Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2012, 275–288
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This paper aims to documenting self-study processes and findings of a collaborative research group that examined a professional development school (PDS) partnership.
The participants were nine faculty members in the School of Education of a liberal arts college in the northeastern USA, who came together to create the PDS Study Group in 2008.
Data were collected primarily from the multiple, recursive, and critical conversations that the participants had during each monthly meeting of the group as well as from their written reflections based on their experiences and observations at their PDSs.
Furthermore, the authors also collected secondary data through online questionnaires and interviews conducted with preservice teachers and mentor teachers.
This study revealed the complexity of the PDS relationship and the tensions and dilemmas associated with it.
It revealed that experiential disparity existed within and among faculty and students in various PDS sites as a result of poor communication as well as divergent models of collaboration and philosophical goals between faculty and mentor teachers. Disparity in the learning experiences among the preservice teachers was attributed to the quality and scope of the partnership.
As hybrid teacher educators, this study provided a third space to discuss and negotiate new understandings. Traditionally, the beliefs and practices of colleges of education do not always align with those of K–12 education. Third space provided a space of intersection, a transformative space where practitioner and academic knowledge merged to facilitate the development of new knowledge and new learning opportunities for the participants' prospective teachers. Navigating the third space in PDS context involves a shift in foci from individualism to collective consciousness, from habitual to reflexive practice, and from vertical forms of expertise to horizontal forms of expertise or expertise across groups that involve respectful cross fertilization of ideas and capacity building. The PDS collaboration involved constant negotiation to mediate the various ideological and pedagogical differences between our teacher education courses and the preservice teachers’ field experiences.
While the participants worked to navigate the tensions, they capitalized on the opportunities provided by this hybrid space. They forged a better relationship with mentor teachers through joint activities, mediated instruction, and exchange of ideas. These joint activities facilitated reciprocity, mutual trust and respect as well as improved communication. This improved relationship positively impacted the teacher candidates’ PDS experiences and the mentor teachers’ commitment to the collaborative enterprise. Many of the mentor teachers worked more closely with the candidates in their lesson planning and implementation. Some of them started to co-teach with the candidates and involved them in other instructional processes that deepened the candidates’ understanding of pedagogy.
While the participants made significant progress in their relationship with partner schools, they realized that there were still some challenges. As they articulated their goals, roles, and identities, they found unsettling the fact that some issues were still beyond our control. Funding their collaboration, supervision of their candidates, and effectively organizing large-scale professional development with schoolteachers remained the sour points. This study helped them realize that they were engaged in an innovation and like all innovations, people struggle together naturally until a true solution to the problems is found.