University Liaisons Morris, Taylor, Harrison, & Wasson Notes

Morris, V. G., Taylor, S. I., Harrison, M. M., & Wasson R. (2000). University liaisons: Professors who come to stay. In L Chance (Ed.), Professional development schools: Combining school improvement and teacher preparation (pp. 43-60). National Education Association.

·      University liaison is someone from the university, often a professor. They make a 3-5 year commitment. They also can be experienced teachers working for the university.

·      The authors apply Jones (1993) roles of staff developers to university liaisons. They say that although Jones identifies three roles, storytellers/facilitators, fixer-uppers, or stars, university liaisons are often storytellers/facilitators. "The storyteller/facilitator looks for knowledge that teachers are already using and reflects it back to them, making teachers' own stories the starting point for learning (p. 44)."


Roles and Characteristics of University Liaisons

·      Their definition: "The university liaison is a College of Education faculty member who is assigned one-quarter to one-half time to work at a single professional development school site (p. 44)."

·      "The university faculty member serves as a resource person in planning, managing, operating, and evaluating the professional development school program (p. 44)."

·      (MY QUESTIONS - What are the roles of hybrids? How do they compare to this definition?)

·      The authors cite a paper by Chance (1992) who identified seven tasks of university liaisons. They are:

o   "Assist in the development and implementation of the school improvement plan.

o   Serve as liaison between the school and the university (practice and research).

o   Train cooperating teachers in the process of evaluation, observation, reflective mentoring, and clinical supervision.

o   Establish continuity between induction (preservice) and inservice staff development programs.

o   Serve on the supervision/evaluation team for preservice teachers in the professional development school.

o   Include schools and school practitioners in action research and presentations of research findings.

o   Respectfully recognize the professional development schools as the 'teaching hospitals' for the education profession (p. 45)."

·      Characteristics of a university liaison:           

o   Can work w/preK-12 professionals (MY QUESTION - why not P-16?)

o   Desire to work in schools

o   Enthusiastic

o   Interested in change

o   Persistent

·      "Liaisons were assigned 10-15 student teachers (p. 46)."

·      Responsibilities were to both student teachers and classroom teachers.

o   For working with student teachers:

§  "Meet with student teachers on a regular basis, beginning with an initial orientation meeting, then once per week to reflect on classroom experiences.

§  Make weekly observation/supervision visits to classrooms.

§  Participate in two-three evaluation conferences with the student teacher and cooperating teacher (number depends on length of placement).

§  Submit student teacher portfolio to Teacher Education Office at completion of placement (p. 46)."

o   For working with classroom teachers:

§  "Conduct weekly meetings with the cooperating teachers.

§  Facilitate the development or update of school improvement plan.

§  Support and assist teachers in meeting needs identified in school improvement plans. Example may include :

·      Conducting workshops

·      Finding resource people; supporting scholarly inquiry in research and grant writing

·      Attending faculty meetings and PTA functions

·      Re-examining needs at the beginning of the year and evaluating accomplishments at the end of the year (p. 46)."

·      Roles of an effective university liaison: (from the chart on p. 47)

o   Mediator, confidant, coordinator, teacher, facilitator, storyteller, listener, follower, colleague, collaborator, problem-solver, leader, coach, consultant

·      Characteristics of an effective university liaison: (from the chart on p. 47)

o   Good listener, trustworthy, committed to change, patient, diplomatic, high energy level, nonjudgmental, respectful of differences, tactful, sense of humor, open-minded, enthusiastic, persistent, flexible


Team Building Between School and University

·      "Many preK-12 classroom teachers believe that university professors regard themselves as higher status professionals; that is, they are 'experts' who have come to tell teachers how to 'fix' the problems in their classrooms and schools (p. 48)."

·      "The preK-12 practitioner must believe that the liaison has made a long term commitment to the school and that the work of the professional development school is not another short-term, passing educational fad (p. 48)." (MY THOUGHTS - How can they get that feeling when the commitment of a university liaison is only 3-5 years?)

·      The goal is for the liaison to be accepted as a colleague and peer.

·      Setting the Tone

o   "The relationship that develops between the principal and the university liaison also sets the tone for the university liaison to establish appropriate relationships with classroom teachers and support staff (p. 49)."

·      Activities that Promote Collegiality

o   Weekly meetings w/cooperating teachers: "Cooperating teachers also expressed their concerns and made suggestions to improve not only the experiences of the student teaching program at the university, but other aspects of the teacher education program, such as clinical experiences prior to student teaching, course content, and classroom management skills (p. 50)."

o   Co-teaching classes is a sign of trust from the cooperating teacher.

o   "They (classroom teachers) saw that the liaisons were 'real' teachers who could teach children as well as adults (p. 50)."

o   Community membership for the liaison often was a result of co-teaching a class.

o   The teachers' lunchroom is a place to establish relationships.


Valuing Work in the Schools

·      "Yet, if colleges and universities are going to significantly improve the way they prepare preK-we professionals, teacher educators must live in both worlds so that hey can build on the contemporary realities that children and practitioners bring to their teaching, research, and writing (p. 52)."

·      School-Based Research

·      Other Roles for University Professors



·      Time needs to be built in for reflection on practice: "Time for reflection allows the liaisons as a group to learn from one another and to model the collaboration process that is central to professional development school partnerships (p. 55)." (MY THOUGHTS - I would also add that it contributes to their learning - the supervisor's learning and development, which has connections to Sergiovanni & Starratt's Ch.3 notions of primary and secondary reflection and the blog post related to my thoughts on this topic).

·      Find ways to communicate in between the monthly meetings.

·      Create an orientation for new liaisons: "It should include information on: (1) the culture of the school and community, (2) the preK-12 schools' prior relationship with the university, (3) activities that have been implemented in other professional development schools (both accomplishments and challenges), (4) roles and responsibilities of liaisons, and (5) roles and responsibilities of preK-12 administrators and classroom teachers (p. 56)." (MY THOUGHTS - I would also add information about supervision as well).

·      "Stages of development of the university liaison's work (p. 56).":

o   "Classroom teachers who may suspect the motives of universities and their representatives need time to develop trust, collegiality, and a common purpose (p. 56)."

o   "While many goals may be accomplished during the first year, the liaison's work may proceed more effectively the second year, when preK-12 professionals, students, parents, and community people have begun to view the liaison as part of the school community (p. 56)."

·      Careful selection of appropriate individuals for this role:

o   "Not every teacher educator can or should become a liaison in a professional development school, since special personal characteristics and qualifications are required to be effective (p. 56)."

o   "Liaisons should have a positive track record of teaching in preK-12 schools and as consultants or inservice workshop leaders in addition to working with teachers. They must be willing to make a long-term commitment to improve both the university's teacher education program and preK-12 teaching and learning. Effective liaisons view classroom teachers as equal partners in the teacher education process and are committed to playing a facilitative, rather than an 'expert,' role in improving schools (p. 56)."

o   Establish relationships with the principals: "Principal and liaison roles may begin to blur as their relationship grows (p. 57)."


·      Chance, L. 1992. Professional Dvelopment Schools: Toward a New Relationship for K-12 Schools and Memphis State University. Memphis, Tenn.: College of Education, Memphis State University.

·      Jones, E. 1993. "Growing teachers." Growing Teachers: Partnerships in Staff Development (pp. xii-xiii). Edited by E. Jones. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.