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Study identifies 'key practices' that advance PDS work

Erica Gilbertson

May 1, 2017

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Jori Hall, associate professor in the qualitative research program in the department of lifelong education, administration, and policy, recently completed the study, "A Tale of Two Professional Development Schools: Judia Jackson Elementary School and Fowler Drive Elementary School."

Jori Hall

The purpose of Hall's research was to examine the practices and procedures used to implement the Professional Development School (PDS) model, the challenges and sources of support for PDSD collaboration, stakeholders' perceptions of the PDSD, the PDSD's influence on organizational culture and recommendations for improvement.

"Schools are often portrayed quantitatively rather than qualitatively. The goal of this research was to tell our own story our own way as a 'counter narrative'. It tells schools' stories in a respectful way that shares peoples' voices," Hall explained.

At Fowler Drive Elementary, the study found the key practices that advance PDS goals include:

  • Co-teaching between mentor and UGA pre-service teachers
  • Positive interactions among Fowler students and teachers (pre-service and mentor)
  • Pre-service teachers embraced by mentors as educators

At J. J. Harris Elementary, key practices that advance PDS goals include:

  • Multiple adults in classrooms to enhance student learning
  • Inclusive professional learning (mentors and pre-service teachers learning together)

The study found that both schools shared the same three important sources of support for PDS goals at the school. These include the vital role of Professors-in-Residence (PIRs) to strengthen partnership work, professional learning for all educators, and strong peer-initiated support among UGA pre-service teachers.

One important insight that emerged from the study, according to Hall, is that the UGA and CCSD partnership is composed of sub-partnerships, such as the principal and professor-in-residence partnership and the partnership between the teacher candidates doing their practicum and the teacher candidates doing student teaching. "The sub-partnerships within the larger partnership are how all the work gets done," she said.

Recommendations for improvement from the study include maintaining strong communication among mentor teacher, pre-service teacher, and College of Education faculty; aligning pre-service teacher experiences and the school curriculum; and supporting mentor teachers. J. J. Harris Elementary began the process of providing additional support for mentor teachers during the later phases of the study.

Hall's qualitative study used a multiple case study design. With support from the Office of School Engagement, she collected data in spring 2015 through interviews with key stakeholders (principals, professors in residence), focus groups with pre-service and mentor teachers, and document analysis, including written responses from fifth grade students from both case study schools.

Hall expressed gratitude for the schools' collaboration throughout the research process. Principals Xernona Thomas (J. J. Harris) and Anissa Johnson (Fowler Drive), as well as professors-in-residence Bob Capuozzo (J. J. Harris) and Beth Tolley (Fowler Drive), were supportive partners and trusted her approach. They co-presented with Hall about the research at two National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) conferences.

Hall shared the study findings with both schools in February and plans to submit an article for publication in early summer. "I will continue to push to bring visibility to partnership work—I am committed to it. I encourage people to make use of the findings," she said.

According to Bob Capuozzo, a professor in residence, "The 'Tale of Two Schools' study confirms our commitment to partnership work in the education of children, teacher candidates, and in the professional development of certified teachers while also reminding us of the work still needed to improve our school."

In conducting the study, Hall said she learned that the peer to peer support that UGA teacher candidates give each other during their field experiences and student teaching emerged as an interesting theme that she would like to explore further.

This study follows other PDS-related research that Hall conducted between 2009-2011. Soon after she joined the UGA faculty in August 2008, she and Melissa Freeman became involved with J. J. Harris Elementary when the school opened as the the first PDS school in the partnership. They studied the idea of "collective capacity" and "internal accountability," and conducted focus groups with J. J. Harris students and community members. They also examined the role of the PIR, Lew Allen, and discovered that the PIR is the "central link" in a PDS school. Two articles related to this research were published in The American Journal of Evaluation (articles are posted on: pdsdpartnership.com).