On the ‘Residency Era’ in Teacher Preparation

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

When John Dewey wrote of the need to create an “intimate union” between the university and the elementary school such that each is a laboratory for the other, he was speaking of a need that is still yet to be fully satiated. Today’s increasing prevalence of the residency model, however – supported by a growing body of research and application across diverse settings – is ushering in a new era that offers new promise toward achieving Dewey’s vision.

For Dewey, the intimate union would have the university contributing “to the evolution of valuable subject-matter and right method while the school in turn will be a laboratory in which the student of education sees theories and ideas demonstrated, tested, criticized, enforced, and the evolution of new truths” (Dewey, 1900/1990, p. 93). And although Dewey’s University of Chicago Laboratory Schools flourish as a living instantiation of his intimate union, in many practical ways the ideal has proven elusive.

To be sure, there are many excellent partnerships between universities and school districts, some in large part thanks to the “renewal” work of John Goodlad and myriad others who so ardently worked to form those unions through professional development schools (PDSs). Today, however, the emerging popularity of the residency model points to an equally rich alternative to the full-blown PDS.

In his compelling historical tracing of teacher education in the United States, educational historian James W. Fraser comments that “Something is afoot in teacher education in the United States in the early years of a new century, and it will make the next years most interesting to see where it leads” (Fraser, 2007, p. 7). A position Fraser espouses “is that a diversity of institutional arrangements and paths to teaching probably serves future teachers better than maintaining ‘one best system’” (p. 6). In agreement with Fraser, and on my terms, what is afoot is residency. I think our next great leap forward in creating credible and yet diversified institutional arrangements to graduate excellent teachers is to use residency as the conceptual linchpin for planning with district partners in a backward–design manner.

Now we are at a point where we need a concerted effort to reach agreement across the profession – including universities, districts, and other partners – around the definition and nuances of residency. By solidifying our understanding and applying lessons learned by early adopters, we bolster our chance of achieving the sufficient and sustainable unions Dewey envisioned.

We are in an exciting era in the history of teacher education, marked by a trend toward improved and increased opportunities for teacher candidates to engage in professional experiences and intentional practices. I like to think we are in the Residency Era – poised to take advantage of something powerful, something with unifying features that are consonant across institutional boundaries while remaining diversified and unique, and something that might bring Dewey’s “intimate union” to fruition.

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Nicholas J. Shudak

Chair & Associate Professor, Curriculum & Instruction, University of South Dakota