Competing Views of Teaching in A School–University Partnership

Jan. 06, 2009

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 25, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 155-165
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This case study examines how differing views on the teacher's role in school reform affected the work of a school–university partnership. The school district and the university had a history of partnerships and shared common general goals.
The school–university partnership planned to focus on integrating curriculum and instruction across four levels of schooling: elementary, middle school, high school, and university.
The partnership began with three main purposes: (a) to enhance the academic performance of students and thereby increase the percentage of those eligible for university admission;
(b) to enhance communication and instructional coordination across levels of schooling; and
(c) to facilitate the professional development and collaboration of teachers and university faculty.

Yet, as the partnership progressed, conflicting perspectives about teaching and the purpose of professional development became evident and created dilemmas that influenced the nature of the work. The authors provide background information about each partner, describe the two views, and examine how the differing perspectives influenced the goals and activities of the partnership.


The partner district is located in a diverse, working class community in the state of California in the US. At the time of this study, the school district included a total of 22 schools: two comprehensive high schools, one continuation high school, three middle schools, and 16 elementary schools. The district served high proportions of students from low-income households and ethno-linguistically diverse backgrounds. 52% of the district's students qualified for free or reduced lunch, and 24% were designated as Limited English Proficient and/or Non-English Proficient. Enrolment was approximately 19,000 students. Student performance on standardized achievement tests had typically been below state and national norms. In comparison with 22 neighbouring school districts in the same geographic region, this district's scores placed them in the bottom quartile in terms of student performance. Enhancing student achievement had long been a district goal.

Data collection extended over four years and drew from three sources: documents, interviews, and observations. The research team conducted formal interviews with district administrators, school administrators, and partnership teachers at various points in time.
The district administrators included those who were involved in developing and implementing the standards-based reform program: the superintendent, assistant superintendent of instruction, director of staff development, and director of curriculum. The partnership teachers represented three schools that were representative of the district demographics and belonged to the same feeder pattern: an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school.

This study highlights the complex issues embedded in school–university collaboration.
The findings of this study suggest that partners who see accountability measures as problematic to their work must find ways to recast institutional common ground in order to expand views of the teacher's role in reform.

Updated: Jan. 15, 2009