The benefits of and need for partnerships extend well beyond the business world, and one area where they can pay the highest dividends is in education. From student engagement to teacher development, UCF’s Professional Development School Consortium puts current research into practice in area classrooms while providing future educators with direct experience teaching to Florida Standards.

“The UCF Professional Development Schools Network is a unique, collaborative planning partnership between the University’s academic education programs and area P-12 schools,” states CEDHP Interim Dean Grant Hayes. “UCF education faculty work together closely with P-12 teachers to develop best practices and specific initiatives in pedagogy, curriculum, and professionalism. This partnership is critical to the mission of our College, provides professional development for in-service teachers and high-quality preparation for our candidates, and supports professional growth for the improvement of schools and teacher education.”

Specifically focused on simultaneously benefitting area schools, UCF students, and UCF faculty, the Professional Development School Consortium leverages available resources and talents to improve learning, research, and outcomes at every level.

“For the first time, there’s an elevated charge for universities and schools to collaborate on educating students across all levels, from Pre-kindergarten to senior-level, pre-service teacher candidates (P-20),” says Bryan Zugelder, Executive Director of Undergraduate Affairs and Partnerships who oversees the PDS consortium. “What the Professional Development School Consortium does is build, foster, and grow mutually beneficial relationships between area schools and UCF faculty to ultimately demonstrate impact on P-20 learning. By bringing the latest research and instructional practices to the schools, students and educators benefit tremendously. Our UCF faculty continuously engage with school leaders to provide ongoing, meaningful professional learning experiences that benefit novice and seasoned teachers.”

While the consortium has a common goal of improving education across the board, the program does not take a one-size-fits-all approach to working with schools. Each partnership between faculty and schools is unique, tailored to the needs of that institution and those students.

Dr. Carolyn Hopp, lecturer and coordinator in the School of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership, has been a part of the consortium for many years. “I have had the good fortune to work with Horizon Middle School in Osceola County since 1998, and that has allowed me to see the many ways that this program works for our University, the school districts, and the schools that partner with us,” she says. “The schools have been able to maintain excellent levels of success and achievement because of the systematic approach and partner-focused nature of the PDS consortium. Not only do we partner with school districts, but we have also fostered relationships with principals at our PDS partnership schools, and we work together to determine what their needs are. From there, we collaborate with the schools about next steps. This combination of cooperation and accountability at all levels sets the PDS consortium apart and ensures success.”

Student achievement in each of the partner schools is a critical goal of the consortium, but equally important is the development of UCF teacher candidates. Among the benefits to College of Education and Human Performance students are access to collaborative research, the latest instructional practices and pedagogy, and the opportunity to put their UCF classroom learning into practice.

“Professional Development Schools are learning systems that have positive outcomes for everyone involved,” said Dr. Rosemarye Taylor, Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “UCF education students work in classrooms led by excellent teachers, and they interact with P-12 students who have diverse learning needs. The interaction between UCF teacher candidates and P-12 students results in a more personalized and supportive learning environment, and those P-12 students have additional opportunity to master Florida Standards. Additionally, PDS teachers learn from our students by addressing their questions and mentoring them. They further develop expertise through coaching UCF students and participating in professional learning programs led by UCF faculty.”

The Professional Development School Consortium is just one of the programs that puts into practice President Hitt’s goal of making UCF America’s Partnership University. Educators at the local, regional, and national levels, as well as researchers and graduate students, continue working together to make UCF a premier partner in improving learning and leadership at every stage.