Redefining Professional Development: SOE's Commitment to Excellence and Effectiveness in the Classroom

The School of Education is dedicated to advancing excellence in the classroom through the preparation of effective, engaging and successful teachers for all students. Our work is not just with our teacher candidates at the undergraduate and graduate levels; School of Education faculty and staff work with in-service teachers to enhance the skills of these front-line professionals in the classroom through a myriad of programs and initiatives.

The School of Education offers professional development for staff at all levels of the school community, teachers, principals and administrators, from regional districts and New York City Schools to connect achievement in student learning through effective instruction.

Professional Development For Teachers, by Teachers

At the Ensuring Learning For All Students Conference in May 2013, teachers shared their own strategies and best practices for student engagement and transforming students who struggle into those who succeed.

“The School of Education’s commitment to fostering the nest in innovative teaching practices is not limited to our graduate and undergraduate candidates, but extends to every professional involved in education: teachers, principals and senior administration,” says Andrea (Penny) Spencer, PhD, Dean of the School of Education at Pace. “Teachers are at their core life-long learners, and good teachers are always reflecting on their work to find ways to improve and seeking to find the best new ways to connect with students and improve engagement.”

Pace Inquiry Learning Collaborative: Preparing Teachers to Meet The Common Core

The School of Education has been the recipient of a competitive New York State Teacher and Leader Quality Partnership (TLQP) grant for teacher development. Entering its fifth year, the Pace Inquiry Learning Collaborative works with nearly forty teachers from high-needs regional and New York City high schools: Bronx High School for the Visual Arts, Millennium High School, Peekskill High School and Middle School, and Sleepy Hollow High School. This year, Early College High School in Yonkers will join the network. 

The goals of the Pace Inquiry Learning Collaborative are to develop capacity of school partners to create communities that develop teachers’ skills in creating inquiry opportunities for students in all subject areas. In addition, the program also looks to formalize ways for teachers to ‘own’ inquiry-based learning work and adapt it to students at all learning levels.

Throughout the year, teachers participate in professional development sessions located at the schools and, on occasion, at Pace.  These sessions are led by SOE professors and often include guest workshops from content and pedagogical specialists from the Dyson College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as the School of Education for additional supports. The emphasis is on promoting inquiry learning which requires students to pursue critical questions, analyze data and develop evidence-based arguments, and use effective oral and written skills to communicate their critical thinking and understanding of content; these are all critical components of the new Common Core Learning Standards being emphasized across the nation. At the end of the academic year, teachers present their inquiry projects at a conference to share about the inquiry interventions and their results.

Teachers in the Pace Inquiry Learning Collaborative presented the results of their inquiry projects at a conference in May 2013.

Pleasantville Department Chair Christine Clayton, EdD, is the Co-Founder and current Director of the Project. School of Education professors Lauren Birney, Joan Kass, Beth Kava, and Mary Rose McCarthy are lead facilitators in the schools.  Additionally,  a number of School of Education and Dyson faculty from both campuses participate in activities with the schools and enrich teachers’ projects. One of the benefits to having Pace University as a partner in this program is the deep pool of faculty expertise the schools can draw from as needed.

“When we identify a need in a school, we can bring in an expert from the University to satisfy questions in a subject area in science, or a pedagogical need, like student questioning,” says Dr. Clayton.

The program connects to the School of Education’s conceptual framework and mission at many levels, says Dr. Clayton. The program works with high-need schools and students of diverse abilities and skills, bringing this level of professional development to a school that may not have the resources to allocate to this important piece of student success.

The Pace Inquiry Learning Collaborative also helps teachers open up new modes of teaching and learning to ensure that all students meet the higher academic expectations in the Common Core Learning Standards.

“One of the aims of the program directly connects to the School of Education’s conceptual framework to enable all students to learn at a high level,” she says. “Often these types of learning experiences are limited to more elite AP-level students.  Our goal is to make sure that access to these kinds of more rigorous and engaging learning opportunities is increased for students of all abilities and circumstances.” 

At the core of the Pace Inquiry Learning Collaborative is creating learning communities in schools to encourage and support inquiry learning; environments in which teachers create opportunities for students to take greater ownership in the learning process, mastery of subject matter and acquiring more knowledge. Teachers can help ignite these opportunities for students.

"Inquiry has revolutionized my teaching by providing a philosophical structure which encourages me to lead my students from behind, thereby allowing them to take the lead in their own learning," says Elena Pousada, a Spanish teacher at Sleepy Hollow High School who has been involved with the program for three years. This academic year, as Pousada enters her fourth year of involvement with the program, she will serve as a co-facilitator for her school.

"I have always opened doors for my students, but now instead of stepping through the door and urging them to follow me, I simply tilt my head towards the door and ponder aloud 'I wonder what's on the other side'," she says.

For more information about the Pace Inquiry Learning Collaborative, please visit or contact Dr. Clayton at

Virtual Avatars for Real Gains in Effective Teaching

With support from Verizon Foundation Thinkfinity grants from the University, School of Education faculty and staff on both our Westchester and New York City campuses are using the TeachLivE avatar technology with classroom teachers to increase teachers’ effectiveness and performance, particularly in light of higher-stakes educational testing and teacher evaluation. While both projects vary slightly in their research aims, both are using the avatars to create an environment of innovation and ‘safe’ experimentation where teachers become more comfortable with working with new technology to fine-tune classroom management skills and delivery of new content.

In Westchester, School of Education faculty and staff are working with experienced classroom educators and administrators in their TeachLivE initiative to implement instructional techniques that align with new teaching and evaluation standards, allowing them to test new approaches in the virtual classroom before rolling them out with their students. In Peekskill, the school of Education is focused on the administrative practices needed to build a leadership community by creating opportunities for consistent and productive teacher evaluations to drive student performance, thinking and engagement.

School of Education faculty are working with a group of Nationally Board Certified master teachers (of various grade levels and subject areas) in Ossining to build a thorough understanding of and practical applications for teacher practices identified in the NYS teacher evaluation system.  The work with these teachers focuses on how they use questioning techniques identified in Domain 3 of the Danielson Teacher Evaluation Framework. By enhancing the teachers’ professional development activities through use of the avatar lab and discussion, the School of Education is helping teachers in this district develop their capacity to serve as peer coaches for colleagues who will be subject to the new teacher evaluation system.

The Westchester initiatives are the result of a dynamic team effort led by Joan Walker, PhD;  Frank Deluca, EdD; Marjorie Holderman, Clincical Supervisor; and Pat Parrilla, Director of the Teacher Opportunity Corp. The School of Education’s former Coordinator of Professional Development, Fran Wills, PhD, was also involved in the project.

In New York City, Kelley Lassman, PhD, and Sharon Medow, MS, MSEd, have been working with TeachLivE developers from the University of Central Florida to create learning modules for our alternative certification students, largely in the New York City Teaching Fellows Program, around skills for classroom management and behavior. The modules will use the TeachLivE avatars to help the incoming teachers advance their skills during the intensive summer orientation program prior to teaching in a high-need New York City school. Pace University School of Education works with New York City Teaching Fellows of science at the middle and high school level, as well as Fellows working toward Childhood Education and Special Education certification to serve in New York City’s District 75.

Keeping On Top of STEM Trends

The School of Education and the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University launched the Pace STEM Collaboratory in late 2012 to facilitate interdisciplinary research and the exchange of ideas among students, faculty, and staff in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

By strengthening and expanding on current relationships with regional public schools and private technology enterprises, the Collaboratory also seeks to improve and support STEM education at the middle and high-school levels.

The Pace STEM Center Collaboratory aims to make enrich both educational institutions and multinational technology corporations to make STEM education powerhouses. “Evidence of the Collaboratory's success is seen in the relationships with New York City schools and their teachers and students,” says Dr. Lauren Birney, co-Director of the Pace STEM Collaboratory.

“Creating opportunities for students and teachers to delve deeper into the STEM fields remains a priority and focus,” she continues. Professional development and enrichment activities include field trips to STEM based business, guest speaking appearances from STEM corporations, coding hackathons, student STEM internships, teacher STEM externships,mobile app building competitions and multimedia presentations comprise components of our professional development strand.

STEM educators confer at a monthly Collaboratory Meeting held at Pace University.

Collaboratory members include a number of public school science and math teachers (of various grades and subjects) who meet monthly to learn about new technologies, current applications and STEM issues, such as engaging girls and young women in advanced STEM study. They often discuss the realities of implementing new curricular strategy amidst budgetary pressure in the schools and how to leverage new technologies for the best student outcomes. Within the first 6 months of the Collaboratory, these teachers teamed up with Seidenberg graduate students to develop functional educational apps for Android devices that would be helpful and engaging to students, who may not own a desktop computer, but often have a smartphone or tablet.

To learn more about the Collaboratory or to become involved, please visit or contact Dr. Lauren Birney at or Dr. Jonathan Hill at