Office of Field Experiences
NAPDS Nine Essentials of a PDS
Published by NAPDS:
The NAPDS posits the following narratives for each of the nine required essentials of a PDS to assist with the differentiation between PDSs and other forms of strong school–university partnership. Essentials 1 through 5 establish the philosophical underpinnings for PDSs, while essentials 6 through 9 describe the logistical requirements of a PDS relationship.
1. A comprehensive mission that is broader in its outreach and scope than the mission of any partner and that furthers the education profession and its responsibility to advance equity within schools and, by potential extension, the broader community
Schools/districts, colleges/universities, and their respective teacher education units all
have mission statements that may differ from those of their PDS partners. However, the
mission statement of the PDS needs to reflect the essentials of the respective participants
that pertain to the PDS work, as well as wider-ranging aspects that are involved in a
relationship between/among entities. Thus, the scope of the PDS mission statement should
provide an all-inclusive sense of the partnership that distinguishes the PDS from the
participants, yet is reflective of their contributions, input, and involvement.
In addition to identifying the distinctive nature of the PDS relationship, the mission statement
should also focus on two overarching goals: the advancement of the education profession
and the improvement of P–12 learning. In furthering the education profession, the PDS
relationship should be all-inclusive in its promotion of professional growth across the
continuum of pre-service teacher candidates, in-service educators, and college/university
faculty and administrators.
The tenet that all students can learn becomes the sine qua non of the PDS work that must
be conducted in ways that are unbiased, fair, and just for everyone in the school community.
PDSs must provide safe environments where all students can learn, all students are
comfortable, and all students are secure and physically, emotionally, and intellectually out
of harm’s way. The implication of a comprehensive mission that is broader in its outreach
scope than the mission of any partner is tied implicitly to this phrase.
PDSs may also extend themselves to the community outside the school/district and college/
university gates. Ultimately, local businesses, agencies, and policymakers can become
participants in the work of a PDS, and how their involvement is delineated becomes an
expression of the PDS. P–12 parents and families may also be involved in the work of the
PDS. While involvement of stakeholders beyond the school/district and college/university
gates is not a required delineator, their participation can strengthen the PDS.
2. A school–university culture committed to the preparation of future educators that embraces their active engagement in the school community
As noted in the prefatory comments above, the professional preparation of teacher
candidates lies at the heart of the four-fold agenda of Professional Development Schools.
PDSs, however, are more than simply places where teacher candidates complete their
clinical experiences. Instead, they are schools whose faculty and staff as a collective
whole are committed to working with college/university faculty to offer a meaningful
introduction to the teaching profession. As such, PDSs create a school-wide culture that
incorporates teacher candidates as full participants of the school community.
3. Ongoing and reciprocal professional development for all participants guided by need
While PDSs focus, in part, on the preparation of new teachers, they also provide a venue
for professional development of educators already in the field. Thus, continuous learning
focused on an engaged community of learners is a critical feature of a PDS. The knowledge
and skills of those involved in the PDS requires enhancement and refinement, including
an infusion of data-based (qualitative and quantitative) state-of-the-art content. The
continued learning of those involved in the PDS requires that the activities that promote
this learning be provided on a regular basis. The notion of selecting topics or themes and
providing guided learning activities suggests that practice, reflection, and feedback, at the
very least, need to be embedded in a series of working sessions with PDS participants.
Schools/districts provide professional development for teachers that is typically schoolwide
and/or district-wide. The intent of the professional development in a PDS is that it is
specific to the PDS. Additionally, at any given time and for any given topic or theme, either
or both P–12 faculty and college/university faculty could be involved in providing the
professional development. Both faculties, as well, could be the recipients of the same
The community of learners, through action, results, and personal/professional expectation,
determines the focus of the professional development of those involved in the PDS. What
is fundamental to this aspect of professional development is the individual and collective
self-reflection that establishes the direction of professional development.
4. A shared commitment to innovative and reflective practice by all participants
The field of education tends to use the term “best practice” without always providing
parameters for its application. As we look at the use of this term related to PDSs, implicit
in best practice is the focus on providing improved and enhanced educational opportunities
for all P–12 students. These opportunities, however, must be explicit and based on practice
that is mutually determined by the PDS participants. We recognize that this determination
implies that “theory” and “practice” be co-mingled in a way that will provide what is best for
the learning of the P–12 students in the PDS. Incorporating a “theory to practice” model
will necessitate discussion and shared decision-making among the participants. The intent
of this statement is to honor: (a) the skill and expertise of P–12 faculty and the context in
which they work on a daily basis and (b) the knowledge and expertise of college/university
faculty. Therefore, the PDS should foster and encourage practice that is extraordinary or
novel but also thoughtful. Concomitantly, the PDS also serves as a learning laboratory for
the development of teacher candidates. Thus, on a continuum, teacher candidates, new
teachers, veteran teachers, and college/university faculty are professionally developed
5. Engagement in and public sharing of the results of deliberate investigations of practice by respective participants
PDS participants both engage in and routinely reflect upon best practice. The structures
and processes for advancing the planned study of the work of the PDS and its effects on
P–12 student and teacher candidate learning are defined differently by each PDS, but
those structures and processes must be deliberately planned and routinely conducted so
that reflection and feedback are used to strengthen the work of the PDS.
In addition to routinely examining best practice, PDS participants also share their work
with others, both within and outside of their PDS, as a way of contributing to the educational
dialogue. This sharing can take many forms, including, but not limited to, conference
presentations, inter-school and/or intra-school discussions, PDS-sponsored forums, and
oral or written reports to school boards, parent organizations, and other community
6. An articulation agreement developed by the respective participants delineating the roles and responsibilities of all involved
A PDS involves, at a minimum, a relationship between one school/district and one college/
university. Whether the PDS involves one or multiple relationships, various forms of
conversations will naturally occur as the relationship takes shape. These conversations
necessarily lead to a formalized, written document signed by the individuals responsible
for negotiating on behalf of the respective participants. The document, which goes beyond
agreements involving teacher candidate placements, should specifically identify the
obligations of each entity, as well as the roles to be played by various individuals in
maintaining and furthering the relationship. Conversations leading to the signing of the
articulation agreement must not be restricted to single representatives from each entity
but must include representatives of as many PDS participants as possible (e.g., P–12
teachers and administrators, college/university faculty and administrators, teacher
7. A structure that allows all participants a forum for ongoing governance, reflection, and collaboration
An organizational structure/arrangement must be in place that not only guides the work of
the PDS but also allows for and encourages collaboration, reflection, and regular
communication among participants. Meetings and discussions, both formal and informal,
should be held on a regular basis, with the regularity of formal meetings/discussions being
at the discretion of participants. To help guide the work of the PDS, the structure that is
developed will provide for decision-making over such issues as how the PDS functions,
how evaluations of the PDS will be used, and how resources will be best invested for the
benefit of the relationship. Participation in the structure may not necessarily be equal but
should represent some equivalency of contribution based on the ongoing collaboration.
8. Work by college/university faculty and P–12 faculty in formal roles across institutional settings
A successful PDS relationship requires the engaged involvement of both college/university
and school/district personnel. Participants from both entities participate on a regular basis
in fulfilling the mission of the PDS through both formal and informal roles.
Formal roles are those necessary functions that are defined by the PDS, have specific
titles, and have detailed expectations and responsibilities for those assuming the roles.
Examples of these roles might be: site coordinator, site liaison, site supervisor. Titles tend
to be specific to each PDS and will vary, as will the expectations, responsibilities, and the
individuals filling these roles. However, for each PDS, the roles need to be operationally
defined, as would any job description. These roles are considered necessary but may not
be sufficient for the operation of a PDS. In many PDSs, there are informal roles that are
assumed short-term by any number of individuals. These informal roles tend to be more
fluid, situation-specific, and, while perhaps helpful to the functioning of the PDS, are not
precisely or explicitly stated in an articulated agreement.
In the same sense that colleges/universities and schools/districts have varying mission
statements, so, too, do they have differing institutional cultures. While differences exist
among P–12 schools/districts and colleges/universities, the roles and their associated
expectations and responsibilities need to be respectful of and incorporate the differences
among the various institutional cultures represented in the PDS. This type of boundary
spanning is germane to the work that takes place in a PDS, is sensitive to the work that
takes place in each culture, and accepts unconditionally the necessity for collaborative
9. Dedicated and shared resources and formal rewards and recognition structures.
Successful PDS work requires the dedication of significant resources beyond the normal
operating scope of schools/districts and colleges/universities. Resources can take any of
a variety of forms including, but not limited to: leadership, time, space, people, money,
materials, expertise, and workload. The more traditional sense that resources are financial
and or equal must be examined and not limited in light of the needs of the PDS. In the true
sense of collaborative effort, resources for PDSs are not necessarily equal or on a one-to one
correspondence. However, at the core of sharing resources is that each participant
agrees to dedicate and provide willingly that which it has available to strengthen the work
of the PDS.
How educators, especially those in P–12 settings, are acknowledged for the work they do,
the investment they make, and the involvement they have in PDS work must be determined
in prescribed ways. While rewards and recognitions are not the incentives for which
educators necessarily work, they are critical as an acknowledgement from the PDS about
how participants are engaged. For example, a school-based liaison and a university faculty
member who is school-based may have differentiated teaching schedules from others on
their faculties; teachers who may take on the mentoring of new teachers in the building
may receive additional funds for supplies or travel to a conference or tuition for a specialized
The NAPDS Executive Council and Board of Directors assert that these nine essentials
are integral to the philosophies, policies, and processes of Professional Development
School partnerships. The NAPDS has a responsibility as a steward for the PDS movement
to encourage all PDS stakeholders to articulate their own unique relationships within a
framework that allows P–20 educators the opportunity for a common understanding of
what it means to work in a PDS partnership. As conveyed, these nine essentials allow for
multiple variations in PDS work while maintaining some consistent expectations irrespective
of the idiosyncratic nature of individual PDS partnerships. Armed with this common
understanding, PDSs have the opportunity to forge their own individual policies and
processes based on their own contextual needs, safe in the knowledge that they can
describe the ways they have adhered to the nine overarching essentials. These essentials
afford and encourage flexibility while maintaining some common assumptions.
We thank our gracious colleagues from valued P–20 associations for their wisdom in the
creation of these nine essentials as the central tenet of Professional Development School
work. We trust that PDSs will use the nine essentials to shape their own commitments,
visions, and strategic planning efforts. Moreover, we believe that these essentials will
provide insight for all school–university partnerships seeking to extend further the scope
and magnitude of their existing relationships so that they can build toward a PDS culture.
By expressing common expectations for PDS collaboration, the NAPDS believes the PDS
movement will continue to establish itself as the preeminent model for partnerships between
P–12 schools/districts and colleges/universities.