Professional Development Schools & Teacher Education

Flickr photo by ReSurge International
Professional Development Schools were created with a desire to forge a tight link between K-12 education, preservice education and ongoing teacher professional development. Similar to teaching hospitals where medical residents and interns work closely with skilled medical professionals to provide patients with a high level of care, professional development schools provide new teachers with real-world experience under the guidance of skilled practitioners and professors.  Just as most teaching hospitals are centres of innovation, K-12 students that attend professional development schools are often exposed to innovative instructional strategies delivered in an environment that seeks to provide an exemplary education that will serve as a model for the rest of  education community.

Housing university faculty and associate teachers in the same building can also serve to reduce the distance between the ivory tower and classroom practice. Ensuring that teacher candidates are provided with an appropriate balance of theory and practice is essential to supporting ongoing professional growth.

The suggestion that initial teacher training should bypass universities and take place entirely at school-based training centres, so that teacher candidates can focus on practical experience, is gaining momentum in the United States. Alternative teacher certification programs that are field-based and circumvent the need for college/university accrediation can be found in almost every state.

While preservice teachers may initially benefit from more practical training, that provides them with greater confidence in their ability to quickly establish their own classrooms, an over-emphasis on practical experience can result in routinized  training that is devoid of the theoretical foundation that guides the educational process. The end result may be skilled practitioners that can implement the routines and strategies that they were trained in, but they may struggle to find a suitable response to unique problem or challenge.  While nurse-practitioners can provide excellent care when responding to the common cold, most patients would choose to visit a specialist to diagnose an unusual polyp.

Educators that receive an appropriate balance of theory and practice and are exposed to educational research during their training may be better equipped to diagnose your child's unique learning challenges. Consequently, professional development schools may be uniquely positioned to provide teacher candidates with the appropriate dose of theory and practice needed to support ongoing professional growth.

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