The work that goes on in a PDS differs from that in more traditional clinical preparation programs. Roles cross institutional boundaries and responsibility is shared across institutions. Different norms of practice make teaching public and collegial and support the use of the professional knowledge base. Professionals at all stages of development are considered to be teachers and learners; all candidates and teacher learning takes place in the context of meeting children's needs.
Specifically, PDS work exhibits the following characteristics:
- Partners share responsibility for all learners: students, teacher candidates, and faculty
- Partners focus on meeting students’ needs
- Professional learning for candidates and faculty takes place in the context of practice
- School and university faculty assume new roles and responsibilities that span institutional boundaries
- Partners use inquiry to identify students’ needs, support candidate learning, and determine their professional development agenda
- Teaching practice occurs in public to allow for constructive feedback, problem solving, and sharing.
- All aspects of the school are oriented to teaching and learning for candidates, faculty, and P–12 students.