On-the-Job Graduate Degrees
The graduate component of the Master Teacher Initiative, the Teacher Leadership for School Improvement program, is a two-and-a-half-year intense immersion in job-embedded professional development.
Delivered online and onsite to teachers in UF Lastinger Center-partner schools, the program targets the development of masters teachers who impact student achievement and take on leadership roles to take collective responsibility for all learners. Racial, cultural, economic and linguistic diversity are common themes in this program, which focuses on cohorts of teachers in high-poverty schools.
University of Florida professors-in-residence work in partner districts to coach, mentor and teach the graduate students and help them connect to professional development opportunities as they learn to be leaders and researchers. Community and foundation partnerships provide 100 percent scholarships for teachers who make a commitment to remain in their schools for five years, which addresses recruitment, retention and development issues for these hard-to-staff high needs schools.
The Teacher Leadership for School Improvement program has been designed to incorporate structures and strategies drawn from research in teacher education, professional development and teacher leadership. Key program features are consistent with recommendations in the literature and include:
- Collaboration is emphasized (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Desimone, 2009; Edge & Mylopoulos, 2008; Feeney, 2009; NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel, 2010). Students participate within an online professional community where ideas and practices are shared and critiqued. Also, course requirements encourage students to develop school improvement and professional development activities consistent with the principles of highly functioning professional learning communities (Louis & Marks, 1998; Vescio, Ross & Adams, 2008) with colleagues in their schools and across schools.
- Coursework is job-embedded (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; NCATE Blue Ribbon Panel, 2010), so professional development links to daily issues. The teachers’ classrooms serve as laboratories of practice.
- Every course includes a focus on inquiry and reflection (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Dana & Yendol-Hoppey, 2009; Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Feeney, 2009; York-Barr & Duke, 2004; Zeichner & Liston, 1996). Inquiry around practice and reflection about learning is reinforced as participants collect data about the impact of the pedagogy and develop a portfolio to showcase their learning about instruction and school improvement.
- Organizational conditions that enhance leadership learning opportunities are promoted and supported in partner schools (Scribner, Sawyer, Watson & Myers, 2007; York-Barr & Duke, 2004). The professor-in-residence coaches and provides feedback on participants’ school improvement efforts. Also, the professor-in-residences help administrators recognize and encourage opportunities for teacher leaders.
This program won the 2011 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education award from the national Association of Teacher Educators. One district partnership has recently won the 2011 Outstanding Staff Development Practices award from the Florida Association for Staff Development.
Emerging research on this new program (established in 2005) indicates that teachers report that this program impacts their teaching and leadership practices (Adams, Ross, Swain, Dana, Leite & Sandbach, 2010) and transforms their professional identities and practices (Ross, Adams, Bondy, Dana, Swain & Dodman, 2011).
To learn more about the program, please click here.