Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Growing Teachers: Some Important Principles for Professional Development: A Unique Program at Simon Fraser University Reveals Principles That Should Guide Every Professional Development Program

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Growing Teachers: Some Important Principles for Professional Development: A Unique Program at Simon Fraser University Reveals Principles That Should Guide Every Professional Development Program

Article excerpt

It is 40-plus years since the upstart Professional Development Program was initiated at Simon Fraser University. Among its many audacious innovations, the program offered opportunities for practicing teachers to play leading roles in the professional development of student teachers. Seconded (temporarily released) to the university for two-year terms, these "faculty associates" not only supervised student teaching, but also were given responsibilities for directing, organizing, and implementing teaching seminars for students on campus. While the advantages of involving faculty associates in the professional development of students were immediately clear, it was not initially foreseen that such experiences would contribute to the professional development of the faculty associates as well. Forty years later seems, then, a good vantage point from which to examine how the role of faculty associate became a pathway to personal and professional change.

While professional development comes in various shapes and sizes, there is, arguably, no experience comparable to the two years in which practicing teachers are given opportunities to play key roles in the education of future teachers. They are changed in major ways as a result of their experiences--both in terms of their teaching practice and in their personal behavior.

The Professional Development Program

The Professional Development Program, launched in 1965, turned all the rules of teacher education upside down. Students, in teams of two, begin their three-semester experience with a half-semester of student teaching. They observe and participate in such tasks as tutoring individual students, helping the teacher with various instruction-related jobs, and offering instruction to small groups, closely supervised by the mentor teacher. Students working in pairs can support each other. Most important, this initiation into practice disabuses students of any romantic notions they might have about teaching.

In the second half of the first semester, students attend seminars in which they examine and reflect on classroom experiences, read relevant texts, and advance their understandings and skills in key curriculum areas. The second semester includes 16 weeks of student teaching. The third semester consists of coursework.

Given this bold new approach, critics claimed that it would never fly. "We'll give you two years," they said. The rest, as they say, is history. The program has become one of the most highly regarded teacher education programs in Canada.

But this is not a paean to the teacher education program. It is, rather, an examination of the role of the faculty associate--what it actually is and how it not only serves the students in the program, but advances the professional development of the practicing teachers.

Selecting Faculty Associates

Approximately 40 to 50 faculty associates work in the program each year. Each is a practicing teacher who has been released temporarily from his or her school district to join the Simon Fraser faculty. Most come from British Columbia, though a few may come from other provinces and, over the years, some have come from abroad and even from the United States. The selection process is very much like any other job search. Ads are placed in newspapers and education journals, and applications are sought from practicing teachers who have at least five years of teaching experience. Teachers assemble a portfolio that includes a formal application, letters of reference, plus any other relevant materials, including a DVD that shows the teacher's classroom work.

At the first screening level, all applications are reviewed by a selection committee that includes faculty and program coordinators (former faculty associates who have responsibilities for program development). Candidates are selected based on several criteria: length and breadth of teaching experiences, nature of teaching experience, reasons for wishing to become a faculty associate, and the relationship between a candidate's area of expertise and program needs for that year. …

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