Contents of this section:
- The 1983 Conference
- The 1986 Conference
- The 1991 Conference
- Encouraging Developments
- Implications for the Future
In December 1991, the YaleNew Haven Teachers Institute held a conference at Yale University on "SchoolCollege Collaboration: Preparing Teachers and Curricula for Public Schools." The conference was made possible by the DeWitt WallaceReader's Digest Fund and was supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For participants from New Haven, the conference represented the culmination of several important projects in different areas of the Institute's work.
For distribution initially at the conference, the Institute compiled a volume of curriculum units, Teaching in New Haven: The Common Challenge, which contains examples of teachers' work in curricular development during the Institute's first fourteen years. The Institute also completed a "Progress Report on Surveys Administered to New Haven Teachers, 19821990," which presents a multifaceted account of the results of the Institute for New Haven teachers, students, and schools. The conference provided an occasion as well for the National Endowment for the Humanities to announce that they had awarded a $750,000 challenge grant to assist Yale in building a permanent fund for the Institute, the first collaborative program of its type to be endowed as a function of a university.
BackgroundFrom the outset, the geographic range of its work has been a significant question for the Institute, situated as it is within an institution which exerts leadership in numerous fields and whose own students come from around the world. So, while the Institute's planners decided that the teachers who would participate directly in its programs would be from Yale's own home community of New Haven, they also recognizedgiven the magnitude of problems of teaching in Americaa responsibility to be available to assist their colleagues in institutions beyond New Haven.
The Institute's wider role, thus far, has involved consulting with other institutions and schools; writing and publishing; developing and conducting studies and evaluations; speaking at conferences organized by others; and organizing conferences to be held in New Haven. To date, the Institute has organized three such conferences.
The 1983 Conference
|In early 1983, before the release of the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education which brought widespread public attention to the condition of American schools, Yale cosponsored with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching a national meeting, which was almost without precedent, on "Excellence in Teaching: A Common Goal." The meeting was attended by the Chief School Officers and presidents and chancellors from thirtyeight states and focused on the role that higher education can and must play in strengthening teaching in schools. The Teachers Institute was presented as a case study, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a Special Reportat the conference which lamented how very few collaborative programs then focused on teaching, even though this is one of the most natural and necessary alliances between universities and schools.|
A Special Report lamented how very few collaborative programs then focused on teaching.
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The 1986 ConferenceIn 1986 the Institute organized a second conference, "Strengthening Teaching through Collaboration: A National Conference of Teachers and Administrators from Schools and Colleges." As a result of the recognition its own program had been accorded between 1983 and 1986, the Institute had received many inquiries and requests for assistance. The 1986 conference was therefore designed to bring together from across the country individuals who were actively engaged in schoolcollege partnerships. Participation was limited to the kind of programs in which secondary school teachers and college faculty members collaborate to strengthen teaching and learning of academic subjects in public schools.
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The conference thus afforded an initial opportunity for individuals working in similar programs in various stages of development to provide mutual support and assistance and to explore ways in which they might wish to work together in the future. This was not a meeting on the overly general topic of schoolcollege collaboration, or succession of "showandtell" descriptions of different programs. Rather, the conference focused sharply on the programs' respective experiences in dealing with common issues. In short, it was a conference of practitioners who were representatives of other institutions and schools with which the Institute had worked. In contrast to some of the conferences Institute participants had attended during that period of time, they wanted the conference they organized to be collaborative in spirit and design, and they therefore conferred with all the programs that would attend about the topics and schedule for the meeting and the manner in which it should be conducted.
The 1991 ConferenceBecause of the favorable response to that meeting, the Institute organized the 1991 conference in the same manner, which is analogous to how the Institute organizes its own seminars in New Haven. That is, first, there was a determination of whoby virtue of their own professional workwould be eligible to participate. Thus, we identified programs that were collaborative endeavors of universities and schools which focused on strengthening teaching and learning in academic subjects in schools. As sometimes occurs in the New Haven program, because space was limited, programs were invited to participate in part to ensure broad geographic representation at the meeting. Second, those identified as eligible participants were asked whether they wished to take part and, if they did, what specific issues they wanted to address at the conference in New Haven. In short, the agenda was shaped around mutual interests.
Of those who were invited, almost all decided to send representatives to the conference. Twelve of the fourteen programs which were represented at the 1986 meeting sent representatives again in 1991. Fourteen of the nineteen programs invited to participate for the first time in 1991 also sent representatives. Of the seven programs in both categories combined which decided not to attend, most were from state institutions where travel had been curtailed for budgetary reasons. Thus, at the 1991 meeting there was both considerable continuity of participation with the meeting in 1986 as well as a much greater length of experience among the individual programs attending. Overall, representatives of twentyseven programs from across the country participated in the conference. (See Appendix for a list.)
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In a further parallel to the Institute's own work in New Haven, in advance of the conference each individual who would attend the meeting received copies of the "Progress Report" and Teaching in New Haven, mentioned above, so that everyone would arrive with some common background. In addition, each program contributed an entry to a Directory of all the programs attending the meeting so that everyone would have knowledge of each other's work. Finally, the Institute surveyed all who would participate about the issues they wished the conference to address, and compiled these responses into a document which was distributed at the beginning of the conference, so that everyone participating would know what issues were of greatest concern to their colleagues.
With respect to the meeting itself, many conference participants remarked that the conversation throughout was "rich," and as reported below individual responses to the meeting varied according to position, programmatic experience, and personal point of view. As there were many different responses to the meeting, it perhaps would be useful to indicate here what particularly struck Institute staff, as well as what new plans we have begun to consider as we take stock of the first fifteen years of the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute.
|First, then, what encouraged us in New Haven: We were especially gratified to see how many of the programs attending the conference emphasize both teacher leadership and collegiality in universityschool relations, which have been tenets of the Teachers Institute's approach from the outset, but which characterized a much smaller proportion of the programs that participated in the conference five years earlier. We were also heartened to find how many of the programs with which we have worked through the years have "endured," as Manuel Gomez put it in his remarks at the conclusion of the meeting. In 1986 we would hardly have assumed this would have been the case, even acknowledging our own strongly held conviction about the necessity for longterm collaborative programs.|
We were especially gratified to see how many of the programs attending the conference emphasize both teacher leadership and collegiality in universityschool relations.
|The conference also attested to a gradual spreading of this type of collaborative program and the fact that in 1991 many more programs across the country emphasized the strengthening of teaching than could have been foundas noted in the Special Report of the Carnegie Foundationat the time of the conference in 1983. Furthermore, in remarks at the conclusion of the 1986 meeting, I had stated an undertow of concern about how few programs at that time focused their efforts on urban schools or on the education of students from lowincome and minority backgrounds. We were encouraged therefore to see how many of the programs attending the 1991 meeting have these emphases.|
|We were pleased, finally, that the spirit throughout the meeting was collaborative, that participants spoke as colleagues in what we increasingly seem to regard as a singular education profession. It was notable that participants in 1991 appeared to have more closely related practices and longer experiences than was the case either in 1986 or 1983. In short, the conference exhibited a growing, common understanding of a language and terms of collaboration, which were imprecise at best at the time of the first meeting the Institute organized.1|
In 1991 many more programs across the country emphasized the strengthening of teaching than could be found in 1983.
Implications for the FutureFor all it revealed about the progress across the country of the Institute's type of collaborative activity, the conference also underscored for us the potential value of the Institute's future work in three particular areas. First, the emphasis which we in New Haven place on a close relationship between teacher preparation and classroom application is far from universal. In fact, many individuals at the conference spoke of content and pedagogy, substance and method, as distinct and hardly as inseparable in the process of teaching and learning. This should concern us, in part, becausehowever difficult it is to assess the effects of teacher collaborative programs on studentsattempts to determine such effects will be more speculative unless the collaborative process pays direct attention to the connection between what the teacher has learned and what his or her students may learn as a result.
Second, then, there still has been only limited, intensive and sustained work in program evaluation even though, as early as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Special Report in 1983, Ernest L. Boyer spoke of the urgency of such work. He wrote there:
The projects reviewed showed little evidence of evaluation. In few instances is there any formal documentation that the changes made an enduring difference. Evidence is needed to show that cooperation is worth the money and effort. Besides validating what has occurred, this may persuade other schools and colleges to follow suit.Motivated by precisely this concern, the YaleNew Haven Teachers Institute for a number of years has devoted considerable resources to evaluation, as evidenced most recently by the new "Progress Report." In the future, the Institute will extend its own evaluations while exploring how we can, together with colleagues from other locations, join in addressing the need for new ways of documenting the results of collaborative programs for teachers and students and their schools.
This is not an easy challenge to meet. Money for collaborative projects is scarce, and every dollar diverted to evaluation will be that much less to be spent on behalf of the program itself. Also, there is the difficulty of assessing whether a student benefits in the longrun, for example, from having been taught by a teacher who was helped by a college professor in preparing the course. Yet, advocates of closer cooperation ought to have some concern about proving the worth of their projects.2
Thirdand undoubtedly obvious to all of us who are convinced that such collaborative programs are indispensable to improving teaching and learning in schoolsthe scale of present efforts is seriously inadequate when compared with the scope of educational problems nationally. As one of the Chief State School Officers attending the 1983 conference, Craig Phillips, remarked at that time, the challenge is a vast undertaking when one contemplates the numbers of teachers and schools in the United States.
So, as we in New Haven take stock of our own work and of what the conference revealed about our colleagues' efforts elsewhereand as we consider the Institute's role in the futurewe want to explore what new forms of assistance we can offer in at least three areas: namely, a programmatic emphasis at once on the preparation of both teachers and curricula; the development of deeper and even more persuasive forms of evaluation; and a further increase in the number of colleges and universities and schools with systematic and longterm collaborative programs designed to strengthen teaching and learning in public schools.
The conference therefore leaves participants from New Haven with a strong impression not only of the value of having organized the meetingand a renewed appreciation of all of our colleagues who took the time to attend but also a clearer recognition of the opportunities and reasons that now exist for increased collaboration among those involved in this work at locations across the country.
James R. Vivian