ERIC Identifier: ED335357
Publication Date: 1991-09-00
Author: Abdal-Haqq, Ismat
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education Washington DC.

Professional Development Schools and Educational Reform: Concepts and Concerns. ERIC Digest 91-2.

This digest provides an overview of an emerging institution, the professional development school (PDS), and of its place in improving public schooling. Conceptually, a PDS is an exemplary, functioning school, generally a public school, which has as one of its fundamental missions the professional development of preservice, novice, and practicing teachers. (See ERIC Digest 89-4, The Nature of Professional Development Schools, ED 316 548.)

There are several labels for schools that embody this concept as well as different views of the scope of PDS activities. A Rand study suggested that school districts designate certain schools as induction schools to provide supervised internships for beginning teachers (Wise et al., 1987). The American Federation of Teachers has implemented pilots of professional practice schools (Levine, 1988). The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee proposed legislation, the "Professional Development Academy Establishment Act of 1989," which would have funded collaboratives between public schools and higher education institutions to provide teacher induction, inservice training, and testing of new teaching techniques (U.S. Congress, 1989). The term professional development school appears in the 1986 Holmes Group report, Tomorrow's Teachers, and these schools are the focus of its report, Tomorrow's Schools (Holmes Group, 1990). The Carnegie Report, A Nation Prepared, proposed clinical schools (Carnegie Forum, 1986). The U.S. Department of Education has included in its FY 1992 budget a proposal calling for funding of a new program, Partnerships for Innovative Teacher Education. These college/school partnerships would plan and operate teaching schools that would be analogous to teaching hospitals (Department Proposes, 1991). Other labels include professional development center (Clark, 1990), practice school, and partner school (Goodlad, 1990).

Although it incorporates elements of each, a PDS is meant to be more than a laboratory school, a model school, or a setting for clinical supervision of novice teachers. It is considered to be a new institution (Holmes, 1990).


Reform literature in recent years has suggested that public schools as they exist today do not adequately prepare American youth for their roles as citizens and workers in the twenty-first century (Kennedy, 1990). The structure of many public schools inhibits knowledge-based teaching practice; as a result, student learning may be inhibited. Since existing schools provide the setting for field experiences and student teaching, the prevailing school culture not only fails to promote student learning but also fails to nourish the development of expertise in preservice and novice teachers (Clark, 1990; Murphy, 1990). In essence, today's schools cannot adequately prepare tomorrow's teachers.

PDSs are generally engaged in the process of restructuring. This process may involve changes in organizational and governance structures; redesign of teacher work; reallocation of resources; improvements in the processes of teaching and learning; and changes in the relationships between and among teachers, administrators, school districts, pupils, parents, and higher education institutions (Murphy, 1990). The objective of this process is to develop models or prototypes of exemplary schools with institutional structures that support improved social and academic learning for pupils and improved practice for teachers (Kennedy, 1990; Levine, 1988). PDSs are places to determine what works so that findings can be disseminated to other schools. As such, these schools are intended to play a pivotal role in restructuring public schooling.

As models of developing best practice, PDSs also become the most effective locations for clinical training of future teachers. There is considerable evidence that teachers consider their student or practice teaching experiences to be the most powerful element in their professional preparation (Goodlad, 1990; Levine, 1988). There is also considerable evidence of the unstructured and idiosyncratic nature of the general run of such field experiences. The net result appears to be that the perceived shortcomings of traditional teaching practice are perpetuated in part by the preservice teacher's initial practice teaching experience (Levine, 1988; Murphy, 1990). PDSs are envisioned as sites where structured induction of preservice teachers, as well as continuing professional development of experienced teachers, is a priority. Therefore, PDSs play a pivotal role in redesigned and improved pre- and inservice teacher education.


Although a number of pilot projects have been undertaken in the past few years, there appears as yet to be no fully developed PDS. In fact, creators of PDSs often stress that their efforts will require not only time to bear fruit, in the form of improved teaching practice and student learning, but also a significant amount of time to reach the level where they function as planned. What does exist are models of elements of PDSs and sites that are in the initial planning and implementation stages (Holmes, 1990; Levine, 1988; Pasch & Pugach, 1990). An examination of PDS literature reveals several common themes with regard to principles and goals.

1. The role of PDSs in improving practice and preparing teachers is analogous to the role of teaching hospitals in the medical profession (Darling-Hammond, 1989; Goodlad, 1990; Holmes, 1990; Kennedy, 1990; Zimpher, 1990). These schools are clinical sites where professional standards of practice are developed, refined, and institutionalized (Darling-Hammond, 1989; Levine, 1988); where cohorts of teaching interns participate in structured induction programs (Goodlad, 1990); where both teaching practice and induction are knowledge based (Darling-Hammond, 1989; Levine, 1988); and where inquiry, research, and reflection are used to continually test, refine, and expand this knowledge base (Darling-Hammond, 1989; Holmes, 1990; Kennedy, 1990).

2. At PDS sites the entire school is involved in the induction of the preservice and the novice teacher, not just a single cooperating or master teacher (Anderson, in press; Clark, 1990; Goodlad, 1990; Pasch & Pugach, 1990; Zimpher, 1990).

3. PDSs are context oriented; sites should reflect the geographic, ethnic, and economic diversity of the nation's student population (Holmes, 1990; Pasch & Pugach, 1990; Zimpher, 1990).

4. The number of designated PDS sites will be relatively small since preparation and induction of new teachers will not be the mission of most schools (Holmes, 1990).

5. The establishment and operation of PDSs is the result of collaboration between universities and local school districts (Holmes, 1990; Kennedy, 1990; Pasch & Pugach, 1990). In some collaboratives, teachers unions are also partners (Anderson, in press; Levine, 1988).


1. Many proposed PDS activities and methods may consume considerable resources (Zimpher, 1990). For example, a collaborative model of clinical experiences for preservice teachers generally costs both the university and school district more time, money, and personnel than the traditional student teaching model (Anderson, in press).

2. Some aspects of university culture inhibit the faculty involvement in school affairs that is called for in PDS collaboratives. Often teacher education programs do not enjoy high esteem or priority within schools of education, especially program activities associated with school-based field experience and service (Goodlad, 1990). Faculty evaluation systems have not traditionally rewarded field service by teacher educators at a level on par with other professorial activities (Kennedy, 1990).

3. Aspects of school culture may also inhibit PDS planning and implementation. Rosaen and Hoekwater (1990) point out that school culture is characterized by egalitarian treatment of teachers. Differential treatment, as reflected in the differentiated staffing plans characteristic of some PDSs, is sometimes seen as favoritism. Collegial & collaborative inquiry into practice may also be challenged. "[T]he ethic of social harmony, plus the ethic of autonomy in the classroom, means that it's extremely difficult, even within a school, to say nothing of between a school and a university, to really examine practice together in a serious way" (Kennedy, 1990, p.13).

4. The proposed PDS network would contain relatively few sites; therefore, preservice teachers may face strong competition for positions as interns. This potential competition and selectivity raises issues of fairness and equity with regard to resource allocation and professional access (Zimpher, 1990).


References identified with an EJ or ED number have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should be available at most research libraries; documents (ED) are available in ERIC microfiche collections at more than 700 locations. Documents can also be ordered through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 433-ERIC. References followed by an SP number were being processed for the ERIC database at the time of publication. For more information contact the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20036-1186; (202) 293-2450.

Anderson, C. R., (Ed.). (in press). "Voices" from the Clinical Schools Project. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy. (1986). A nation prepared: Teachers for the 21st century. Washington: Author. ED 268 120

Clark, R. W. (1990). What school leaders can do to help change teacher education. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Darling-Hammond, L. (1989). Accountability for professional practice. Teachers College Record, 91(1), 59-80. EJ 398 426

Department proposes HEA Title V plan to Congress; Seeks $20 million for new Teacher Education Partnerships. (1991, August 1). Teacher Education Reports, p. 1-2.

Goodlad, J. (1990). Teachers for our nation's schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. SP 032 960

Holmes Group. (1990). Tomorrow's schools: Principles for the design of professional development schools. East Lansing, MI: Author. SP 032 871

Kennedy, M. M. (1990). Professional development schools. NCRTE Colloquy, 3(2). SP 032 752

Levine, M. (Ed.). (1988). Professional practice schools: Building a model. Washington: American Federation of Teachers. ED 313 344

Murphy, J. (1990). Helping teachers prepare to work in restructured schools. Journal of Teacher Education, 41(4), 50-56. SP 520 216

Pasch, S. H., & Pugach, M. C. (1990). Collaborative planning for urban professional development schools. Contemporary Education, 61(3), 135-143. SP 520 134

Rosaen, C. L., & Hoekwater, E. (1990). Collaboration: Empowering educators to take charge. Contemporary Education. 61(3), 144-151. SP 520 135

U.S. Congress. (1989). Senate. Committee on Labor and Human Resources. A bill to provide financial assistance for teacher recruitment and training, and for other purposes. (S. 1675). ED 323 205

Wise, A. E., Darling-Hammond, L., Berry, B., Berliner, D., Haller, E., Praskac, A., & Schlechty, P. (1987). Effective teacher selection: From recruitment to retention (Rep. No. R-3462-NIE/CSTP). Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation. ED 282 840

Zimpher, N. (1990). Creating professional development school sites. Theory into Practice, 29(1), 42-49. SP 520 040

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