Professional Development School

The Department of Teaching has always maintained strong relationships with many partner schools.  Some of these partnerships, however, go far beyond the traditional focus on field experience and student teaching placements or episodic research or professional development partnerships and have evolved into sustained, multi-dimensional, mutually beneficial relationships that result in simultaneous improvement of both partners, also known as Professional Development Schools (PDS).  The University of Northern Iowa is proud to be a founding member of the Iowa Association for Professional Development Schools (2013) and a supporter of the National Association for Professional Development Schools.

UNI Professional Development School, Cedar Falls and Waterloo Schools

In 2007, UNI began a pilot PDS with four Cedar Falls and Waterloo schools.  In the pilot phase, the roles of school site coordinators and field experience coordinators were created and refined, a reduced-cost graduate course in mentoring preservice teachers was developed and the clinical curriculum related to field-based university courses was revised and reconceptualized.  A formal articulation agreement was finalized and approved in 2012.

The PDS partnership was tested by the decision to close UNI’s PreK-12 laboratory school, where more than a thousand student field experiences from more than fifty university courses totaling more than 20,000 hours occurred in a typical year.  With the strong support of teachers and administrators in the schools, the commitment and leadership of former laboratory school teachers who became field experience coordinators and in collaboration with colleagues across the teacher education program, a new model was created.

Collaborative Support for Field Experiences and Student Teachers


In the new model, UNI preservice teachers benefit from multiple sources of support in their field experiences. Outstanding mentor teachers and university instructors and professors have always supported UNI field experiences.  In addition, field experience coordinators now provide instruction in clinical courses and seminars and on-site support for preservice and mentor teachers in the schools, as do student teaching coordinators for student teachers and cooperating teachers. School site coordinators provide additional leadership, problem-solving and organizational support. The formative feedback and summative evaluations given to preservice teachers reflect collaboration and multiple perspectives of teachers and coordinators from the lens of both PreK-12 schools and university teacher education standards.

Mutually Beneficial Professional Development, Research and Service Embedded in Schools


Field experience coordinators in the local area are assigned to a specific school (elementary) or to a content area across schools (secondary and special areas).  They are challenged to not only teach and supervise their clinical and methods course(s) and associated experiences on campus and in schools, but also to become part of the professional learning community of their school, focusing their research, service, and outreach agendas around school needs and keeping current with the priorities and initiatives of their school. Student teaching coordinators are assigned to multiple schools and districts within their regional center, but are also expected to develop strong, mutually beneficial relationships with and to extend professional services to school partners.

Specific examples of courses, workshops and other professional development opportunities will soon be available on this website.

Other Examples of PDS or other Intensive School-University Partnerships at UNI

There are many exemplary school-university partnerships at UNI that embrace aspects of the essential elements of Professional Development Schools, whether they explicitly adopt that term or not.  Below are some select examples:

Professional Development Schools in the University Strategic Plan

Center for Educational Transformation

Richard O. Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy

Center for Teaching and Learning Mathematics

Teacher Quality Partnership, High-Need Rural Schools

UNI Literacy Education Clinic

Integrated Social Studies and Literacy Methods PDS

Physics Education

Literacy PDS (now on temporary hiatus)