Developing a successful university–school partnership has been a topic for research since the early 1900s. In this case study, faculty members at one university in the southern United States believes they may have found one possible answer. This university has been working toward forming a partnership with three local schools to bring about transformative change to the schools and the community. Through this collaboration, faculty members sought to intentionally trouble the pervasive top-down approach many universities take when communicating with schools and to disrupt the savior complexes that often center on these efforts. Instead, by starting to identify the community needs, listening intently to the community desire for future changes in local schools, and working in solidarity with the community, sustainable partnerships were formed, and meaningful change has already happened in the short term. Creating multi-layered relationships rooted in a commitment to culturally relevant/responsive and sustaining pedagogy, the partnerships began with a shared vision between the university and the schools to work collaboratively, responding to the individual needs of each school and the surrounding community. The university faculty members committed to working in and with the community understand that centering the culture of the community in all partnership discussions was tantamount to their success, demonstrating that cultural relevance should not be confined to the walls of the university classroom, but rather, should be a guiding principle in all interactions between universities, local schools, and communities. The success of these partnerships, and the strong relationships built as a result, has created a possible model for future university–school partnerships.
Karen L. B. Burgard and Melissa M. Jozwiak
Poi Kee Low
With the growing diversity of professions working in schools, interdisciplinary partnership and collaboration are growing quickly the world over. Apart from traditional teaching and learning concerns, awareness of children and youth mental health issues and socio-emotional wellbeing, grew readily since the 2000s. Rising in tandem with this trend is the number of psychologists, social workers, and counselors joining educators to support children and young persons in schools. Challenges such as misconception of roles, differing perceptions as well as cross-disciplinary misunderstanding threaten to prevent concerned professionals in working collaborative to help children and young persons in need. Fortunately, this aspect of interdisciplinary partnership in schools gains the much-needed attention in research from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the Americas. Models and frameworks suggesting best practices for interdisciplinary collaboration emerged in school psychology, counseling and social work literature. Also growing in tandem is research in methods of measurement and evaluation of such collaboration as well as studies on pre-service professional training on interdisciplinary collaborative skills in the related disciplines.
Although teacher education has been recognized as a key aspect of educational policy and practice, especially over the past few decades, the research undertaken to inform policy is in many respects inadequate. Drawing on reviews of such research as has been undertaken in Europe, the United States, Australasia as well as other parts of the world, we can identify the key questions for teacher education researchers. These include such topics as the relationship between theory and practice in professional learning, the significance of partnerships between schools and higher education institutions, the relationship between preservice teacher education and ongoing professional learning and the nature of the assessment of beginning teachers. Three approaches to teacher education research may be defined, and all of them are important in the quest for better understanding of the field. These three approaches are research in teacher education—mainly carried out by teacher education practitioners; research on teacher education—mainly carried out by education policy scholars; and research about teacher education—carried out by scholars in a range of disciplines and seeking to explore the wider social significance of teacher education. An exploration of each of these three approaches reveals that there is a serious dearth of large-scale and/or longitudinal studies that may be seen as genuinely independent and critical. This suggests that there is a large agenda for future teacher education research.
Globally, there is a shift toward embracing educational research with a social justice intent, based on the principles of inclusion, authentic participation, and democratic decision-making. This shift toward doing research with, rather than on, participants could be seen as a reaction to the criticism of contemporary universities being exclusive and in need of finding ways to connect with traditionally marginalized groups. Universities need to be more responsive to the real learning and development needs of communities and use their theoretical knowledge to complement and facilitate, rather than direct, research conducted in partnership with those whose lives are directly affected by the phenomenon being studied. Community-based educational research accepts local knowledge as the starting point of sustainable change and the learning and development of all involved as an important outcome of the research process. Community-based research thus has an educative intent; it is also inherently political since it aims to change systems that breed inequity. Yet these very characteristics stand in opposition to the neoliberal, silo-like models of operation in academia, where the bottom line trumps social impact in most strategic decisions. Negotiating the bureaucratic boundaries regarding the ethics of community-based research becomes a major hurdle for most researchers and often leads to compromises that contradict and undermine the ideal of partnership and equitable power relations. There is a pressing need to rethink how we “do” community-based educational research to ensure it is truly educational for all. This begs the question, in what ways does the academy need to change to accommodate educational research that contributes to the sustainable learning and development of people and to the democratization of knowledge? Community-based educational research can help close the gap between theory and practice, between academic and community researcher.
Carlos Azcoitia, Karen Glinert Carlson, and Ted Purinton
Effective community school leaders build strong, reciprocal, and sustainable partnerships to support student growth, as well as to strengthen families and communities. Developing authentic alliances among teachers, parents, and community stakeholders creates a climate of trust and positive relationships that strengthens democratic schools. Community schools are an effective way to support families and students, as well as to mobilize the support needed to engage the community in developing effective partnerships. Yet in particular, it is community school leaders who cross traditional role boundaries and build cross-cultural fluency while balancing managerial concerns, navigating politics, dealing with external accountability pressures, and fostering shared accountability. They are the people who make community schools successful, and in turn, their leadership promotes positive growth in areas not traditionally perceived as falling in the domains of education. When school leaders engage in community-organizing strategies to enhance the quality of life in neighborhoods, as well as to empower parents to take active roles in the education of their children, they inspire positive holistic changes within their schools and communities. Successful leaders make this look easy, yet the interplay of a leader’s knowledge base, skill set, and disposition is complex. A developmental model based on knowledge, skills, and dispositions that cultivate reciprocal sustainable partnerships is presented within the context of national leadership and community school standards.