As I work on my new book, I am looking at a resurrected model of the Dewey-era “Lab School” for the 21st Century that includes multi-win collaborations amongst schools, colleges, community organizations, and companies. So I was really happy to see that my former school, Francis Parker School in San Diego, has developed a partnership for teacher professional development with the University of San Diego. Just finishing their first year, this should be of interest to other private and public schools that, like most, have found that generic, traditional PD is not serving our needs.
Middle School head Dan Lang and Assistant Head of School Laurynn Evans worked collaboratively with several faculty at the University to co-design a set of eight 13-hour modules that focus on personalized learning, instructional design and technology in teaching, and a capstone action-research project that each participant is putting to use immediately in their own classroom. Laurynn said that the modules are all based on solid evidence-based pedagogy, “what we know really works”. Dan says that it was critical to make the training schedule “really easy”, so sessions were held on the school’s own campus. They also said that partnering with the University added “weight” to the program, more so than if one of Parker’s own administrators ran the program.
The program confers a Certificate of Independent Schools Professional Teaching from USD. Dan and Laurynn agreed with me that the content is very much applicable to both public and private school learning, but private school teachers sometimes have gaps specific to their experiences. And, Laurynn pointed out, some indy school teachers do not have a standard teaching certificate, and some may not have had access to good training in pedagogy in the past. The certificate is something that the teachers can take with them if they ever leave Parker.
The course this year was taught by university adjunct instructors, and going forward Parker intends that their own teachers will step up and lead future cohorts. They also plan to open up the training to other teachers in a summer institute format as early as 2017, so keep an eye out for that.
While not every school has a university right across the street, these are powerful community partnerships that both public and private schools should pursue. Parker first discussed the idea of this partnership many years ago, and as Laurynn said, it finally just took some good, stubborn work to get it done. One obvious obstacle is the expense. Parker and USD both put in a fair amount of sweat equity to design the program, and then, like any other teacher education, the program is fee-based. To ensure that participants have skin in the game, the teachers pay a portion of the tuition in advance, which is then paid back by the school when they complete the work.
Lots of wins on all sides to this kind of partnership!