Project Proposal
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Implementing a Professional Development School (PDS) Model:
A Proposed Pilot Study for UNI Field Experiences


This pilot study would create a multi-site professional development school for the purpose of expanding UNI’s field experiences and strengthening our partnership with local school districts. Expected benefits would include better prepared teachers, increased student achievement and professional development opportunities, and increased retention of PDS graduates in the teaching profession. The pilot study would involve approximately four faculty supervisors, 3 cohorts of 60-90 UNI teacher education candidates at Levels I, II, and III, and would be hosted by four schools in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo school districts. Key changes from the current field experiences would include increased faculty supervision, longer field placements, and increased professional development opportunities for cooperating teachers. Guiding the implementation process would be a steering committee organized around the five NCATE (2001) standards for Professional Development Schools, which are (1) Learning Community; (2) Accountability and Quality Assurance; (3) Collaboration; (4) Diversity and Equity; (5) Structures, Resources, and Roles. The steering committee will use these five standards to create a blueprint for replicating the PDS model throughout UNI’s field experiences.


1. The pilot study would seek to determine to what degree field experiences could be expanded beyond their current capacity, i.e., to what degree could students spend more time observing and teaching in classrooms.

2. The pilot study would seek to determine whether and to what degree value could be added to teacher candidate outcomes by providing additional structure and faculty supervision for the Level I, I, and III field experiences conducted in local schools.

3. The pilot study would seek to generate a PDS model based on NCATE’s five standards for professional development schools. This model would include descriptions of field experience assignments, professional development opportunities, role definitions, governance procedures, assessment procedures, and a plan for promoting diversity and equity.


PDS Literature:

The professional development school (PDS) model for teacher education is well supported in the research literature. The benefits for teacher education programs, PDS schools, and the local community will be discussed briefly in this section. In regards to teacher education, PDS graduates are better with teaching in aspects such as planning, instruction, management, and assessment. They are also better able to reflect on their practice, exhibiting more student focus than self focus, a greater likelihood to justify their practice, and a greater likelihood to connect practice and theory (Castle, Fox, & Souder, 2006). Graduates from PDSs are more likely to have a more significant impact on student achievement earlier in their teacher careers.

The K-12 students in a PDS also benefit: an increasing number of studies indicate that student achievement is increased, as indicated by standardized achievement test scores and other measures (e.g. Abdal-Haqq, 1998; Klingner, Leftwich, van Garderen, & Hernandez, 2004). A PDS can also offer more professional development opportunities for both teachers and professors, by giving teachers more access to research and professors more contact with classroom practice.

Another benefit of the PDS model is improved teacher retention (Latham & Vogt, 2007). Currently, 50% of all teachers leave the profession in their first 6 years. PDS graduates are more likely to remain in teaching because of they are more confident in their abilities and better prepared for the realities of teaching (Ridley, Hurwitz, Hackett, & Miller, 2005). Higher teacher retention means higher quality teachers, reduced training costs, and fewer problems caused by turnover.

PLS Task Force Recommendation

This pilot was also recommended by the Price Laboratory School Task Force in the spring of 2007. The rationale for recommending this proposed pilot study was based on three central conclusions from the final report of the PLS Task Force, as stated below:

1. The university and the state must be willing to invest in teacher education if it is to improve and be positioned for the future.

2. Substantive, closely supervised field experiences are critical to strengthening UNI’s academic reputation. Field experience should be regarded not merely as indispensable, on-the-job training for future teachers, but as strategic opportunities for UNI’s College of Education to enhance its historical stature as a national leader in teacher training.

3. Closer ties to the local school districts are recommended. We believe that efforts to establish professional development schools to provide further and more diverse field experiences for our students should continue.

The PLS Task Force recommended the following specific issues be investigated during the pilot study:

1. the ability of local schools to absorb additional UNI placements,

2. the potential for expanding the scope of UNI’s field experiences by increasing the amount of time teacher candidates spend teaching and observing

3. the potential for creating a more structured supervised field experience by expanding the role of local school teachers

4. the potential for adding value to the Level 1 and 3 field experiences by using UNI faculty supervisors

5. the potential for increased collaboration with local school teachers and local schools.

6. the potential for using field experiences for research projects.

The PLS Task Force identified subsidiary benefits that could accrue from conducting the pilot study. The pilot study would:

1. provide an opportunity to strengthen relationships with local schools by engaging in a collaborative project that has significant implications for both.

2. contribute to the ongoing research agenda in the college of Education by providing a significant research project.

3. deepen the College of Education’s experiential base with the PDS model, a model that is widely used around the country.

4. develop materials, procedure, and practices that may have application to all the Level I, II, and III field experiences

This pilot project will provide valuable information for teacher education program at UNI, regardless of what direction it takes:

1. If UNI pursues multiple models of delivering field experiences, the findings could suggest ways to enhance and expand the Level I and Level III field experiences in conjunction with the Level II field experience at the Price Laboratory School. Currently, our greatest potential for strengthening our field experiences depends on our ability to engage the outside community to better train our teachers.

2. If UNI chose to fully implement a PDS model, the findings from a pilot study would be invaluable for planning purposes. At this time, it is difficult to even assess the feasability of a PDS without an initial study to sort out problems, challenges, and potential benefits.

3. This pilot study provides a basis for a back up plan for the Level II field experience if decreased enrollment and/or funding concerns forced the closing of Price Laboratory School at some future date.

Participants and Sites in the Study:


A total of 60-100 students would be involved in the pilot study. This group would be divided into three cohorts of approximately 30 students. Each cohort would represent one level of the field experience, i.e., 30 students would participate at Level I, 30 students would participate at level 2, and 30 students would participate at Level III. At Level I, one section of the 200:017 field experience would be selected for participation, and at Level II, one section of the 200:128 field experience would be selected. At Level III, students would be selected by soliciting professors involved with Level III experiences.

Involving a large number of students in the pilot project provides an opportunity to investigate issues related to the scope of UNI field experience placements.

Field Experience Supervisors

Two to four full time faculty would supervise the students in their field experience. Preferably, there would be four faculty supervisors to include two elementary supervisors, 1 middle school supervisor, and 1 secondary supervisor. If only two supervisors are available, one could be elementary and one secondary. If three faculty supervisors are available, one could be elementary, one could be elementary and middle, or one could be secondary. Some other arrangement might also be suitable depending on the specific interests and abilities of the faculty supervisors.

Each of the faculty supervisors would be hosted by one or two schools. That would enable supervisors an opportunity to build relationships with the teachers within a building. This could provide opportunities for team teaching, professional development and other collaborative opportunities.

Field Placement Coordinator

The field placement coordinator needs to be involved with the project to ensure that the official records of field placements are properly maintained..


Four schools from the Cedar Falls and Waterloo school districts will be selected as host sites for the pilot study, including two elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 1 high school. The faculty supervisors will each be located at a different school.


The pilot will be guided by a steering committee organized for the purpose of redesigning and overseeing the field experiences for the pilot project. Members of the faculty committee will consist of representatives from the Price Laboratory School, from the field experience supervisors participating in the pilot, from professors involved with the Level I, II, and III field experiences, from the administration, from cooperating teachers in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo school districts, and from the community. The committee will be organized around the five NCATE (2001) Standards for Professional Development Schools, which are (1) Learning Community; (2) Accountability and Quality Assurance; (3) Collaboration; (4) Diversity and Equity; (5) Structures, Resources, and Roles. At the end of the study, each of these subcommittees will produce a segment of the final report, as described below:

1. Learning Community

The Learning Community subcommittee would produce outcomes related to field experience activities, field experience assignments, and professional development activities for teachers. Examples related to field experience activities and assignments might include writing cases, creating teacher work samples, analyses of teaching and learning, action research projects, autobiographies, logs, journals, and reflective essays. Professional development opportunities could include action research, teacher leadership, and university sponsored inservice programs.

2. Accountability and Quality Assurance

The Accountability and Quality Assurance subcommittee would produce outcomes related to observing field experience students, judging the quality of student products, assessing the overall quality of the PDS experience, and establishing related research projects. The assessment would target the five standards for professional development schools (NCATE, 2001). Assessment data could include existing mandated assessments and reports, such as standardized test data, teacher work samples, or other university or school assessments. It could also include (a) assessment regularly done by the partners, such as field experience assignments; (b) archival data, such as demographic data on students, faculty, and administrators, as well as assignment rosters, schedules, minutes of meetings, and job descriptions; and (c) data collected for the specific purpose of assessing the partnership, such as surveys with student participants and cooperating teachers, interviews with selected student participants, selected cooperating teachers, and faculty supervisors, and assessments designed to assess the growth in the reflective capacity of teacher candidates.

3. Collaboration

The Collaboration subcommittee would produce outcomes related to designating the responsibilities of the partner schools, the potential scope and limitations of a PDS model, the number of placements sites are needed for PDS model, the number of hours allotted to the field experience, and other logistical considerations related to the collaboration of the school and university partners. Written products from this committee could include descriptions of the partners, prior partnership history, engagement in joint work, roles of the partners, philosophy of the partnership, alignment of the goals of the partnership with the university and the college, the number of teacher candidate placements, involvement of university faculty in PDS, involvement of school faculty at the university, and development of collaborative governance. Other example outcomes could include creating a mission statement, short and long term goals, partnership agreements; and a protocol for adding partners.

4. Diversity and Equity

The Diversity and Equity subcommittee would produce outcomes related to ensuring equity in Collaboration, Learning Community, and Assessment. Examples in Collaboration would include strategies that ensure diverse representation and equality of voice from all, including members of the community. Examples in regards to the Learning Community standard would include strategies that provide equal opportunities for all in regards to curriculum and instruction. Examples in regards to Assessment would include strategies to reduce the achievement gap, use inquiry to document equity, and to evaluate policies and practices to support equity.

5. Structures, Resources, and Roles

The Structures, Resources, and Roles subcommittee would produce outcomes related to identifying and describing roles that need to fulfilled as part of the PDS. Examples would include defining the roles of supervisors, cooperating teachers, UNI faculty, and the field experience coordinator, among others. When defining the roles of supervisors, this subcommittee might address their job functions and daily activities within a PDS model, their relationship with teacher candidates, their collaboration with teachers, their role regarding professional development of the school staff, and their role in conducting research. When defining the roles of cooperating teachers, this subcommittee might address giving feedback, organizing activities for teacher candidates, assessing teacher candidates, collaborating with UNI faculty supervisors, participating in or leading professional development activities, and participating or leading research activities. Similar descriptions need to be created for UNI faculty, field experience coordinators, and other roles as determined by the committee.

Pilot Timeline

May - Approval of the project.
June - Selection of steering committee.
June/July - Selection of faulty supervisors.

July/August -Faculty committee meets.
A. Create initial design for the field experiences
B. Select student participants

August - Phase I of the Pilot Study begins.
Full implementation of Phase I would include a pilot study with four faculty supervisors and approximately 90 teacher education students. Partial implementation could be 2 faculty supervisors and approximately 60 teacher education students. Partial implementation may be necessitated by a lack of available faculty supervisors, a lack of time for initial planning, or a lack of overall funding for the project.

August-November - Collection of Data
November/December - Analysis of Data and Redesign of Field Experience

January - Phase II of the Pilot Study begins. By Phase II, the pilot should be fully implemented, barring a shortage of faculty or money.

January-April - Collection of Data
May-June - Preparation of Final Report


Abdal-Haqq, I. (1998). Professional development schools: Weighing the evidence.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Beck, C., & Kosnik, C. (2006). Innovations in teacher education: A social constructivist
approach. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Castle, S., Fox, R.K., & Souder, K.O. (2006). Do professional development schools
make a difference? A comparative study of PDS and non-PDS teacher
candidates. Journal of Teacher Education, 57 (1), 65-80.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2006). Powerful teacher education: Lessons from exemplary
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Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (Eds.). (2005). Preparing teachers for a changing
world: What teachers should learn and be able to do. San Francisco, CA: Josey-

Klingner, J.K., Leftwich, S, van Garderen, D., & Hernandez, C. (2004). Closing the gap:
Enhancing student outcomes in an urban professional development school.
Teacher Education and Special Education, 27 (3), 292-306.

Latham, N.I., & Vogt, W.P. (2007). Do professional development schools reduce teacher
attrition? Evidence from a longitudinal study of 1,000 graduates. Journal of
Teacher Education, 58 (2), 153-167.

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) (2001). Standards for
professional development schools: Author.

Ridley, D.S., Hurwitz, S., Hackett, M.R.D., & Miller, K.K. (2005). Comparing PDS
and campus-based preservice teacher preparation: Is PDS preparation really
better? Journal of Teacher Education, 56 (1), 46-56.

Teitel, L. (2003). The professional development schools handbook: Starting, sustaining,
and assessing partnerships that improve student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Corwin Press.

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