Academic Exchange Quarterly     ISSN 1096-1453    Volume 21, Issue 4    Winter 2017

Collaborative Teachers in the Rural Teacher Residency Program  
Collaboration and partnership
are often encouraged in the education profession. When we take these edicts seriously and devote
ourselves to the efforts required to cultivate deep collaborative relationships, we can find ourselves
developing a truer understanding of why these ideas are espoused. The partnerships developed in
the collaborative process can create opportunity to enhance our practice, and to better serve the children
in our care. We often find that working together in purposeful ways creates a synergy that allows us to
accomplish more. Our work in the Rural Teacher Residency (RTR) program at California State University,
Chico taught us this lesson.

The Rural Teacher Residency program was a teacher preparation pathway intended to develop teachers
with exceptional collaborative skills. Collaboration was set as a primary program goal because we were
trying to create teachers who were equipped to successfully meet the needs of the most underserved
students in our large rural region. To cultivate deeper levels of collaboration, we constructed a program
that employed a residency model, utilized co-teaching/co-planning, professional learning communities,
classroom action research, and enriching professional development activities, all in the context of strong
partnerships with our public school partners. A study of our program taught us that our graduates became
collaborative teachers, but a less expected finding was that our graduates felt very prepared to tackle the
challenges in the education profession, and had a strong sense of teacher efficacy. Our graduates noted
that the deep experience at a school site afforded them by the residency model allowed them to connect
to their school staff. They tell us that co-teaching and co-planning practices cultivated within them a desire
to gain the perspective of other professionals on their teaching practice. They say that professional learning
communities gave them an expectation of collaboration and a discomfort with isolating practices. They say
action research provided them with greater ease in analyzing classroom data, and cultivated within them an
inclination to consult the research literature when trying to solve classroom dilemmas.

Graduates told us that they highly valued the relational aspects of the program, and that those relationships
solidified their belief in the value of collaborative partnerships. They also told us that those relationships left
them feeling supported, which contributed to them entering the teaching profession with a high level of
confidence and a sense of efficacy. We hope the skills we’ve developed in our graduates will cause them
to persist in the teaching profession as they try to meet the myriad responsibilities involved in serving our
most underserved student populations.

One can read more about this program, and our study of its impact in this winter edition of Academic
Exchange Quarterly. The article, titled Developing Well-Prepared, Collaborative Teachers in the Rural
Teacher Residency Program, details the program history, design, and outcomes.

Rebecca Fawns-Justeson, Ed.D., MAPP
Assistant Director and Associate Professor, School of Education
California State University, Chico

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