Knight, J. (1999, April). Partnership learning: Putting conversation at the heart of
professional development. Presentation given at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montréal, Quebec.

The theory at the heart of instructional coaching and the other forms of professional development conducted by the Instructional Coaching Group is grounded in partnership.  In this study, which Jim Knight presented at The American Educational Research Association, and that was also the research for his dissertation, proposed seven principles that together represent a partnership approach to interaction.  The principles represent a synthesis of theories proposed in educational theory, business, psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, and philosophy of science (in particular,the works of Peter Block, David Bohm, Riane Eisler, Paulo Freire, and Peter Senge).

To study this partnership approach, a counterbalanced design was used, described in the attached paper, to ensure that it was the approach that made the difference if a difference was detected within the study, and not some other variable.  There was a difference.  Workshop participants who experienced a traditional fidelitybased workshop and a partnership workshop described themselves as more engaged and happier, did better on learning assessment given at the end of workshops, and reported they were more likely to plan to implement what they learned during a partnership approach.  

Key Points in the Article

  • This article describes partnership learning, and begins by introducing the partnership principles of Equality, Choice, Dialogue, Praxis, Voice, and Symbiosis. Next the article mentions Partnership Learning Structures: (a) Thinking Devices, (b) Cooperative Learning, (c) Stories, (d) Experiential Learning, (e) Reflection Learning, and (f) Question Recipes. These structures are used to organize behavior at each instructional step in the classroom.

    The article then talks about methods for implementing the partnership learning structures. Trainings were held in traditional classroom settings, with video cameras recording the sessions. Participants were divided into two groups where one was taught a strategy using the partnership approach followed by professional development using traditional training, and the other wasreversed: they were taught a strategy using traditional training, followed by professional development using the partnership approach.

    These methods were then measured using various resources including: Knowledge Test, Engagement Sampling Form, Implementation Question, Workshop Evaluation, Procedural Controls, Traditional Instruction Sessions, and Partnership Learning sessions. The results from the knowledge test showed that more knowledge was retained when partnership learning was used, as compared to traditional training. There was also more engagement reported in partnership learning as measured from the engagement sampling form. Teachers were four times more likely to favor strategies taught through partnership learning over traditional training when asked the implementation question, and the workshop evaluation form showed there was more comprehension and engagement via partnership learning as well. In addition, participants were also more likely to have displayed examples of implementation of strategies in their classrooms when taught using partnership learning, as well as experienced more enjoyment in a partnership learning process as compared to traditional training.

    Finally, as part of a discussion, the article states that the project was, “designed to evaluate Partnership Learning’s impact on: participants’ expectation to implement a new educational practice, participants’ engagement, participants’ comprehension, and participants’ enjoyment during professional-development training sessions.” All scores analyzed showed that partnership was much more preferred as compared to traditional training. A major implication for all of these results is that using partnership learning in professional development is not only a superior methodology, but that using traditional methods may even be detrimental to development in that it may actually be wasting limited time and resources on training.

    After References, the article has 5 tables and 5 figures relating to the measures and results mentioned in the article.