Learning Laboratories: Professional Development Schools transform student teaching
This year, Loyola’s School of Education added six institutions to its growing list of Professional Development Schools, which now includes 20 schools in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Howard Counties, as well as Baltimore City. Loyola’s relationships with these schools provide a critical component to the learning experience it offers undergraduate and graduate education students seeking certification in Maryland.
“The difference between an internship in a PDS school and traditional student teaching is that while student teachers are typically placed individually in various schools, we usually have at least five students at a time working in each PDS school,” says Wendy Smith, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of teacher education. “We’re able to develop a real community of learners, and these schools become labs where non-certificated teachers can learn and grow in a real setting.”
In addition to providing education students with practical experience and opportunities to learn from experienced teachers, participating schools have a great deal to gain from establishing these partnerships with colleges and universities.
“Loyola’s master teachers can provide on-site staff development on request,” says Kathleen Sears, teacher education instructor, who serves as one of the School of Education’s PDS coordinators, “We’ve also assisted with individual school initiatives, created book groups, delivered specialized presentations, and offered Loyola courses at reduced rates for cohort groups. For example, Victor Delcos, professor of education, recently gave a presentation in one of our PDS high schools on research on the adolescent brain. Also, PDS schools get the benefit of a first look at high-quality teachers in the pipeline.”
Because so many Loyola education graduates have received job opportunities in the PDS schools, “we now have previous students working in the PDS schools who serve as PDS site liaisons and also become mentors to our current crop of students,” says Smith.
As the School of Education has grown and evolved, its Professional Development School arrangements have also changed. “We’ve added schools because our numbers have gone up significantly,” says Smith. “We’ve also made a conscious effort to recruit schools in the city, in keeping with our urban education-focused mission.”
The School needs a wide variety of Professional Development School partners, says Sears. “We place our secondary students in both middle and high schools, and give elementary and secondary education students a diverse experience at different grade levels. And we try to put them in schools that are different from each other, suburban versus urban.”
A key part of the success of Loyola’s Professional Development School relationships stems from the efforts of its Professional Development School coordinators, each of whom spends a full day each week at the schools whose relationships he or she manages.
“We have seven PDS coordinators, and most of us have significant experience in school administration,” says Sears, who came to Loyola after a 28-year-career as a teacher and administrator in Baltimore County. “We can serve as mentors to our students. We are the practitioners. We have school experience, we know what schools are like because we were in them. Most—but not all—of the rest of the education faculty have taught only a few years at the school level and have focused on research. It’s our job to help put that research into practice.”
In the schools, says Sears, “It’s our responsibility to give clear, concise feedback to interns, to help improve their teaching, to meet with the principals, to attend workshops, and to keep up-to-date with what our students need to best serve the students they will teach.”
On rare occasions, says Sears, PDS coordinators must also help education students realize the field is not an ideal fit for them, and encourage them to consider other professional options.
For most PDS coordinators, these relationships offer an appealing way to return to the classroom. “When you move into administration, you’re drawn away from the classroom,” says Sears. “This is a perfect way to get drawn back in and affect what’s happening.”
Professional Development School partnerships can be initiated by either the University or the individual school system, but require the support of at least 80 percent of the site school’s faculty to move forward. Learn more about Loyola’s Professional Development School relationships.