$1.9M grant will help build teaching, learning capacity at Penn State Harrisburg

Jane M. Wilburne, associate professor of mathematics education in Penn State Harrisburg’s Teacher Education Program, has received a $1.875 million Eligible Partnership Project grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The three-year award supports partnerships with and professional development opportunities for local school districts to provide innovative, research-based, approaches to improve student teaching experiences.

The project, which brings together college faculty, student teaching supervisors, principals, cooperating teachers and student teachers, is intended to strengthen the teacher education preparation programs offered by the project partners.

Penn State Harrisburg serves as lead institution for the program, titled Project EXCELLENCE, which will run from 2014 to 2017. Current participating school districts working with Penn State Harrisburg in the project are Lower Dauphin, Derry Township, Middletown and Harrisburg.

Project EXCELLENCE, or Partnerships for Teaching and Leadership Excellence, provides student teachers the opportunity to join with cooperating teachers from local school districts and to be trained in co-teaching. Co-teaching puts the student teacher in partnership, rather than apprenticeship, with the cooperating teacher. In this model, the student teacher and the cooperating teacher share all responsibilities of the classroom from the first day.

“The co-teaching model involves the student teacher in the classroom immediately,” Wilburne said. “Lessons are planned and taught by both teachers, resulting in the student teacher being seen by students as a ’real teacher’ from the beginning of the experience.

“As the experienced teachers make their instructional decisions more explicit, the invisible workings of the classroom become more visible to the student teacher. The experienced teacher and student teacher seamlessly alternate between assisting and leading the planning, teaching and classroom assessments throughout the experience.”

Project EXCELLENCE also provides professional development opportunities for student teachers and cooperating teachers, as well as “Professional Learning Communities,” where ideas are exchanged and networking opportunities abound -- all in an effort to improve the preparation of future teachers.

In addition to supporting the teacher education programs at Penn State Harrisburg, this grant includes partnerships with Messiah College, Holy Family University, Lincoln Intermediate Unit, and the Center for Schools and Community.

Last Updated April 24, 2014