Digital Partnerships for Professional Development: Rethinking University–Public School Collaborations

Digital Partnerships for Professional Development: Rethinking University–Public School Collaborations

William P. Banks (East Carolina University, USA) and Terri Van Sickle (Tar River Writing Project, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-623-7.ch014
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Abstract

The following case study explores the impact of a university-school-community partnership developed in an online environment in order to address the immediate need of high school teachers in North Carolina to become more knowledgeable about responding to student writing in online and digital environments. Using a grassroots, teachers-teaching-teachers model fostered by the National Writing Project, members of the Tar River Writing Project, in partnership with a university faculty member and an administrator from a local public school district, developed and implemented an online professional development workshop to improve teacher response practices. This study demonstrates one method for using online technologies to engage community and university partners in the collaborative work of improving writing instruction and suggests a series of benefits inherent in such partnerships.
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History And Context Of Responding To Student Writing Online (Rswo)

In the fall of 2009, the state of North Carolina was beginning the process of implementing a statewide Graduation Project1 for high school seniors, one that would involve a rich portfolio of different kinds of writing, including a major researched paper. But as often happens with top-down, large-scale approaches, the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and the NC Department of Education (NCDOE) had not allocated sufficient funding or time to provide detailed professional development for NC teachers who would be responsible for guiding students through the new Graduation Project process. As state-level discussions progressed, one local school district, NRMPS, was considering a move that would have their students’ researched essays, a core component of the new NC Graduation Project (NCGP), responded to/evaluated by external constituencies. Some district administrators in the NRMPS system were concerned that students in their schools were not getting sufficiently rigorous responses to their writing; they worried that their own teachers would be tempted to “go easy” on their own students’ work; central office wanted some outside (read “objective”) evaluators to make sure that the students would receive valuable feedback that would inspire revision prior to the end-of-year Graduation Project assessments. NRMPS knew the qualities they sought in evaluators (e.g., teaching experience, knowledge of research writing, experience with assessing writing), but they were not necessarily sure who those evaluators should be or how NRMPS could ensure the evaluators would provide the services they sought.

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