Professional Development Schools: A Study of Change From the University Perspective

Feb. 28, 2009

Source: Action in Teacher Education, v. 30 no. 4  (Winter 2009) p. 3-17.

(Reviewd by ITEC Portal team)

Teacher education is under considerable scrutiny, and as often happens with critique, changes are imminent. Levine's Educating School Teachers (2006) recently suggested several important changes for teacher education programs, including redesigning the teacher education curricula based on a model of professional development schools (PDSs).
The purpose of this investigation was to identify, describe, and analyze the changes in one college of education, including programs, policies, and practices related to partnership reform efforts. The primary question was as follows: What changes do persons in the educational system perceive as a result of their involvement in PDS work?
Consequently, and in response to Levine's challenge, the authors set out to study the impact of PDSs, as perceived by university personnel involved with a PDS program. To begin this study, the authors reviewed the extant research on changes resulting from PDS work. The authors then considered Bronfenbrenner's (1979) theory of ecological influence to provide a framework for understanding the various perspectives provided by participants in differing roles at the university.


There were 26 participants in this study; 25 were faculty members and the 1 nonfaculty participant was an administrator at the state governing body for institutions of higher education (but was formerly on the faculty). All were chosen because of their roles related to PDS work. Half the faculty members (n = 13) held a variety of administrative positions, including higher education board member (n = 1), provost (n = 1), dean and associate dean (n = 2), grant administrators (n = 5), department chairpersons in PDS-based teacher education programs (n = 3), and chairperson of a key university committee focused on teacher education (n = 1). The other half included faculty members directly involved with PDSs, including liaisons at PDS sites (n = 12), program coordinators (n = 4), and instructors at PDS sites (n = 4). Notably, there was some overlap in roles (which is why the total number of participants is less than the total number of roles). Five members of the second group (i.e., those directly involved with PDSs) had overlapping roles as either liaisons and field-based instructors or liaisons and program coordinators. At the time of the study, one participant straddled overlapping roles as a grant administrator and a program coordinator. Finally, five members of the research team served as participants in the study.

In summary, this study adopted an ecological view to understand change as a result of work in PDSs. In doing so, the authors captured descriptive categories of change within and across contexts. Participants reported change, whether they worked in schools directly or supported the process from the periphery. The authors found it important to equally examine the experiences of those most close to and more removed from the schools. Given that faculty and administrators are important to the success of partnerships, these differing perspectives provide a comprehensive representation of change.
This research demonstrates two important features of developing a PDS program within a college of education: First, change can occur in a short time; second, perceptions of what changes "are" and "should be" can differ dramatically. In a short time since the introduction of a formal PDS program (in this case, only 3 years), many changes are visible to faculty and administrators--and most changes are positive. Faculty reported a deepening of preservice teachers' learning, an expanding of research agendas and information sources, and an improved sense of connection and purpose for their work in education. Administrators reported greater faculty involvement and excitement about their work and an enhanced relationship between the university and K-12 schools.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Levine, A. (2006, September). Educating school teachers. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from

Updated: Jul. 09, 2009


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