A PDS Partnership: Making Learning Relevant and Meaningful

Danielle Hilaski, Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia, danielle.hilaski@ung.edu
Megan Nason, Associate Professor, University of North Georgia, megan.nason@ung.edu
Nicole Maxwell, Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia, nicole.maxwell@ung.edu
Tyler Cleveland, Kindergarten Teacher, Riverview Elementary, tcleveland@dawson.k12.ga.us

 

The University of North Georgia (UNG) and Dawson County Public Schools are committed to their PDS partnership allowing teacher candidates, in-service teachers, college professors, and elementary students to benefit from this ongoing collaboration.  This year, as a part of their Literacy Assessment course, Juniors in the Dawson PDC (Professional Development Community) participated in a weekly Reading and Assessment Laboratory with kindergarten and first grade students.  The aim of the Reading and Assessment Laboratory was twofold: to provide UNG students with opportunities to administer and analyze literacy assessments in a supportive environment and to provide kindergarten and first grade students with individualized and responsive reading instruction.

 

In class each week, UNG Juniors learned about and practiced a variety of literacy assessments.  Following this instruction in the college classroom, these teacher candidates had the opportunity to administer these same assessments with a kindergarten or first grade student in the Reading and Assessment Laboratory.  While administering these assessments, teacher candidates received just-in-time support from their professor, Dr. Danielle Hilaski, clarifying confusions, modeling procedures, and analyzing results.  Also during this lab time, elementary students benefitted from individualized and responsive reading instruction.  Teacher candidates prepared weekly lesson plans based on the Georgia Standards of Excellence.  These lesson plans offered the elementary students’ opportunities with familiar reading, word work, and a new book providing students multiple, scaffolded learning opportunities.  Since these lessons were customized to each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses based on the results of previously administered literacy assessments, each student received literacy instruction that was at the cusp of their learning.

 

As a result of their participation in the Reading and Assessment Laboratory, teacher candidates shifted their beliefs about struggling readers, the purpose and importance of informal literacy assessments, and their role as a literacy teacher. One teacher candidate admitted that she felt overwhelmed by the responsibility to administer so many different assessments and to plan reading instruction in response these assessments for the laboratory.  However, by the end of the course, she said she understood that the assessments narrowed her focused “beautifully” allowing her to teach with purpose.  Another teacher candidate also recognized this importance relationship between assessment and instruction sharing, “We are actually using our assessment to inform instruction.  So we get to see the [student] growth.”  Teacher candidates additionally recognized the benefits of this model sharing, “Not only was my student’s confidence boosted [as a result of the laboratory], but it has also boosted me”… “and a lightbulb went off and I realized I can do this [create assessment-driven instruction].  Similarly, other teacher candidates admitted feeling more prepared and knowledgeable in their field placements as a result of this experience.

 

This Reading and Assessment Laboratory is just one positive example of the powerful learning opportunities that can occur for teacher candidates, college professors, and elementary school students as a result of the PDS model.

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