Professor-in-residence model enhances student learning

Education majors at UNI made history come to life for more than 80 sixth-grade students at Lincoln Elementary School in Cedar Falls – and honed their teaching skills at the same time.

The youngsters at Lincoln used PowerPoint software to create graphic novels about historical figures involved in an important event or movement. They also created image-enhanced podcasts on current events, which helped develop their writing skills. 

Student teacher working with an elementary student“The UNI students gained valuable experience in their classroom instructional skills,” said Debra Beving, principal at Lincoln Elementary. “They developed relationships with the students and gained valuable experience providing differentiated instruction in the classroom setting.”

The PowerPoint and podcast projects were part of a collaborative effort between Lincoln and UNI through the Professional Development School (PDS) network with the Cedar Falls School District. The new partnership is making an impact by improving the preparation of new teachers. It is also positively impacting teachers’ professional development and students’ achievement.

“This new model has definitely been a win-win for all stakeholders,” said Becky Hawbaker, director of UNI's PDS and instructor at Malcolm Price Laboratory School – Iowa’s Research and Development School. “Our students were able to make immediate theory-practice connections and had more intensive and extensive field experiences with some amazing teachers.”   

During the spring 2011 semester, Sarah Montgomery, an assistant professor in UNI’s Department of Curriculum & Instruction, experimented with a professor-in-residence model at Lincoln, which is part of the PDS network. She taught two teaching methods courses for UNI students at Lincoln and worked with the three Lincoln sixth-grade teachers to align student field experiences to reinforce literacy strategies at the school. Part of that field experience included working with youngsters one-on-one and in small groups to help them improve their reading comprehension skills and further develop their vocabulary. 

Beving, who offered integral support for the professor-in-residence learning opportunity and partnership, said, “Our sixth-grade teaching team was eager to participate in this joint venture. The sixth-grade teachers and Professor Montgomery crafted a plan for this joint venture, placing special emphasis on integrating social studies content, writing skills development and the use of technology. One of the project’s goals was to create highly engaging learning opportunities for all of the students to acquire literacy skills."

The professor-in-residence model is an example of the kinds of partnerships that have grown from the UNI PDS. In 2007, the PDS model was piloted at Cedar Falls High and Hanson Elementary Schools in Cedar Falls, and Edison Elementary School and Central Middle School in Waterloo. Since that time, the model has expanded to nearly every school in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo School Districts.