Transformative Partnerships: We Can All Learn

Transformative Partnerships: We Can All Learn

Aimee L. Morewood (West Virginia University, USA), Susan E. Taylor (Mason-Dixon Elementary School, USA) and Linda Hennen (Mason-Dixon Elementary School, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6367-1.ch005
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This chapter provides an overview of a Digital Stories project that was part of a Professional Development School partnership between a faculty member at a university and a nearby elementary school. Following a description of the project, the authors connect this project to reflective practice and different types of knowledge related to teaching.
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I noticed that the teachers often asked the question of themselves and each other, how can we make this Digital Stories project better? These two teachers believed in this project from a reading and writing perspective and from a technology integration perspective. These teachers found a way to effectively incorporate reading, writing, and technology standards into their daily instruction. This is a good example of how these teachers worked smarter, not harder when it came to looking at their curriculum and finding effective ways to include all of the necessary elements into their instruction.

The Digital Stories project was up and running when I entered this first grade classroom. What I found important in my role was taking this project to others. For example, I was able to share this work with my undergraduate and graduate students at the university. I was able to weave in the different elements of literacy instruction into my own instruction of future and practicing teachers. The Digital Stories project gave me an authentic example of how teachers were not only including technology in their literacy instruction, but doing so in a meaningful way. In addition, I was able to provide an example of the various mini-lessons these teachers used in their instruction to guide students’ learning. Further, I was able to use this project as a way to provide professional development for other educators both within this school and on a national level. The teachers and I presented this project at a national conference and published a practical piece for teachers demonstrating what can and should be done in regards to incorporating mandates within a classroom of effective literacy instruction (University Faculty member, personal communication, October 7, 2013).

Transformation of practice is a primary goal of partnerships in Professional Development Schools (PDS). According to Teitel (2008), “trust is the first building block of a transformative relationship” (p. 79). Trust must be established among all of the PDS stakeholders so that all partners are able to engage in continued learning to improve educational practice at all levels. The Digital Stories project provided PDS school faculty and a university faculty an opportunity to engage in an instructional project where these trusting relationships could begin and be supported overtime. The vision of PDS work is that learning occurs for both school and university faculty. Teitel states that there is a general consensus about PDS work that focuses around four goals: “improvement in student learning, preparation of educators, professional development for educators, and research and inquiry into improving practice” (p. 76).

Teitel’s (2008) work in these four areas of transformational PDS work can be seen in the opening vignette by the university faculty member. For example, this response highlights how the teachers focused their instruction on improving student learning (goal 1) through a Digital Stories project by carefully planning for effective and meaningful reading, writing, and technology instruction while incorporating mandated curriculum standards. Further, the first grade students were engaging in positive experiences with their peers as they collaborated on their projects and worked through a Writer’s Workshop approach (Calkins, 1994).

The next two goals of PDS work, according to Teitel (2008) focus on preparation of educators (goal 2) and professional development for educators (goal 3). Again, the opening vignette provides an example of how the transformative nature of the relationship between the stakeholders at this PDS allowed for the university professor to highlight this project with a variety of audiences (e.g., with her university students, with other faculty members within the PDS, and at a national level through publication and presentation). She was able to provide a fresh, on-the ground example of how practicing teachers were able to effectively integrate and teach different mandated content standards across the curriculum using instruction that provided students opportunities to engage in authentic learning experiences.

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