questions about why all the schools are not receiving the benefits. Similar equity issues arise at the college. As PDS placements approach half of the pre-service teachers and are widely seen as better-quality placements, administrators and students may wonder why they are not available to all. On one campus there has been some tension within the faculty about the spread of certain PDS-type approaches. This creates a double bind, where faculty not involved with the PDS efforts object to what they perceive as additional resources going to the PDS but al so oppose any efforts to requi re them to use PDS approaches for all pre-service teachers.

At the partnership level, other issues emerge as PDSs develop deeper interinstitutional relationships. For example, some of the PDS classroom teachers who are now more deeply involved in teacher education report dissatisfaction with what they see as the poor preparation student teachers are getting at the college. As the partnership matures, they are more likely to want to voice their concerns and are likely to feel frustrated if they have been unable to influence or improve matters. On the other hand, college personnel may find themselves looking askance at some of the teaching practices they see, as they place more students at a particular school. In one partnership, members of the college staff express concerns about some aspects of how a partner school responds to students of color. As the relationship deepens, the college is more likely to see how the school’s practice affects them, and to bring up a potentially conflictual issue: “We are thinking about how their approach to multiculturalism affects our students. It is a maturation thing—our relationship used to be more superficial and we would say ‘How great it is that we have these partnerships.’ Now we are looking at each partnership more closely and it’s getting really serious.”

The more intense mutual scrutiny emerging at some of these PDSs is a natural part of the maturational process. What happens to the frustrations and tensions that surface is critical to the future of the PDS. This is discussed further in the conclusion.


I concluded my 1990 study by revisiting the three preconditions (cited earlier) that I saw as necessary for any involvement in PDSs to affect teacher preparation. My findings in 1990 showed that while there was evidence of different approaches to teacher preparation developed in PDSs, there was very little indication that they were influencing the rest of the teacher preparation program and no sign that they were being institutionalized. I ended the 1990 study with a warning that perhaps these were not the best sites to look at, or maybe it was simply too soon to find and document any broader impacts or signs of institutionalization. Data from the current study show the difference that five years can make—the same partnerships are now showing much greater impacts and stronger signs of institutionalization. The study makes me realize the importance of allowing enough time for complex interorganizational arrangements like PDSs to take hold. As someone who believes in the value of PDSs, I am pleased by these findings. I am impressed with the gains that have been made at these institutions, and filled with admiration for the dedicated faculty and administrators at the schools and colleges and universities for their perseverance, often in the face of opposition and limited resources, to make these PDSs work. I have no doubt that their work is improving the lives of pre-service teachers, students, and experienced educators.

At the same time, I am left with several nagging thoughts about exactly what is becoming institutionalized in these partnerships. These thoughts were not expressed to me (at least in these exact terms) by any of the people I interviewed; they represent my reaction, as an outside observer, to the changes that have been reported in these partnerships. When I frame the successes of these partnerships with the view that professional development schools should serve as mechanisms for simultaneous and mutual renewal of schools and teacher education programs, these achievements start to look less substantial. What seems to have been institutionalized here are better methods of conducting the field experience portion of pre-service education, by using approaches that not only benefit the pre-service teachers, but have many excellent spinoffs for the experienced teachers at the school and college. The impacts on the campus-based portions of teacher education seem less substantial and, as some participants in the study have observed, more challenging to implement. The same could be said about changes in what Sarason (1982) calls the “regularities” of schools.

So, although positive interactions between the worlds of school and college are starting to become institutionalized in these PDS partnerships, and are leading to some benefits and some modest changes in both places, I worry that the core enterprise at each place is only just starting to be touched. Furthermore, I worry that before any deeper changes to the core of teaching and learning at each institution take place, the relationships will reach a plateau, and will stay there, because the participants are basically satisfied with the very real successes they have attained. Deeply ingrained issues like the way students of color are treated at the school, or fundamental considerations about how teachers are prepared at the college, are much harder to tackle. Some partnerships are starting to unearth the serious questions about each other’s practice that could lead them up the mountain toward simultaneous and mutual renewal, but I wonder whether they will ultimately back away from the conflicts that pursuing those questions will inevitably lead to.

This reframing of the successes of these partnerships in light of the broader goal of simultaneous renewal leaves me with three questions:
1. Is my concern about the future of PDSs and simultaneous renewal triggered by what is really a sampling, a research methodology, or a timing problem? In a modest study like this, perhaps I have missed the PDSs that are really engaging in mutual renewal and are transforming the preparation of teachers and the education of students. Or possibly a more in-depth qualitative study of each partnership site would reveal changes that did not emerge in this study. Or perhaps, just as I found in the 1990 study, it is simply too soon to look and the best is yet to come.

2. Is what I refer to as the “plateau effect” inevitable? Tyack and Cuban (1995) suggest that most innovations that become successfully institutionalized do so by being adapted (some may say “perverted”) to match institutional needs. Is that the case here? Are the primary goals for the college to get better student teaching placements and offer higher-quality field experiences for pre-service teachers? Are the primary goals for the school and district to improve the quality of their student teacher pool and provide professional development opportunities for their experienced educators? If so, then PDSs may become institutionalized as cluster sites for student teachers, with strong involvement and interaction of classroom teachers with pre-service teachers and college faculty. Although this is an improvement over traditional student teaching, is that as good as it gets?

3. Are there ways to go beyond the plateau? Should PDSs be pushed to go further and, if so, by whom? When participants in these PDSs were asked to respond to the notion described here of being on a “plateau,” reactions were mixed. One college-based PDS liaison pointed out that plateaus serve as good resting places; she relished the opportunity to con-solidate all the changes that have been made before moving on. Several others used the metaphor in their site-based partnership discussions to assess their progress. After reaching consensus that the PDS had, in effect plateaued, t hose parti ci pants used t he di scuss i on tri ggered by t he metaphor to push themselves to reset their priorities and discuss what obstacles were in the way of further progress toward their ultimate goals.

If professional development schools are the key to the simultaneous renewal of both institutions, but run the risk of reaching a plateau after four or five years, what can be done to help PDSs realize their potential? I conclude with three partially formed thoughts, which I hope will stimulate reaction and discussion among those working and advocating for PDSs.

PDS partners need multiple opportunities to periodically reexamine their goals and to discuss where they are going and whether they have gotten stuck along the way. PDSs should try to institutionalize processes that allow for, and even require, honest reflection and dialogue. These discussions, which ask people to step back from the day-to-day concerns of the partnership, may need some outside facilitating. This is an important role for networks and other third parties assisting with PDS partnerships. Case studies can be effectively used as triggers to foster the honest communication between school and college personnel necessary for this discussion. This notion, and some sample case studies to help partnerships move beyond their particular plateaus, is discussed further in Teitel (1996).

Another idea that might help has been suggested by Lynne Miller of the University of Southern Maine. She proposes that partnerships use a “Lad-der of Decisionmaking” as a way to focus on the range of decisions that they currently make and to sort out which are made independently and which jointly. Paying attention to the decision-making process raises the chances that increasingly important decisions will be made collaboratively, which pushes the interdependence of PDS partners in ways that can nudge them off of any plateaus on which they might be stuck. (See Teitel, 1997, for a fuller discussion.)

Finally, the current movement to establish standards for PDSs may be of some help. The PDS Standards Project of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education has helped focus attention on the goals of professional development schools, including the simultaneous renewal of participating institutions. The project has suggested threshold conditions that PDSs need to initially meet standards, and is working on developing “quality standards” to encourage and help document the move-ment of the PDSs toward deeper partnerships (Levine, 1996). If these standards can be written so they encourage partners to build on the suc-cesses they have had, they may be important ways to encourage PDS partic-ipants to keep going up the mountain.

An earlier version of this article was presented at the 1996 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.
1 All unattributed quoations are from interviews.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 99 Number 2, 1997, p. 311-334
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10260, Date Accessed: 10/18/2021 1:35:41 AM

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  • Lee Teitel
    University of Massachusetts-Boston

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