College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

College of Education and Human Development

Nine Essentials

September 22, 2021

FAIRFAX, Va. – Kristien Zenkov, a professor of secondary education in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at George Mason University, recently co-authored What It Means to Be a Professional Development School (PDS): The Nine Essentials (2nd Edition).

Zenkov was one of eight experts nationwide to contribute to the revision of the national standards, which were released by the National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS). Zenkov, the academic program coordinator for Mason’s Secondary Education program and the director of the college’s Division of Elementary, Literacy, and Secondary Education, joined Penn State Associate Professor Bernard Badiali as the only two authors from the first edition that was released in 2007.

A PDS is a unique partnership between universities and PK-12 schools to prepare future educators to improve PK–12 student learning, joint engagement in teacher education activities, the promotion of professional growth of all its participants, and the construction of knowledge through intentional, synergistic research endeavors.

“It was such a group effort over three years,” Zenkov said. “It is a really significant thing for our organization and teacher education. We’ve been moving toward this partnership approach, really recognizing that teachers—the classroom teachers who work with our students, who are future teachers—play such a significant role. The nine essentials were put out originally to try to offer some cohesion for the field, to say that if you’re going to use this model, these are the things you should aspire to.”

The second edition of The Nine Essentials provides more practical ways to implement the “lovely ideals” laid out in the first edition, Zenkov says. Enhanced language, along with more examples, a glossary, and structural groundwork to operationalize the nine essentials have been added.

Zenkov said the other significant difference between the second edition and the first edition is more emphasis on social justice and equity. The first essential of the second edition (see the nine essentials below) addresses this issue, stating that a PDS “aims to advance equity, antiracism, and social justice within and among schools, colleges/universities, and their respective community and professional partners.”

Zenkov served as the lead author of the first essential and leaned on NAPDS’ anti-racism and equity committee, which is co-chaired by Mason alumna Shamaine Bertrand (PhD ’17), an elementary and early childhood education assistant professor at The College of New Jersey.

“You can imagine in the last three or four years, our field—classroom teachers and university educators—has just recognized that we have a real responsibility to be explicit about notions of equity and justice in our work,” Zenkov said. “That doesn’t mean a political perspective, that just means notions of equity. The new essentials are so thoughtful, so explicit about including those concepts.”

Mason and CEHD have been at the forefront as leaders in school-university partnerships and professional development schools. In addition to serving as the home of the School-University Partnerships journal of NAPDS, numerous faculty (and students) of the Elementary Education and Secondary Education programs are members of the organization. Elementary Education Professors Audra Parker, Seth Parsons, Mandy Bean, and Lois Groth, and Secondary Education Professors Mark Helmsing in addition to Zenkov have been instrumental in building strong relationships and partnerships with PDS schools in Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Alexandria City, Manassas City, and Manassas Park City public schools.

In 2020, Mason was one of just three school-university partnerships to receive the Exemplary PDS Achievement Award from the NAPDS for its partnership with Daniels Run Elementary School in Fairfax.

The Nine Essentials of a PDS:

  1. A Comprehensive Mission: A PDS is a learning community guided by a comprehensive, articulated mission that is broader than the goals of any single partner, and that aims to advance equity, antiracism, and social justice within and among schools, colleges/universities, and their respective community and professional partners.
  2. Clinical Preparation: A PDS embraces the preparation of educators through clinical practice.
  3. Professional Learning and Leading: A PDS is a context for continuous professional learning and leading for all participants, guided by need and a spirit and practice of inquiry.
  4. Reflection and Innovation: A PDS makes a shared commitment to reflective practice, responsive innovation, and generative knowledge.
  5. Research and Results: A PDS is a community that engages in collaborative research and participates in the public sharing of results in a variety of outlets.
  6. Articulated Agreements: A PDS requires intentionally evolving written articulated agreement(s) that delineate the commitments, expectations, roles, and responsibilities of all involved.
  7. Shared Governance Structures: A PDS is built upon shared, sustainable governance structures that promote collaboration, foster reflection, and honor and value all participants’ voices.
  8. Boundary-Spanning Roles: A PDS creates space for, advocates for, and supports college/university and P-12 faculty to operate in well-defined, boundary-spanning roles that transcend institutional settings.
  9. Resources and Recognition: A PDS provides dedicated and shared resources and establishes traditions to recognize, enhance, celebrate, and sustain the work of partners and the partnership.

About the College of Education and Human Development

The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, inspires undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students to promote learning and development across the life span. Innovative, inclusive, and cutting-edge, the college and its 30 academic programs that spread across three schools (School of Education, School of Kinesiology, and School of Sport, Recreation, and Tourism Management) prepare professionals who improve lives and make a difference for the community and for the world. The college is a nationally recognized leader in educator preparation, special education, counseling, and school leadership; prides itself in far-reaching expertise that includes sport management, human performance, athletic training, recreation management, and tourism and events management; and is home to 9 centers engaged in groundbreaking research. Learn more at