New Program Gets an A

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Professional Development School program graduated its first class this spring and that achievement represents a unique collaboration between the University of West Georgia and the Carroll County School System.

The program, which began two years ago, serves as an alternate model for the undergraduate teacher education candidates in the UWG Early Childhood Education program.

The PDS program is a nation-wide trend that many universities are using, said Dr. John Ponder, assistant professor of early childhood and elementary education and director of the program for the upcoming academic year.

“Although actual PDS models vary somewhat by university, in theory, these models are designed to give students intense, authentic classroom experience throughout their program,” said Ponder. “We have been blessed to work with schools in our area that believe in the shared responsibility for training future teachers. Our dean, Dr. Kent Layton, has been very supportive of our efforts.”

Administrators and faculty from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the county school system spent two years developing a working model for training new teachers.

The training program has brought about a stronger partnership between the university and the county school system and has enhanced the professional development of teacher education candidates. Ashley Hardin graduated from the program in May and is now teaching at Roopville Elementary School.

“I felt very prepared when I interviewed for a job in February,” said Hardin. “From day one, we were in the classrooms four days a week. By the end of the first semester you know whether you are going to be a teacher or not. It’s a good program.”

In the PDS program, the education students spend four days a week in the classroom instead of the traditional two days at the school site through three semesters.

Dr. John vonEschenbach, professor of early childhood and elementary education and director of the first class, said what makes the program unique is the close relationship between UWG students, classroom teachers and children, school staff and professors.

“That creates a close relationship and when candidates move into their internship in the final semester of the program, they function as
first year teachers,” said vonEschenbach. “A second significant feature is the relationship between public school faculty and university faculty. Within this model, public school teachers and university faculty collaborate and exchange their professional knowledge and skills as team members throughout the preparation of these prospective educators.”

The UWG College of Education uses Central, Roopville, Sharp Creek and Whitesburg Elementary Schools as the partner schools for the UWG students’ clinical experience. Throughout the four blocks or semesters in the classrooms, a majority of the professional education courses are taught at the public school sites by university faculty and school site coordinators.

This schedule has made all the difference, said Roopville Elementary School Principal Carolyn Waters.

“The university students are very fond of the program because they are in the classroom where the action really is,” said Waters, who is retiring this year. “They get to see a variety of teaching styles, which is very valuable. And the teachers love having them in the classroom. The students can mold themselves into the teacher they want to be.”

The PDS program has also implemented a systematic model to engage and empower parents and caregivers as instructional partners in the education of their children. An easy-to-use website for the parents provides information, instructional activities and resources to enhance education at home.

The COE enrollment numbers for elementary education majors this spring totaled 419 students as majors and 433 students who are pre-majors. West Georgia boasts the highest number of students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and specialist education courses in the state.

For more information, call 678-839-6559.