Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Reciprocity through Co-Instructed Site-Based Courses: Perceived Benefit and Challenge Overlap in an Urban School-University Partnership

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Reciprocity through Co-Instructed Site-Based Courses: Perceived Benefit and Challenge Overlap in an Urban School-University Partnership

Article excerpt

Educational reformers have argued that universities and the schools they serve must work as partners in teacher education so as to tighten linkages between theory and practice (e.g., Anagnostopoulos, Smith, & Basmadjian, 2007; Bullough & Draper, 2004; Darling-Hammond & Baratz-Snowden, 2007; Patterson, 1999). Such partnerships ultimately aim to achieve "simultaneous renewal" wherein each institution participates equitably in a "mutually beneficial relationship" (Goodlad, 1993, p. 29). However, because partnerships are commonly initiated and evaluated by universities rather than schools, research on the effectiveness of these efforts in meeting partnership goals has typically focused on benefits to university students rather than to the host schools (e.g., Adams, Bondy, & Kuhel, 2005; Buczynski & Sisserson, 2008; Darling-Hammond & Baratz-Snowden, 2007). Partnership models assume that schools benefit, if indirectly, because partnership-based programs will produce teachers whose preparation is more closely aligned with schools' needs. But do school personnel perceive these and other benefits?

And if so, do they perceive such benefits as a fair trade for the challenging work that is required for genuine institutional collaboration? Voices of school staff are largely silent in this regard. To address this research gap, we attempt to gain greater insight into an under-examined perspective by conducting observations, surveying teachers, and interviewing the principal at one urban high school about their experiences collaborating with a university.

The larger context of this study is a partnership that joins a university with secondary city schools in the goal of preparing aspiring teachers who will thrive in urban classrooms. Recently, the university began locating teacher education courses on neighboring middle and high school campuses so that pre-service teachers might benefit from immediate and direct contact with life in urban schools, with the further expectation that this effect would be enhanced when the courses were co-instructed by host schoolteachers and university professors. This partnership model assumes that host schools will develop capacity alongside the aspiring teachers enrolled in site-based university courses, yet there has been little examination of benefits host schools derive from such collaborations or how a site-based co-instruction model might facilitate such benefits.

Given that the model we examine here places additional burdens on host schools, it is important that we examine schools' perceptions regarding its challenges and benefits as well as the factors that influence their perceptions. Our experience suggests that schools must dedicate scarce resources to the sustaining of the site-base co-instructed teacher education model. These resources include, for example, classroom spaces in which university classes are held, as well as time and energy to manage logistical issues. Furthermore, co-teaching can often be more challenging than solo teaching since co-instructors face the additional task of working toward consensus when identifying instructional goals, crafting lessons to meet those goals, and assessing student progress (Buczynski & Sisserson, 2008). In fact, Musanti and Pence (2010) found that collaboration is a skill that co-instructors must learn in its own right, one that often involves a long and painful process. If we wish for schools to embrace partnership initiatives--which are typically theorized and designed by universities--we need a better understanding of the extent to which host schools perceive such initiatives as beneficial to their own goals.

Additionally, we are mindful of warnings that the rush to highlight program effectiveness can, if overemphasized in the absence of critical inquiry, harm reform efforts (Goodlad, 1993). We assume that partnership research should not focus solely on outcomes, but also on processes (Goodlad, 1993; Maurrasse, 2002), and that the substance of innovative teacher programs is found in "the elaboration and enactment of particular program features rather than in their mere presence or absence" (Zeichner & Conklin, 2008, p. …

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