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AERA Panel Weighs Supervisors’ Role in Supporting PDS Educators

At last month’s conference of the American Educational Research Association, I attended a joint business meeting of two special interest groups—Professional Development School Research and Supervision and Instructional Leadership—focused on the role of supervision of instruction in professional development schools (PDSs) from preservice to retirement. Panelists included AACTE’s Linda McKee, senior director of performance measurement and assessment policy; Daisy Arredondo-Rucinski, University of Alabama; and Bernard Badiali, Pennsylvania State University.

McKee outlined her vision of a unified approach to evaluation, spanning from initial preparation throughout a teacher’s career, that would move beyond compliance toward support-focused advocacy. She described her work to build a support system for educator preparation programs that looks at all performance evaluations, ranging from proprietary instruments to state-built assessments and institution-level performance assessments. The system will support alignment of programs and external evaluations and provide model instruments for review.  McKee also discussed her work to create a privacy task force, which will also include PK-12 partners, and to build online professional development seminars supporting PDSs and university partnerships.

Next, Arrendondo-Rucinski presented a supervision/support point of view, which she framed as a focus on improving the growth and development of teachers throughout their careers. She provided many anecdotal accounts of teachers and students, side by side, developing partnerships of inquiry, learning together. She stressed characteristics of good supervision, which include not only understanding many instructional strategies and how to talk about and use them, but also discussing the research behind them. She added that modeling a reflective inquiry stance, understanding and using adult learning principles, and understanding program and staff development are critical to quality supervision.

Badiali, who recently spent his sabbatical investigating PDSs, said he initially felt things hadn’t changed much in the decades since John Goodlad wrote The Moral Dimensions of Teaching. After talking to people about their practices in PDSs, though, he found both good and bad news. As practitioners have a tendency to get caught up in accountability discourse in a way that frames everything, they can get bogged down and discouraged. However, Badiali noted that if teachers have the benefit of supportive preparation and working conditions, they can be innovative problem solvers. In order to get there, he said, the mission in supervision should be to learn side by side with our charges and to inform their judgment about how they make decisions.

I found this discourse to be a refreshing look toward breaking down silos and building partnerships for improvement. So much can be gained by building “communities of inquiry” where supervisors and teachers throughout the career spectrum can support each other in pursuit of their shared mission: quality education for all students.

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Donna Sacco

George Mason University - AACTE intern