Within five years of its creation, the Professional Development School District partnership between the College of Education and the Clarke County School District has become a nationally renowned model.
In the spring of 2015, the partnership was awarded an NAPDS Award for Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement from the National Association for Professional Development Schools. This award recognizes university-school district partnerships that create and sustain genuine collaborative partnerships, and help shape future teachers, leaders, and researchers.
The partnership places College of Education faculty and students in local classrooms for hands-on training, and many schools also have a professor-in-residence who participates in a activities such as supervising student teacher candidates during field experiences, teachingon-site courses, and providing professional development for teachers at the school. Many other faculty members also teach teacher-prepatory courses in a local schools, and some serve as a "professor on special assignment," working at a school on a project developed by the school's administration and teachers.
The Professional Development School District also provides opportunities to apply the latest teacher-prep research, allowing students to develop their skills amid the latest developments in curriculum and learning. Experiences such as teaching rounds, scavenger hunts, and the supported collaborative teaching model are all examples of skills-building derived from research.
In a "scavenger hunt" exercise, teacher candidates are dispersed throughout the school to find examples of the topic for the day, such as transitions, graphic organizers, or classroom space and materials. These examples are then used to add context, depth, and variation to the theoretical principles being discussed. In the "supported collaborative teaching model," teacher candidates teach small group inquiry-based science lessons. Working in groups of three, they teach the same lesson six times to different groups of elementary students. The teacher candidates take on different roles—teacher, supporting teacher, or observer— and are encouraged to modify their lessons between groups.
The research done by faculty in the Professional Development School District has been published in several books and journals, including articles on the supported collaborative teaching model, the development of civic engagement, and school leadership issues.
The results of this partnership positively affects everyone involved—UGA students graduate having had extensive opportunities to engage with students in classrooms using research-based practices. Local students benefit from additional classroom support and the latest teaching methods, and teachers and faculty benefit from collaborative research projects and ongoing professional learning.