Source: Action in Teacher Education, 33(1):38-46, (Spring, 2011).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The current article describes a collaborative professional development experience with student teaching supervisors.
The authors were interested to examine the following purposes:
(1) building a sense of community among supervisors,
(2) creating a shared vision of supervision, and
(3) enhancing skills, competence, and dispositions related to supervision.
Therefore, the authors addressed to the following research question:
How does participation in a collaborative professional development experience impact supervisors' work and experiences in a teacher education program?
The participants were 98 preservice teachers and 16 early childhood supervisors from early childhood teacher education program at a large, public university in the south-eastem United States.
The preservice teachers were engaged in their final internship placements (student teaching).
Four supervisors were full-time university-based faculty and 12 were adjunct supervisors (one doctoral student in early childhood education and 11 former school-based teachers). Each supervisor worked in one or two schools, supervising as few as four and as many as 12 preservice teachers.
Data were collected through focus group interviews and open-ended survey.
The findings reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the project.
First, participants identified creating a community of support as the most beneficial aspect of this professional development experience.
Building a community included getting to know other supervisors; sharing ideas, strategies, and tips; and relying on each other for feedback, advice, and support.
Second, several supervisors found the inclusion of participants across varying roles to be beneficial, allowing for meaningful collaboration.
Third, another benefit of the professional development experience was the opportunity to share relevant details and discuss logistics.
Forth, the participants shared professional development information in the form of presentations by faculty, scholarly articles, and interactive dialogues among supervisors. Although participants reported that the presentations were particularly helpful, most agreed that finding time to read the distributed articles was difficult.
The findings offered some suggestions to improve the collaborative professional development.
1. The participants' feedback implies that all supervisors, irrespective of their role, came to this experience with varying needs and expectations. Hence, participants stated that it would have been beneficial for the group leaders to be clearer about the purpose of the group.
2. A primary challenge involved varied preferences for meeting format and structure.
3. The participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to interact with faculty supervisors. However, the majority of participants thought that a better approach would be to involve all faculty in the program, not just those who were serving as student teaching supervisors.
The findings offered several changes to the collaborative professional development.
1. Participants requested more time for personal sharing and for community building.
Another suggestion was to schedule meetings around important dates for interns so that supervisors could plan accordingly and support one another at stressful points in the semester.
2. Several suggestions included meeting less frequently and having longer sessions.
3. The participants expressed a desire to have knowledge regarding the other courses and experiences in which preservice teachers were enrolled while student teaching.
The authors conclude that the benefits of this experience include a stronger connection between school-based and university-based personnel, enhanced professional development opportunities for supervisors, research opportunities for faculty informed by field-based practitioners, and improved school and university relations.
Furthermore, the findings reveal that university-based personnel must understand the complexity of school-based supervision and work to find ways to foster more collaborative and supportive relationships with supervisors.