Profiles of university liaisons in professional development schools

Kathleen Dickinson Rockwood, Fordham University


Professional Development Schools (PDS), representing long-term partnerships between schools and universities, stress joint efforts and collegial work that strive to impact on student achievement, faculty professional development, teacher preparation, research, and organizational renewal. The collaborative reform agenda embraced by the Professional Development School movement requires not only a different type of commitment and interaction between the partner institutions but also people who can successfully negotiate the required “boundary-spanning” roles between the school and university cultures. Many educational reformers acknowledge that teacher education faculty require different preparation in order to manage the broadening PDS roles and responsibilities. In response, this exploratory, qualitative study sought to describe the role of the PDS university liaison. Specific attention was directed to understanding the dispositions, skills, and critical actions of the liaisons. A differentiated sample of 3 PDS university liaisons was identified in 3 stages by reputation, criteria-based, and maximum variation across organizations. Primary informants included the university liaisons and their collaborating PDS partners. The emergent design relied on 3 data sources that included interviews, observations, and review of documents. The research concentrated on obtaining rich descriptions that resulted in a profile of each university liaison. The research findings corroborated that each of these 3 university liaisons engaged in work that moved them toward the collaborative reform agenda. Their partners perceived the partnership as being very positive and different from traditional school-university relationships. Furthermore, there was strong congruence in perceptions about the multi-faceted roles the university liaisons assumed. There were remarkable commonalties among the university liaisons in their dispositions and skills. Critical actions were evidenced by no singular acts, rather consistent responses and actions over time. The university liaison's effectiveness and scope of work could be directly associated to the level of commitment and support received from the university. It is hoped that the study's findings and recommendations may influence higher education institutions to reexamine professional development practices, the level of explicit university support, and the hiring considerations for individuals assigned roles in Professional Development Schools.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

Rockwood, Kathleen Dickinson, "Profiles of university liaisons in professional development schools" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3021710.