3toPhD Building

Teacher Preparation Program Coherence In an Emerging Professional Development School

By Stephanie Murphy and Angela Vossenkuhl March 22, 2019

In February 2019, Alisa Bates, Angela Vossenkuhl, and Stephanie Murphy from the Concordia University-Portland College of Education presented Teacher Preparation Program Coherence in an Emerging Professional Development School: Lessons for All Stakeholders at The Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) conference in Atlanta. The presentation centered on our collaborative effort with Faubion and our pursuit of Professional Development School status.

An innovative educational model

Concordia’s College of Education is co-located with Faubion PreK-8 School, as part of an innovative educational model called 3toPhD®. Central to the 3toPhD® collaborative are community-based wraparound services and a deep commitment to meeting the needs of students, families, and the greater community. This partnership also includes high-quality teacher preparation and professional development, as having the College of Education embedded in a Title I school provides opportunities to authentically bridge theory and practice. According to a report published by AACTE (2018), “Teaching is a complex practice, learned over time, through rigorous and deliberate study combined with thoughtfully orchestrated opportunities to practice” (p. 14). Our co-location affords teacher candidates the chance to work with students – in both formal and informal settings – sooner in their programs and in a more meaningful way. Moreover, our two faculties have opportunities to collaborate on professional development shared visioning.

The College of Education and Faubion School have worked closely together for more than 10 years, but recently decided to formalize the partnership by pursuing Professional Development School (PDS) status. In doing so, we plan to further develop shared beliefs, models for learning, and mentorship approaches that will positively impact our teacher preparation programs. Ultimately, our shared goal is to strengthen our program coherence (Canrinus, Bergem, Klette, & Hammerness, 2017), in order to connect coursework and clinical practice. Utilizing the nine essentials of a professional development school (NAPDS, 2008), our partners engaged in a reflective analysis of each goal in order to determine areas of strength and areas for improvement.

Learning through focus groups

Concurrent to this analysis, we examined end-of-year data from undergraduate teacher candidate focus groups, teacher interest surveys, and outcomes of classroom-based collaborations between College of Education faculty and Faubion teachers. The teacher education candidates appreciated the direct access to quality teaching and learning, in regard to proximity – the Concordia classrooms are literally embedded in the PreK-8 school – and the opportunities to push into Faubion classrooms for earlier and more meaningful clinical practice. Moreover, they saw tremendous benefit in having access to resources not typically found in a school, such as the food club and the onsite medical services.

From the College of Education faculty perspective, much of the feedback related to the complexities of working in a bustling PreK-8 school with more than 800 students, although they generally felt invigorated by being around children each day. They also appreciated the timeliness and visibility of educational issues as they impact our teacher preparation course curriculum; being co-located with a PreK-8 school makes this much more relevant. Lastly, faculty requested more joint professional development with Faubion faculty, which underscored that our plan to pursue PDS status would be well received.

A community partnership

In regard to the Faubion community, their perspectives and feedback were – and are – essential to the vision of this work. As a university, we want to ensure that we remember we are in partnership with our community, and that it is a matter of doing with instead of doing to. Equity and culturally responsive practices are the cornerstones of this model. Sharing the building also means we have organic opportunities to collaborate around space and meet one another’s needs. The mutual and unexpected benefits have been an added bonus to the partnership. For their part, the Faubion administration appreciated the bidirectional support and the ability to collaborate. The seasoned Faubion educators are able to support and coach the novice Concordia teachers, and the preservice teachers are able to provide extra math and literacy supports to the elementary students; it is a symbiotic relationship.

Zeichner (2010), defines the third space as “the intersection of practitioner and academic knowledge that resides in a zone not wholly controlled by any one party” (AACTE, 2018, p. 25). There is a perceived gap between theory and practice in teacher preparation. Theory-based teacher preparation programs can be abstract, whereas the idea of school-based learning is literal and concrete (Forgasz, Heck, Williams, Abrosetti & Willis, 2018). Third space theory reframes the university-school partnership and the roles of various stakeholders: teachers, administrators, staff, faculty, and community. This is the epitome of 3toPhD®, wherein our two entities – Concordia’s College of Education and Faubion School – have joined together to build community in a shared space. However, each entity has its own specific guidelines and mandates. For the College of Education, it is necessary to balance the needs of the school district with numerous educator preparation provider requirements. Conversely, Faubion must adhere to curricular requirements, union practices, and other district mandates.

Our partnership has afforded us the ability to embed more clinical practice opportunities into our teacher preparation programs, so our preservice teachers have earlier and more robust opportunities to learn about teaching in real-time. Our schools are continuing to collaborate on joint professional development for the two staffs, and envisioning how to meet the needs of both Faubion and the College of Education. We are excited to see the future trajectory of 3toPhD®.


Learn More: Click to view related resources.
  • Zeichner, K. , "Rethinking the connections between campus courses and field experiences in college- and university-based teacher education. ," Journal of Teacher Education, 61, 89-99.
  • National Association of Professional Development Schools. , "What it Means to be a Professional Development School. "
  • Forgasz, R., Heck, D., Williams, J., Ambrosetti, A., & Willis, L. D. , "Theorising the third space of professional experience partnerships.," Educating future teachers: Innovative perspectives in professional experience (pp. 33-47).
  • Canrinus, E. T., Bergem, O. K., Klette, K., & Hammerness, K. , "Coherent teacher education programmes: Taking a student perspective.," Journal of Curriculum Studies, 49(3), 313-333.
  • American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. , "A Pivot Toward Clinical Practice, Its Lexicon, and the Renewal of Educator Preparation: A Report of the AACTE Clinical Practice Commission. "

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