Creating Connections across the PDS Network: A Personal Narrative of One Professor's Journey

Creating Connections across the PDS Network: A Personal Narrative of One Professor's Journey

Suzanne Horn (Queens University of Charlotte, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6367-1.ch003


This chapter traces one professor's journey in a Professional Development School (PDS) network and her personal reflection on that journey. It showcases discoveries of the connections made between different participants of the network and how those connections are constructed in staff development, instruction, and conference presentations. Through the chapter a Common Core Vocabulary project is described and tracked as it is conceived in the elementary schools, then moved to the college classroom, then to the high school in the network, and then to the larger educational community. The chapter portrays how the ideas and activities in one PDS can impact multiple settings across the network and its many students.
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Approximately ten years ago I was sitting at the first meeting for the National Association of Professional Development Schools as an attendee to learn what a Professional Development School (PDS) was all about. I found, the concept of Universities and K-12 schools working in partnerships for student achievement and the betterment of teaching, both in-service and pre-service exciting. I had no idea at that moment what the impact would be, but I knew the idea would be big and that it would change how we work with college and K-12 students and teachers, if we made the commitment. I was thrilled to go back to my University to start our first PDS partnership! This way of working with schools to train future teachers resonated with me. I knew in my heart that good practice would have college education students in schools as soon as possible and doing work that trained them for teaching in realistic settings, rather than apart at the University. I could clearly see this was the way of the future! Through the PDS partnerships I have had many moments of clarity like this, where I knew that what we were doing was good, strong, work, where all stakeholders benefited from our time spent together.

Another moment of importance in my PDS work was when I realized how far reaching the partnerships can be across the varied members (Universities, Schools, District Offices) in a network when I conducted a vocabulary project. For some of you this report of our progress will be confirming. For others just starting out, this chapter may be one of several examples to show you how one idea travels within the PDS network and how that could possibly impact the network that you establish.

This story begins in the middle. Our current network schools are well established. This chapter starts with the introduction of the common core and what our network did to help all members of the network understand the importance and realistic ways to embrace and use the common core standards to help students best grow cognitively. It also includes what we did to help teachers deal with the realities connected to changing goals and demands in their instruction.

During a stakeholder’s meeting with our partnership with two elementary schools, the latest challenge from the county office was raised as a goal that needed to be addressed in staff development. That proposal was to focus on vocabulary and the common core in a staff development program that would help the elementary teachers understand the expectations based on the new common core standards. In addition, a second goal was to facilitate teaching vocabulary in context of content areas well, not just during the language arts block. We looked through the requirements and decided this would be an excellent year-long project for our partnership. The principals, reading facilitators and myself met to discuss the upcoming project. We focused on three goals for teachers: 1) they needed to know why some students came to school with strong vocabulary, while others did not; 2) they desired to know how to make self-constructed list of effective words to teach in the content areas for their grade level; and 3) they needed strategies to teach content area vocabulary.

The reading facilitators, and myself (as the PDS facilitator) worked to create staff development that met these goals. We launched the school year with a staff development meeting on the first teacher work day. The first half of the day focused on our three goals and the second half focused on planning vocabulary activities by grade level. During this staff development we talked to the elementary faculty from both partner schools about the research behind why some students acquired vocabulary, while others were lacking. Additionally we discussed why it was important to teach vocabulary in context and in all content areas that they teach, not just language arts. “Pre-reading vocabulary instruction can improve students’ comprehension of their texts and help them retain the concepts that are taught” within all areas of learning (Stahl & Kapinus, 1991, p. 36). In the early grades, if we teach vocabulary using authentic texts, vocabulary acquisition increases between 20% to 25% compared to not using vocabulary instruction during these readings (Biemiller & Boote, 2006).

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