Hunzicker, J. (2018/2020). Teacher Leadership in Professional Development Schools. Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Publishing, Limited. 336 pages, $44.99 (U.S.).
Reviewed by Cynthia L. Carver, Oakland University, Associate Professor and Chair, Teacher Development and Educational Studies
Ask any teacher, and they will be quick to share that where you teach makes all the difference. And by where, I’m not talking about the posh suburban school with endless resources and reasonably well-behaved children. I’m talking about a school where the culture and climate are welcoming and supportive. A school where teachers learn alongside their students, where multiple voices are encouraged, and many hands work together. A school where prospective teachers learn their craft, and their mentors are recognized as leaders. This is the essence of a Professional Development School (PDS), a particular type of school-university partnership that relies on the wisdom, skill, and commitment of accomplished teachers who are not afraid to also be leaders. Edited by Jana Hunziker, Teacher Leadership in Professional Development Schools takes the reader on a grand tour of such schools, nestled in cities and towns across the U.S., where teachers at all career stages are simultaneously nurtured, developed, and celebrated as leaders.
Analysis & Contribution to the Field & PDS
Divided into three sections which alternate between research-based descriptions, scholarly analyses, and personal reflection, this book uniquely situates teacher leadership in a PDS context. While neither school-university partnerships or teacher leadership are new phenomena, it is uncommon to see them addressed together. In the opening chapter, Hunziker describes teacher leadership as the “serendipitous outcome” of partnership work. In Chapter 7, Bernard Badiali adds: “Teacher leadership is implicit in most of the literature on PDSs. The two constructs are natural allies. Both ideas have evolved steadily in such a way that it is difficult to write knowledgably about one without integrating the other” (p. 114). As this compilation demonstrates, it is precisely in teasing the two phenomena apart, then weaving them back together, that we are able to see both with fresh new eyes.
This strategy of teasing apart and putting back together works because the authors of this volume are careful to define what they mean by teacher leadership (e.g., formal, informal, hybrid); describe the unique features that animate their PDS context (e.g., learning walks, co-teaching, liaison-in-residence); ground their work in the extant professional literature; and, when appropriate, connect to widely recognized professional standards (e.g., Teacher Leaders Model Standards; NCATE PDS Standards and CAEP Standard 2; NBPTS Core Propositions). While the 18 chapters that comprise this volume easily stand alone, they weave together to tell an even more powerful story: school-university partnerships provide a fertile ground from which teacher leadership can take root, grow, and thrive. With the help of discussion questions at the end of each section, PDS-oriented readers will be encouraged to make the work of teacher leaders more visible and explicit in these unique settings, while teacher leadership-oriented readers will be forced to look anew at the impact of varied school contexts on teachers’ opportunity to exercise leadership. Read with colleagues, the book is sure to inspire discussion that leads to stronger partnerships and greater leadership opportunities for the teachers who work and learn in them.
In closing, this book offers a needed antidote to the challenging times we are living. Few will argue, teaching is a beleaguered profession. While some want to blame our current woes on the coronavirus pandemic, most of us have been predicting this state of affairs for some time. Years of under-investment in education, combined with the public’s distrust of teachers, has created an environment where only the hardy survive. Teacher shortages abound, as teacher preparation programs limp along due to low enrollments. To turn this tide, we need to ensure that those who do enter the profession have a good experience: one where they feel supported and encouraged as learners, and where they see the promise of a long and rewarding career ahead of them. As this book so aptly demonstrates, well-defined school-university partnerships, like a PDS, provide a rich context for this learning. Likewise, the routine, skilled, and publicly recognized practice of teacher leadership within such a school offers an aspiring young teacher a powerful glimpse of what a career in teaching can offer. And, as contributor, Rebecca West Burns, suggests in the final chapter: this career may very well include becoming a teacher educator