Holmes Group Seeks Closer Ties With Schools

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Washington--A history of uneasy relations between schools and colleges could complicate efforts to create "professional development schools," teachers and teacher educators suggested here at the Holmes Group's annual meeting.

Discussions about the prospects for establishing such collaborative schools--a key element of the Holmes agenda for reforming teacher training--highlighted the consortium's Jan. 29-31 conference.

In an effort to cultivate closer ties between the group and public schools, many of the consortium's 94 member universities invited representatives from their neighboring school districts to attend the gathering.

The proposed professional-development schools, modeled on teaching hospitals used to train doctors, would serve several purposes, the organization's president, Judith E. Lanier, told participants.

Such settings, she said, would serve as "meeting places," where teachers and professors could engage in original research, hold case conferences on students, and "systematically cultivate" thoughtful teaching, through the use of modeling, observation, and feedback.

Ten "case studies" presented during the meeting highlighted collaborative efforts that could lead to the development of such schools.

Universities, for instance, have worked with master teachers to develop experimental teacher-train4ing programs, hired practicing teachers as "clinical faculty," engaged in cooperative research with school personnel, and supported inservice-training programs developed and run by teachers.

But both school and university representatives attending the conference suggested that a number of changes would have to occur before schools and colleges could undertake joint ventures as ambitious as professional-development schools.

'Where Is the Give?'

In particular, they noted, teachers will have to overcome their traditional--and often justified--misgivings about university assistance.

"Who changes first? Who changes the most?" asked Betty Pitt, a teacher in the Charlottesville, Va., public schools and a clinical instructor on the faculty at the University of Virginia. "Where is the real give going to be?"

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester (N.Y.) Teachers' Association added, "There's a great danger that we'll develop [professional-development schools] for teachers, and then announce what we've developed for them."

Allan Black, coordinator of teacher education at the University of California at Berkeley, noted that when his institution began a school-university partnership several years ago, there was "a lot of evidence from teachers, as a group, that they weren't interested in coming back to the university and being told how to teach. Access and trust," he said, "have been more important than gross resources" in developing a sound working relationship.

Time To Think

Finding time for teachers to engage in the same kind of reflection and inquiry that university faculty members take for granted is also a problem, conference participants said.

University people "feel like they have all the time in the world to think," said Ann Lieberman, executive director of the Puget Sound Educational Consortium in Seattle and professor of education at the University of Washington. But practicing teachers, she noted, "feel like they don't have two seconds."

A number of participants suggested that schools and universities would have to provide resources and change traditional school structures in order to carve out time for teachers to plan, read, think, and write.

Several people also noted that elementary-school teachers, in particular, are often reluctant to leave their classrooms in the care of others.

"We find at the elementary level that teachers really cannot conceive of leaving the classroom half time, " said Nancy S. Cole, dean of the college of education at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Wrong Incentives

At the university level, participants suggested, the problem is a lack of incentives, not a lack of time.

"The university itself, no matter what it says, seems still to have a single structure of rewards," said Ms. Lieberman. "The research journals win out."

She suggested that universities need to evolve a "broader view of scholarship" that would legitimate "practical inquiry" in school settings and "honor, or at least let some professors earn their stripes by, working with schools in a variety of ways."

"Until we begin to clean up our own house" by encouraging respect for people who work in or with schools, she argued, "I don't think we're going to be effective at making these collaborations work."

But several participants said it may take a new generation of education faculty members--with the inclination and university backing to do more research grounded in practice--to force such changes.

Ms. Lanier, who is dean of the college of education at Michigan State University, also noted that despite the "genuinely powerful new insights" being generated by research, "we don't have a clear sense of the varieties of pedagogy that will be necessary for ordinary students to achieve complex literacy."

The problem, she contended, is not just moving practice closer to research, but focusing more research "squarely on the problems of practice" as they are experienced by classroom teachers.

Politics and Money

Changing the "unprofessional characteristics" that now exist in4schools will also require educators to tackle "some types of political activity" head on, according to Robert Hampel, an education historian at the University of Delaware.

Too often, he noted, educators have brushed aside concerns about money and politics that have led to the downfall of prior reform efforts.

Traditional, "linear" notions of change, he added, will also have to be set aside for school-university partnerships to thrive.

"So often, we still have a hierarchical model of change ... which is simply wrong," he argued. "It reflects the way we wished organizations worked. It would be nice if they were so straightforward and direct, but they aren't."

'Tomorrow's Schools'

A current Holmes Group project, called "Tomorrow's Schools," is designed to help educators and policymakers "think through more generally the organization of the whole school," Ms. Lanier said.

The 18-month effort, funded by the Ford Foundation, will include university researchers, teachers, teacher educators, school administrators, and others.

At the heart of the initiative will be a series of six national seminars that bring together school professionals and university scholars to generate ideas for redesigning schools.

Their proposals will be critiqued by school and university faculty during a set of regional Holmes Group meetings, and by two national forums of education policymakers and business leaders. The final report is scheduled to be released in the fall of 1989.

Vol. 07, Issue 20

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