Boundary-spanning in PDS

Walters, S. (1998, Fall). Walking the fault line: Boundary-spanning in a professional development school. Teaching and Change, 6(1), pp. 90-106.

Summary: This article describes Walters research regarding boundary-spanning roles in a PDS. She used a survey of both university and school-based site coordinators. There were seven individuals whose responses were used in the analysis of this study. However, Walters did not indicate the difference between the number of school-based and the number of university-based coordinators in the survey. Walters made conclusions in four areas: a description of the role, the advantages and disadvantages of the role, impact on the site coordinators, and impact on the professional relationships.

  • Walters using the term boundary-spanner to mean the school/university site coordinator.

Background: The University of Southern Maine’s Extended Teacher Education Program

  • School-based site coordinators are teacher leaders who are released from their district responsibilities half of the time to work in the teacher preparation program. University-based site coordinators carry a 9 credit teaching work load, three of those credits are for supervision.
  • The partnership has a lot of characteristics to the PSU one. It was one of Goodlad’s original partnerships in the Network for School Renewal. The partnership is across several school districts. School-based site coordinators meet on campus with university-based coordinators to plan and discuss issues related to the partnership and teacher preparation. One of their struggles is preserving autonomy while simultaneously having similarity across the districts.


  • Survey of 7 past and present site coordinators – both school and university (Walters did not include a breakdown of how many university-based coordinators and the number of school-based site coordinators in the survey)
  • 11 open-ended questions
  • Focus of questions was their role and professional impact on them
  • Also used some document analysis of faculty minutes, meeting notes, program descriptions, case studies
  • Analysis was qualitative, but she description of analysis was lacking

Overview of the Findings:

  • Section 1: Description of the Role

    • The participants took the role because of a desire to improve teacher education.
    • The participants view the role as a professional learning opportunity.
    • Tasks included: intern admission process, matching interns and cooperating teachers, supervision, regularly meetings with interns and cooperating teachers, supported professional development of interns (providing resources, modeling lessons, teaching strategies, oversaw interns’ evaluations and interns’ self evaluations, co-taught seminars and methods coursework, wrote recommendations, conducted exit portfolio interviews with the interns, liaisons between interns and methods instructors), shared responsibilities for program administration, program coordination, and partnership communication between and among university and school district personnel)
    • University-based participants had various opinions about the comparison of traditional programs and the partnership program: interns were more involved in the planning process of their growth and development in the practicum, difference in relationships between the school and university.
    • School-based participants felt the partnership program was superior to their own preparation experiences. They also recognized that the partnership program had higher expectations for mentors than the other programs.
  • Section 2: Advantages and Disadvantages of the Role

    • Advantages

      • Improving teacher preparation in schools
      • Building collaborative relationships
      • Sense of belonging and community with schools (as per the university-based site coordinators)
      • Relationships with program coordinator (essentially the university)
      • Flexibility
      • Lack of boredom
      • A broader perspective and influence
    • Disadvantages

      • Time
      • Spread too thin/multiple demands of their boundary-spanning role
      • More than half-time work
      • Occasional tensions with administrators, especially those who did not understand the breadth and depth of the requirements of this boundary-spanning role
      • Conflicting demands of the boundary-spanning role and their school responsibilities
      • Being one step removed from children
      • Working longer in the year past both school and university calendars
      • Fewer interactions with university colleagues (as per the university-based site coordinators)
      • Lack of recognition at the university level of this work
  • Section 3: Impact of the Role on Site Coordinators

    • Participants stated having a deeper understanding of preservice education
    • Reported changes in their teaching style and content
    • New understandings of both institutions
    • Site coordinators reported new understandings of the relationship between theory and practice
  • Section 4: Impact on Professional Relationships

    • Building relationships with individuals from partner institutions was a positive
    • Heightened sense of respect for individuals from partner institutions
    • School-based site coordinators reported no change in their relationships with peers. If anything, they had more respect with teachers from other buildings.


  • “Their efforts focus on improvement of teaching and learning and include coordinating responsibilities that span the boundaries between the partner institutions. The partnership depends on both new organizational structures and strong personal relationships between individuals. It is clear that the partnership is altering traditional power and status relationships between schools and universities (p. 105).”
  • “University-based site coordinators recognize the teaching and supervisory skills of school-based coordinators (p. 105).”