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II. Conceptual Framework

Overview.  The theme of the unit’s conceptual framework first emerged as the result of a faculty retreat held in late May of 1987.  Those faculty who participated in that retreat, including five who still serve the unit, took the first steps toward what would become a new curriculum. Their work together produced consensus on the need for curricular revision, on the central issues that should be addressed in such a revision, and on unit standards that would guide an emerging curricular design.  During the summer of 1987 the unit’s faculty members agreed upon a curricular philosophy and specified an initial set of goals drawn from their emerging framework that revealed the knowledge, skills, and values expected of novice K-12 teachers. The resulting design, anticipating current practice in teacher education, identified performance standards that candidates prepared through the unit’s licensure programs should meet to affirm their professional competence.

Growing out of research on how classroom teachers make instructional decisions (Walter, 1984), one of those four goals called upon prospective educators to “recognize that teaching is a decision-making process.”  While other elements of this early curricular design would be set aside in subsequent revisions that would incorporate national standards and changes in Minnesota’s teacher licensure process, those later designs would continue to emphasize teachers as decision makers.

The unit’s current conceptual framework draws its title from one of the former model’s goals.

This “Teacher as Decision-Maker” framework introduces prospective educators to teaching as a decision-making activity informed by knowledge, values and standards that are in turn shaped within the context of human, fiscal, and physical constraints.

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University (CSB/SJU) Education Department recognizes that purposeful decision-making is at the heart of effective teaching.  We aim to develop exemplary teachers who have a strong liberal arts background, who exemplify Benedictine values, and who consistently make professional decisions which help all students achieve their full potential as persons and as responsible world citizens in a democratic society

Purposeful decision-making for our teacher candidates takes place in consideration of a body of knowledge that is deep and constantly expanding.  It draws on timeless Benedictine values that include reverence and care for each person, concern for the common good of the community, and balancing the needs of body, mind, and spirit.  Decisions also reflect the professional standards that guide effective, ethical practice as well as the constraints within a particular teaching context.  Effective teachers make decisions that address…

1.  Subject MatterWe prepare candidates for licensure as Minnesota teachers understand the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the disciplines they are preparing to teach so that they will be able to make this subject matter meaningful for their students (Knowledge Base for Teacher Education, p. 2).

2.  Student Learning and Development.
 Our candidates draw on their understanding of learning and developmental processes to choose optimal ways to encourage their students' intellectual, social, and personal development.  

3.  Diverse Learners.  Our candidates, recognizing how differences among students can influence their learning, make instructional decisions that reflect their students’ backgrounds and exceptionalities (p. 18).

4.  Instructional Strategies.  Our candidates use their knowledge of instructional strategies to decide upon and employ those that are most likely to encourage their students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills (p. 27).

5.  Learning Environment.  Our candidates use their knowledge and skills to create just and disciplined learning communities that can motivate students to achieve personal and academic success through positive social interaction and active engagement in their learning (p. 33).

6.  Communication.  Our candidates use effective verbal, nonverbal, and media communication techniques to foster their students’ learning (p. 38).

7.  Planning Instruction.  Our candidates plan instruction by deciding the knowledge, skills, and values they will teach, who they will teach, in what ways they will teach, and the effects of their instruction (p. 42).

8.  Assessment.  Our candidates use information provided through their use of formal and informal assessment methods to make instructional decisions that will support their students’ continuous development (p. 47).

9.  Reflection and Professional Development.  Our candidates critically reflect on the effects of their instructional decisions on the performance of their students, on the practice of their colleagues, and on the actions of others in their learning communities, using those reflections to direct and sustain their professional renewal (p. 55).

10.  Collaboration, Ethics, and Relationships.  Our candidates enhance their effectiveness as educators by working together with their colleagues, their students’ parents, and members of their school community to create and sustain a positive learning environment that can enhance students’ learning and well-being (p.58).

The unit conceptualizes its shared vision of teaching decision-making within three realms.

We believe that teachers should actively participate in the decision-making process, rather than being mere technicians who implement only a prescribed curriculum and decisions made by others. Carl B. Smith (1992) defines a decision-maker as one who regularly selects from among alternatives before taking actions that impact persons’ lives. In our view, this definition describes much of what teachers do.  Both Cooper (1999) and Smith classify teaching decisions into three categories:

Planning decisions occur prior to the actual teaching and include determining outcomes or objectives (i.e. the content one will teach); selecting teaching techniques (or pedagogy), identifying materials and resources to be utilized, choosing appropriate motivational and management strategies, and deciding on evaluation procedures;

Interacting or implementing decisions occur during teaching. These involve providing instructional guidance and support, intervening when students are misbehaving or off task, and making mid-stream adjustments in instructional procedures;

Evaluating decisions typically take place after teaching and include such choices as determining how to apply scoring criteria, determining grades, and deciding what information to provide to parents (Conceptual Framework; Theme, p. 2).

The unit further believes that competent professional educators cannot arrive at such decisions without the benefit of a rational decision-making process.  Working from a four-step model of how teachers make such decisions, the unit has added a fifth step encouraging teachers to appraise the outcomes of their decisions.  

We agree with Smith that teacher decision-making should be purposeful and involve a rational choice based on available alternatives. To assist our students in making purposeful choices, we have adopted Smith’s Rational Decision Model (1992). This model consists of four steps:

        Formulating the decision question (planning, implementing, or evaluating),

        Collecting/considering information that reveals available alternatives,

        Selecting criteria through which alternatives are sifted, and

        Making a choice regarding the decision question.  Then,

        Reflecting on the outcomes of the decision. (Theme, pp.2-3)

Once they perceive the need to make decisions about planning, implementing, or evaluating instruction, candidates who have been introduced to a rational decision-making process are more likely to make use of it. Toward this end, the unit’s framework includes a detailed description of each of the five steps in that process.

To effectively implement this decision-making model, teachers must have a firm grasp of a diverse, research-based body of professional knowledge. This body of knowledge forms the basis of the information from which available alternatives for the decision questions are formulated.  These alternatives are then judged (or sifted) on the basis of specific criteria. Values form an important component of the filter through which decision options should be judged. Aspects of the teaching profession must also be considered, such as established professional ethics as well as state and school district curriculum standards and one’s philosophy of teaching.

Finally, as Brubaker and Simon have noted (1992), constraints must also be considered, as they may limit the number of practical options within one’s current situation. These include such factors as time, availability of resources, the collaborative nature of many teaching decisions, and the realities of district and community politics.

To complete the decision-making process, we have added what we believe is a crucial fifth step, reflection.  Like Cooper (1999), we feel that "reflection is the decision-making system’s way of correcting itself" (p. 8) in that it adds to one’s body of knowledge for use in future decisions.  Reflection occurs primarily after the decision is implemented and away from the hustle and bustle of classroom interactions.  It involves self-evaluation through a critical analysis of the decisions and their outcomes to determine how effectively each of the three teaching functions (planning, implementing, and evaluating) were handled (Cooper, 1999).  However, as Valli (1990) has noted, reflection must not only involve technical and content-related considerations, but must also include moral and ethical reflection to ensure that the decisions were in the students’ best interests.

The unit visualizes this decision-making process with a simple model.

We realize that in actual practice the decision-making steps and domains may not always be as clear-cut as idealized in our description of a very complex process.  However, we believe that having an understanding of the features of that process, the criteria that influence decisions, and the decision-making domains will result in better choices and, ultimately, more effective teaching (Theme, p. 3).

The unit uses a simple graphic to portray its conception of teachers’ decision-making process within the context of knowledge, skills, and values defined by its program goals.

Creating A Shared Vision.  The record of colleagues’ shared contributions to a stronger, more useful conceptual framework testifies to the nature and strength of their units’ shared vision of “teachers as decision makers.”  It also documents the significant investment required to resolve such a vision.  Extensive revision of the unit’s 1987 “decision maker” framework began in the spring of 1999.  Those attending a department meeting on 14 March of that year, after reviewing elements of the unit’s then current “model” and reflecting on the ways it had informed their teaching, concluded that it should be significantly revised with the addition of a specific decision-making process and the integration of that process with current professional literature.  The group reached consensus on “Teacher as Decision-Maker” as the theme and on four categories of educators’ decision-making borrowed from the older framework (body of knowledge, humane interaction, teaching in a changing world, and teaching as a profession) as broad aims.  Professor Edmund Sass accepted the task of developing the revised framework.

Working informally with his colleagues, Sass clarified and expanded the model within the framework suggested by these four decision-making categories. He incorporated Smith's (1992) decision-making model as a starting point to highlight the process by which teachers might make instructional decisions.  During the summer of 1999 Sass incorporated ideas offered by many of his colleagues as they critiqued his work.

Sass brought a draft of the emerging framework to an August 1999 conference in Philadelphia sponsored by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.  That draft was read by two conference consultants, Dr. Erskine Dottin and Dr. Darnell Williams.  Both felt that it represented “a good start” that could serve as a viable theme and rationale.  Both also agreed, however, that this initial effort should be supported by a philosophy, mission, aim, goals, and knowledge base.  These elements would be required before the unit’s framework could coherently guide the unit’s curriculum, faculty, and candidates.

Returning from Philadelphia with a renewed sense of how the framework had to be strengthened, in September of 1999 Sass offered a new draft of the theme and rationale for the Teacher Education Council’s review  Following helpful discussion, the unit approved his revision and encouraged his continuing efforts.  In October of 1999 faculty individually offered their beliefs regarding effective teachers and their preparation.  After sorting their written statements into related categories, Sass shared them with all present during a January 2000 framework design meeting.  Sass used these categories to compose a revised unit philosophy. This draft was shared with all unit members for their review.  After incorporating these final suggestions, the unit approved the philosophy statement that continues to guide its work.

Drawing together this revised philosophy and the previously affirmed theme with the coordinate mission of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, Sass next drafted a departmental mission statement.  This was also shared with all unit members, revised to reflect their contributions, and then approved by them in February of 2000.  In April Sass moved to the next element by leading the unit toward clarified goals that would help the unit realize its mission and vision.  He encouraged his colleagues to classify the terminal Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers into one of the four decision-making categories that remained from the 1987 version of the conceptual framework (body of knowledge, humane interaction, teaching in a changing world, and teaching as a profession).  Department members found this to be a very difficult task.  The Minnesota standards, themselves modeled on an earlier set developed by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), were so broadly stated that they could easily fit into more that one of the four categories derived from the older 1987 framework.

After much discussion during a subsequent department meeting, the unit decided not to group the standards into those four categories.  Rather, unit members decided that the theme and framework should be revised to more clearly reflect the identity of the department, particularly in regard to the values that informed its program.  Such changes would further reduce the usefulness of the four categories.  Those present thus elected to remove them from the model.  Members also proposed, discussed, and finally accepted the ten Minnesota standards as the unit’s program goals, a significant change which all approved.

Work continued through the spring and on into the summer of 2000 on the refinement of the emerging framework.  Most of the unit’s faculty contributed to the development of an integrated synthesis of research and practice that could support each of the ten program goals.  Visual representations that could capture key elements of this nearly complete framework were devised, discussed, and revised until they evolved to the forms now in use.  With the growing availability of electronic information exchange, the unit elected to share its work on the framework with a broader audience by adding the conceptual framework to its web site.

Renewing A Shared Vision.  During its 15 April 2004 meeting the unit’s Teacher Education Council began a new round of formal review of the “Teacher as Decision Maker” framework.  Aside from correcting minor errors and maintaining accurate internet addresses, the elements of the framework had remained as approved in 2000.  Following a brief review of the unit’s investment in the process that lead to its development, members described ways in which they used it in their teaching and mentoring of candidates.  Guided by a summary of the framework and questions designed to encourage reflection on each of its elements, the Council agreed to continue its review so as to provide opportunities to consider further refinements or revisions.

When the Council convened again on 3 May 2004, members returned to this task by offering a wide range of suggested revisions.  Many urged refinement of the graphic used to represent key elements of the framework.  Some encouraged a search for ways to encourage candidates’ “passion and creativity,” qualities that might be threatened by an emerging “test-prep” model for K-12 education.  Others sought clarification on how we express the relationship of “values” and “constraints” to classroom decision making.  A few felt that our “commitment” to technology might hold us to an unrealistic standard in view of the modest technological resources most schools were forced to offer their teachers and students in a climate of shrinking fiscal constraints.  One member urged moving toward a theme that would emphasize our preparation of “exemplary teachers as reflective decision makers.

Some felt that many, if not all, of these suggested additions were a part of the framework, urging that they be given greater emphasis.  Rather than approve the framework without change, the Council agreed to form an ad hoc committee of three faculty members who expressed their willingness to further explore how such changes might be incorporated in the framework’s components.

Meeting occasionally during the summer of 2004, then continuing to meet into the fall semester, this ad hoc group reviewed each element of the framework.  As they did so they considered how to incorporate possible additions or revisions in response to members’ concerns.  Other members joined the group to share revised visualizations of the framework’s key dimensions.  While one proposed graphic offered an attractive alternative, it could not be fully realized in the time available.  During the 13 December Council meeting this committee shared its findings.  Concluding that much of what had been suggested during conversations in May and through the summer was, in fact, evident in the framework’s elements, this group recommended the addition of a stronger statement on the role of creativity in successful teaching .  Following the affirmation of their work by all present, the proposed change was added to the final paragraph of the framework’s “theme and rationale”.  As revised and affirmed, the framework continues to serve as the vision that guides the unit’s preparation of its candidates for licensure.

The summer of 2004 also found the unit’s faculty members at work on revising and strengthening the knowledge base.  This group reviewed the 2000 summary of the relevant research and practice supporting ten program goals, then searched for new information that could clarify and strengthen these summaries of empirical research and practical wisdom.  Having completed their work, on 13 August the revision team sought a final review from the unit’s members prior to adopting the revised knowledge base. 

Coherence.  The unit’s shared vision of effective teachers as creative decision-makers encourages the use of the framework resolved by that vision to plan, effect, and judge the merit of all aspects of its approach to teacher preparation.  The unit’s past practice, as revealed in records of its proceedings, confirms that it continues to use the “Teacher as Decision-Maker” conceptual framework in the design of candidates’ formal and informal learning experiences.  Review of course documents and the learning activities developed for all courses affirm that faculty members use the framework to create candidates’ learning opportunities.  Reflective opportunities included in field and clinical experiences attend to its elements.  The unit’s faculty members use the model to structure their review of new courses or experiences proposed for its curriculum.  Annual review of faculty performance includes an opportunity to reflect on contributions each member has made to helping the unit realize the benefits offered by the conceptual framework.  Examination of the unit’s assessment system, technology plan, partnership plan, and diversity plan reveal close attention to relevant facets of this framework in their design and execution.  The unit’s treatment of “Teacher as Decision Maker” thus emerges as a significant element in its preparation of professional educators able to serve all learners.

Professional Commitments and Dispositions.  The unit’s conceptual framework draws on a knowledge base of theory, research, and practice aligned with the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers to reveal expected candidate knowledge and skills.  The framework integrates this base of knowledge and practice, focused by its ten program goals, with the unique set of values that give direction and emphasis to the unit’s conception of effective teaching (Conceptual Framework; Theme).  Indeed, the unit’s philosophy calls candidates to use the knowledge base, supplemented by their own research and experience, to anchor their emerging practice as they employ “a variety of instructional strategies” to advance the belief that “all their students can learn” the knowledge, skills, and values that inform their area of licensure.

Further, the unit prepares candidates to employ these strategies on behalf of their discipline within a “safe, humane, and welcoming classroom community” that “values student diversity and various cultural realities” so that all learners can “achieve their full potential.”  This community of learners, guided by “holistic, collaborative, and constructivist pedagogies” whenever feasible, strives to reflect “the Benedictine values of commitment to service, concern for community, and respect for all persons.”  When candidates’ practice is informed both by knowledge of their discipline and by knowledge of their profession, and when that practice is anchored in the values advanced by the unit’s program of study and practice, those individuals will be…

Not only knowledgeable and caring, but have a passion for teaching to improve the lives of their students.  This passion is apparent not only in their enthusiasm for the subject they teach, but also in their commitment to the principle that all decisions and subsequent actions must be in the best interests of their students.  Finally, it is our steadfast belief that effective teachers are active decision-makers who have the courage and self-confidence to take charge of their own classroom rather than operating as technicians who merely implement a prescribed curriculum and the decisions made by others (Conceptual Framework; Philosophy, pp.3-4).

Commitment To Diversity: The unit’s conceptual framework directs the preparation of candidates toward making “professional decisions which help all students achieve their full potential as persons and as responsible world citizens in a democratic society.”  Guided by the Catholic and Benedictine values on which it is founded, the unit advances this aim through its mission by developing…

Teachers who have a commitment to service and to building a classroom community which respects all persons.  We realize that for this to happen, we must be vigilant in our efforts to increase teacher candidates’ knowledge of diversity and to help them examine their own biases and belief so that they are able to make educational decisions that enhance the development of all learners.  Therefore, content and experiences involving elements of cultural diversity are consciously woven throughout our curriculum.   (Conceptual Framework; Mission, p.6).

The unit’s goals include the expectation that candidates, “recognizing how differences among students can influence their learning, make instructional decisions that reflect their students’ backgrounds and exceptionalities” (Knowledge Base, Goal 3, p. 18).  Empirical investigation integrated with the wisdom of practice suggests that novice teachers having both awareness of and appreciation for diversity will be better able to respond to all students’ needs.  Our view is that “successful teachers embrace the concept of multicultural education by seeking ways of teaching that are congruent with a student’s language, ways of learning, and participation strategies (Cleary and Peacock,1998, as referenced in the unit’s Knowledge Base, Goal 3,p. 19).

The unit’s approach for providing greater diversity of candidates, faculty, and experiences takes more detailed form in the Education Department Diversity Plan (2000).  That plan, developed by Professor Deanna Lamb after extensive consultation with the unit’s faculty and the colleges’ staff, offers six goals, their related objectives, a set of detailed activities for each objective, and supporting attachments.  With the support of its sponsoring colleges, the unit has made significant progress toward achieving the diversity plan’s six goals.  A progress report (2005) prepared by the unit’s Diversity Committee confirms that over the past five years, the unit has …

§         Developed a strong diversity focus in foundational courses and experiences.

§         Increased candidates’ meaningful field experiences working with diverse learners.

§         Continued to work for greater diversity among faculty and students in our program and in our colleges despite modest gains.

§         Worked to encourage more pluralistic thinking among students and faculty.

§         Increased Education Department faculty and staff knowledge about minority groups.

§         Discovered and increased their use of pedagogies that can give all learners opportunities to learn.

We continue to invest in this plan as we strive to better prepare candidates who can meet the need of tomorrow’s diverse society.

As its Teacher as Decision-Maker model would indicate, the Education Department’s goal is to prepare candidates who are equipped to make effective and responsible decisions on behalf of their students’ learning and development.  According to James A. Banks (p.34), “the key goal of the multicultural curriculum should be to help students develop decision-making skills.”  He explains that effective and responsible decision-making requires higher level thinking and knowledge, clarification of related values, and informed action-choices.  A perusal of the “Teacher as Decision-Maker” model confirms that those same components form the backbone of the Education Department’s model.  The model is intended as a guide to ensure that our candidates have the necessary professional preparation to ensure that all learners have the opportunity to succeed. (Education Department Diversity Plan, p.2)

A review of the unit’s diversity plan and related documents will provide a detailed explication of how the unit has increased the diversity of candidates’ field and clinical experiences (Partnership Plan; Appendix G) as well as efforts, as yet largely unsuccessful, to strengthen the racial and cultural diversity of its faculty and candidates.

Commitment to TechnologyThe unit’s philosophy acknowledges that while “all students can learn,” they do so “in different ways and at different rates.”  Effective teachers incorporate this recognition into their decisions about not only what they will teach to a diverse group of learners but also how they will “use a variety of instructional strategies and approaches appropriate to the diverse learning needs of students” (Conceptual Framework; Philosophy, p. 3).

Recalling its philosophical commitment, the unit’s conceptual framework advances informed, rational, and systematic decision-making as central to effective teaching and meaningful learning.  Among those many decisions that teachers make each day are those which Smith (1992) describes as “planning decisions.”  These include…

Determining the outcomes or objectives (i.e. the content one will teach); selecting teaching techniques (or pedagogy), identifying materials and resources to be utilized, choosing appropriate motivational and management strategies, and deciding on evaluation procedures.  (Conceptual Framework; Theme, p.2)

Such decisions depend upon a “firm grasp of a diverse, research-based body of professional knowledge” which includes “understanding of the principles of effective practice,” including those principles which relate to the use of instructional and informational technologies (Theme, p. 2).  Two goals drawn from the unit’s framework support candidates’ efforts to acquire and use that professional knowledge within their area of licensure.

4.  Instructional Strategies.  Our candidates use their knowledge of instructional strategies to decide upon and employ those that are most likely to encourage their students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills (Knowledge Base; Goal 4, p. 27).

7.  Planning Instruction.  Our candidates plan instruction by deciding upon the knowledge, skills, and values they will teach, who they will teach, in what ways they will teach, and the effects of their instruction (Knowledge Base; Goal 7, p. 42).

Guided by these tenets of its conceptual framework, in 2000 the unit developed and approved a technology plan to guide its preparation of candidates in the use of technology during the coming five years.  This plan was designed to “help all students achieve their full potential as persons and as responsible world citizens in a democratic society” (Education Department Technology Plan, p. 9).  The authors of this plan remind us that…

The world is a complex place that is undergoing much change.  Changes in society constantly place new demands on schools.  And yet, in the midst of all these changes and new demands, schools are now held to a higher level of scrutiny and accountability than ever before.  At the dawn of the 21st century, the CSB/SJU Education Department has identified three core values as the guideposts for evaluating the quality and effectiveness of  P-12 schools in this changing world.  These values include

·         Equity of learning opportunities,

·         Respect for human dignity with appreciation for human diversity, and

·         Responsible world citizenship in a democratic society.

We see these values as the guideposts for much of current educational research, policy making, and curriculum development and reform.  As such, we believe these values are at the core of the best educational decision-making today.  Technology goals for P-12 schools should use educational technologies to effectively address these values:

That technology resources be planned for and used by schools in ways that promote equity of learning opportunities. By this we mean that all students have access to the technologies that can assist them in learning to their full potential.  Educators must understand and look for ways to use various technologies that support and address individual learning needs and styles so as to assist all students in meeting various curricular learning standards.

That technology resources be planned for and used by schools in ways that recognize and support the dignity of all persons.  By this we mean that technologies are to be used in ways that promote respect for human differences.  Educators must understand and look for ways to use various technologies in ways that recognize and celebrate the human dignity of all persons.  Educators must model and teach ethical uses of technology.

That technology resources be planned for and used by schools in ways that promote responsible citizenship.  Educators must understand and look for ways to use various technologies to promote creativity, critical thinking, and informed decision making in addressing issues of social justice, care for the environment, and aesthetics.  Students must learn to use technology to access information and evaluate its accuracy and significance so that they can make informed decisions, and working with others and alone, creatively solve problems about real world issues.

In summary, our vision for P-12 education is that technology will transform schooling by re-defining the contextual places and times in which students and educators alike can access information, can communicate with each other, and can learn.   Educators must be prepared to make decisions that will actively guide, direct, and effect this transformation in their respective schools.  They will be prepared for this end as they develop a thorough understanding of the diverse ways in which students learn, as well as the standards of excellence to which student learning is to be directed.  Candidates must also know how to use technology to creatively engage all their students in achieving standards of excellence in classrooms that are unbounded by time and geography. (Technology Plan, pp. 4-5, 7).

Continuing pursuit of seven goals and their related objectives, aligned with the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) as developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), will guide candidates’ efforts to acquire the knowledge and skill that will guide their decision-making efforts (ISTE, 2000).  

            Goal 1:  To provide all pre-service teachers with appropriate opportunities to learn, apply and be assessed on the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS).

            Goal 2:  To annually assess the current state of technology integration in courses taken by pre-service teachers.

            Goal 3:  To provide staff development for Education Department faculty that will lead to greater implementation of best practices for using technology in teaching.

.           Goal 4:  To give high priority to recognizing and encouraging both the effective and the creative uses of technology by Education Department faculty.

.           Goal 5:  To work with partner schools in developing and/or implementing their respective plans for effective integration of technology in P-12 teaching.

            Goal 6:  To provide Education Department faculty and students with ready and appropriate access to the best available technologies and support for effective research, personal productivity, and teaching.

          Goal 7:  To establish annual benchmarks and employ a review process for assessing the preparation and readiness of pre-service teachers to teach effectively with technology.

Following implementation in September of 2001, this plan helped uncover and create opportunities for the unit’s candidates to acquire a foundation of knowledge, skills, and values that will enable them to determine how to best use available technological resources to help all their students learn.  The Technology Committee’s review of progress achieved in this area confirms that while substantial work remains, the unit is making progress toward each of the six goals at the core of our technology initiatives.

Candidate Proficiencies Aligned with Professional and State Standards.  The unit’s focus on teacher decision-making requires that it offer candidates’ opportunities to acquire and refine a knowledge base from which they can draw plausible alternative responses to the “decision questions” that will emerge in their practice as teachers.  The ten goals included in the unit’s conceptual framework offer candidates’ an integrated foundation of research and wisdom directed toward this end.  Each of these goals is derived from one of Minnesota’s Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers (MSEPT).  Ten terminal standards are supported by a set of 120 enabling standards.  Together, all 130 statements define a necessary core of professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills for those who would be licensed as novice teachers for practice in Minnesota.  They in turn guide our efforts to prepare candidates for licensure.

Candidates seeking licensure as Minnesota teachers must complete an approved preparation program.  All such programs are approved by The Board of Teaching, the State of Minnesota’s licensure agency subordinate to the Minnesota Department of Education.  As a condition of their approval, a teacher preparation program must assure the Board that candidates for licensure have multiple opportunities to know, to apply, and to be assessed on each of the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers.  The unit plans its courses, field, and clinical experiences to provide these opportunities.  Board staff members review an institution’s documentation to verify that candidates enjoy such opportunities as teacher preparation programs describe.  The results of this “standards-based” approach must be “measured by teacher performance, and the performance of the students they teach” (Minnesota Rules 8700.7600.5.B.4.).  All of the unit’s programs were approved for compliance with Minnesota’s Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers by the Board of Teaching on 16 June 2000 and will be submitted for Board review on 1 July 2006.

Minnesota also stipulates the professional standards that must be evident in the experience of the candidates who are recommended for licensure by approved teacher preparation programs.  These standards are derived in part from the work of professional associations, K-12 and college educators, and the state’s citizens.  Approved programs, as a condition of their approval, must assure the Board of Teaching through documentation and performance that they provide all candidates with multiple opportunities to know, apply, and to be assessed on content standards in their area of licensure.  Experienced K-12 teachers and specialists in the licensure area affirm the probability that such opportunities as teacher preparation programs endeavor to provide.  All of the unit’s programs were approved by the Board of Teaching in 2000 and 2001.  Review of those programs will again take place using documentation that the unit will submit on 1 July 2006.

Commitment to Performance Assessment.  Formative assessment of candidates’ success in meeting these standards is included as part of each course, field, and clinical experience.  Summative assessment of candidates’ performance, as described in the Unit Assessment System aligned with the unit’s goals, the Board of Teaching’s program approval standards, the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers, and the professional standards issued by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.  The unit’s approach to candidate assessment explores performance in ways that are congruent with relevant standards for each licensure area.  Assessment of key standards assures the unit’s candidates, its school partners, and its licensure agency that the instruction, field and clinical experiences, and assessments used to prepare those candidates are guided by and affirm attainment of relevant professional, pedagogical, and subject matter standards (after Professional Standards, 2002).

We believe that the professional decisions educators make are at the heart of their effectiveness in fostering their students’ learning.  Those decisions are informed by educators’ knowledge, their values, and the personal, professional, and licensure standards guiding their practice.  Educators’ decisions include creative responses to contextual constraints that bound their efforts to help all their students learn.  This vision of the professional educator guides our assessment of each candidate’s performance.  Patterns of performance revealed by aggregating those individual candidate assessments can inform our evaluation of the program of study and practice intended to prepare and sustain their practice. Our assessment system contributes to our efforts to describe candidate performance in ways that support evaluation leading to program improvement (Conceptual Framework; Commitments, Assessment System).

References

Banks, J. A. (1991). Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. p.34.

Brubaker, Dale L. and Simon, Lawrence H. (1993). Teacher as Decision-Maker. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, Inc.

Cleary, L. M. and Peacock, T. D. (1998). Collected Wisdom: American Indian Education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Cooper, James M. (1999). "The teacher as a decision-maker." In Classroom Teaching Skills ( 6th Ed.). James M. Cooper (editor) pp. 1-19. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Education Department Conceptual Framework: Teacher as Decision-Maker. (2000; 2005).  Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

Education Department Diversity Plan:  2000-2005. (2000). Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

Education Department Diversity Plan: Progress Toward Our Goals. (2005). Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

Education Department Technology Plan:  2000-2005  (2000).  Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

Education Department Technology Plan: Progress Report.  (2005).  Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

Knowledge Base for Beginning Teachers. (2004).  Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Education Department.

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Smith, Carl B. (1992). Teacher as Decision-Maker. Bloomington, Indiana: Grayson Bernard Publishers.

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Valli, Linda (1990, November). "Teaching as moral reflection: Thoughts on the Liberal Preparation of Teachers." Proceedings of the National Forum of the Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges for Teacher Education, Milwaukee, 4-14 to 4-29.

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Revised July 31, 2005