Warren Henry, University of North Texas College of Music

Susan Wharton Conkling, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester


A truism is that no one learns to teach in a university—one learns to teach in a school…if long-term, deep relations are created between schools and universities, a much stronger form of professional education may emerge.

-Gary Sykes, “Worthy of the Name: Standards for the Professional

           Development School”


Professional development schools arose in the early 1990s in response to calls from the Holmes Group and others to simultaneously renew schools and teacher preparation. From the beginning, the PDS has had a complex mission that has included the professional preparation of pre-service teachers, faculty development and continued inquiry directed at the improvement of practice and enhanced student learning.


Mounting evidence of positive influence on the teaching practices of pre-service, in-service and university educators has convinced music teacher educators to adopt and adapt the PDS model in various professional development partnerships. These partnerships usually exist in authentic school settings, where novice educators intern for an extended period of time in this setting under the combined instruction of university and school faculty members. Ideally, these faculty partners are guided by a common vision of teaching and learning, and they blend expertise and resources to meet their shared goals.


The belief appears strong within the profession that professional development partnerships are an effective means to prepare prospective music teachers for a world of standards-based teaching. However, a kind of “groupthink” may have set in, whereby music teacher educators have failed to ask critical questions that challenge these beliefs and help clarify the veracity of a professional development partnership model.


The purpose of this session is to look critically at such partnerships in music teacher education. We will raise questions such as: Do we have common definitions of what these partnerships are and why they exist? Are the contexts in which such partnerships are based truly authentic? If theory and practice are intentionally blended in partnership settings, to what extent do preservice teachers understand the inherent tensions between the two? What resources are necessary to maintain a partnership over the long term, and how are those resources balanced with other needs of the school and university?