Teacher Socialization: Opportunities for University-School Partnerships to Improve Professional Cultures

Article excerpt

Secondary school organizational structures often result in a marked lack of opportunity for university faculty, teachers and teacher interns to collaborate and engage in sustained discussions about teaching and curriculum. Emerging partnership efforts between schools and teacher preparation programs have encouraged more frequent and intense involvement of undergraduate education students with schools, classrooms and teachers. This article describes the results of research related to a partnership project that linked a teacher preparation program with two high schools. Data are presented that indicate interns benefit by an increased understanding of the realities of classroom dynamics and development of instructional skills. Partnership teachers contributed to the professional development of interns and reported renewed enthusiasm for teaching. With the emergence of institutionally supported professional partnerships, teacher education programs and K-12 schools have an opportunity to unite efforts to improve the quality of education for students in both educational contexts.

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School reform and accountability legislation have altered the role of school administrators who are being asked to function as change agents. This role often carries with it expectations for administrators to lead by empowerment, involving teachers in making decisions that most directly relate to the improvement of student outcomes. These school improvement initiatives also place an increased emphasis on teachers' knowledge and skills. It is no longer sufficient for teachers to "just" master instruction in the classroom setting; they are now being expected to work on curriculum development, serve on site-based management teams, develop innovative forms of instructional delivery, and take an active role in solving broader issues related to student performance outcomes.

Alteration of the norms of practice has created a need for a professional culture in which teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders can engage in meaningful discussions about concerns affecting the whole school. Changing the nature of the professional culture in high schools can be particularly problematic. Secondary school organizational structures often result in a marked lack of opportunity for teachers to collaborate and engage in sustained discussions about teaching and curriculum (Clark & LaLonde, 1992). Furthermore, before pre-service secondary education students even enter the school site, they are prepared in programs which are typically more discipline-based with significantly fewer contacts with educators in the field or in other disciplines than is the case with elementary or middle grade pre-service programs.

Typically, the culminating experience for pre-service undergraduate education majors is student teaching. Many students report that they really learned to teach during this experience, but frequently fail to recognize the connections between prior coursework and the actualities of classroom teaching. Moreover, they tend to mimic the practices and activities of the cooperating teacher without recognizing that these practices and routines must be continuously reconstructed within the framework of the classroom context and purposes (Colton & Sparks-Langer, 1993). Therefore, the placement of these emerging educators with knowledgeable and articulate teachers becomes of paramount importance.

During the formative years of teaching, beliefs of novice teachers are often challenged as they are assimilated into the profession of teaching. Educators just entering the profession develop an understanding about themselves as teachers through experiences within the classroom and the school organization (Huberman, 1995). These beginning educators, as is true for all teachers independent of their career stage, are immersed in a process of self-analysis and reflection involving their teaching and learning. This process can be further advanced through collaborative dialogue, providing an opportunity for interactions that often raise new connections, examples and consequences based on the realities of the classroom/school context (Cambourne, 1988; Nolan & Francis, 1992). …