In an article published today on Edweek.org, Linda Darling Hammond proposes a five-point national plan to improve teacher quality—a "Marshall Plan for Teaching." Following the medical model, one of her five points is for university teacher preparation programs to create professional development lab schools, something along the lines of a teaching hospital. LDH elaborates thusly:
As in teaching hospitals, candidates in these schools study teaching
and learning while gaining hands-on experience in state-of-the-art
classrooms. Effective models have already been created by universities
sponsoring professional-development schools and by school districts
offering urban teacher residencies that place candidates with expert
teachers while they complete their coursework. These programs create a
pipeline of teachers prepared to engage in best practice, while
establishing demonstration sites for urban teaching.
There must be something medicinal in the water. In an Education Week article from last week called "The School-College Divide and Teacher Preparation," Arthur Levine makes a similar point in greater detail:
The preparation of teachers needs to change accordingly. Rather than
the current ivory-tower approach, it would be beneficial to follow the
example of medical schools and embrace the equivalent of a teaching
hospital for instruction. Recommended some years ago by the Holmes
Group, a coalition of leading education school deans, and called a
professional-development school, the “teaching hospital” in education
makes the school the center for teacher education.
some institutions have adopted this concept, the
professional-development school is not yet the centerpiece of reform in
teacher education. It is an idea that needs to be brought dramatically
to scale, if the bridging of K-12 and higher education through teacher
preparation is to be a reality.
The professional-development school
brings together university professors, teacher education students,
current teachers, and their students. It offers university faculty
members continuing contact with schools and sites for practical
research. It gives future teachers unparalleled integration of theory
and practice, academic and clinical instruction. Teachers are provided
professional development and opportunities to teach the next generation
of their peers. Schoolchildren have a far richer educational
environment, and their achievement becomes the measure of a teacher
education program’s success, providing continuous feedback on how to
improve the teacher education curriculum.
He goes on to suggest professional-development schools as a panacea for the Big Two woes that typically plague teacher ed programs: 1) perceived lack of rigor, resulting in the dreaded Dangerfield Syndrome, and 2) lack of meaningful connection to K-12 schools, eroding authenticity and street cred. Speaking as an embedded reporter in a teacher education program out in the field, I’m not sure if these grievious twins manifest themselves quite so frighteningly in our local, specific context. All bashing and navel-gazing aside, it’s still an intriguing idea.
Two other bits drifting by and duly noted:
- Levine also suggests that the PDS model offers a way for traditional
schools to compete with online programs and the growing number of
alternative licensure pathways.He mentions the Holmes Group.
- Quick Googling reveals the HG has morphed into a more formal something called The Holmes Partnership.
What would it be like if we started a professional-development school within our Graduate School of Education? It would certainly challenge those of us living and breathing in the higher ed atmosphere (cloud? fogbank?) to flirt daily with a different reality, and it would ground us—both in our daily emotional and professional contexts, and by being the "field" in which our research takes place, our teacher ed students practice, and real students conduct real learning odysseys. It might make for fewer meetings, or give the meetings we do have a sense of greater urgency and acuity. It’d add a little zing to the day. Mix it up. What I really like the best about the concept is that it flirts with being a mashup: a little bit of old-school college layered over new-school school layered over another inevitable stratum of connectedness and authentic experience, and finally some social-networking tech for good measure. Everyone’s talking about School 2.0. Maybe this is what School 3.0 will turn out to be: school-college lab schools powered by social networking.