Unit 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 two 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 should be expected to meet if prepared through the unit's revised licensure programs.
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 began a formal review of its conceptual framework in September of 2008 and continued to explore options during department meetings through April 2009. A small group agreed to meet during the summer of 2009 to continue their review and discussion of the existing model as well as alternative conceptions that had emerged during the previous year. Having identified four alternatives, each incorporating a core set of common elements, the committee presented its suggestions to the unit's faculty in October of 2010. As faculty were enmeshed in revising courses to accommodate new state standards while also responding to changes in licensure examinations, they elected to add "reflection" to the model then in effect, highlighting its role by modifying the model's graphic and strengthening he role of reflection in teachers' decision making. A second committee took on this task, completing its work in January of 2011. When shared with the faculty, all affirmed that "Teacher as Reflective Decision Maker" would become our new motto, that the work "reflective" would be added to the graphic, and that reflection would be incorporated in discussion of the unit's conceptual model with candidates.
Our conceptual framework, "Teacher as Reflective Decision-Maker," thus 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 term 'reflective' was added in 2011 to demonstrate an explicit focus on the development of thoughtful and reflective practice as an integral part of the decision making process.
The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University (CSB/SJU) Education Department recognizes that purposeful and reflective 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 the context of a body of knowledge that is deep and constantly expanding. Recent research highlights how expert teaching includes delivering effective instruction based on using available resources and interpreting assessment data (Raudenbush, 2008). It draws on central 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 and reflect on their effects when they focus on ...
1. Subject Matter. We 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 (Unit Goal 1 and subsequent goals, Unit Knowledge Base for Teacher Education http://www.csbsju.edu/Education/Knowledge-Base/KB-I.htm).
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. (Unit Goal 2)
3. Diverse Learners. Our candidates, recognizing how differences among students can influence their learning, make instructional decisions that reflect their students' backgrounds and exceptionalities (Unit Goal 3).
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 (Unit Goal 4)
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 (Unit Goal 5).
6. Communication. Our candidates use effective verbal, nonverbal, and media communication techniques to foster their students' learning (Unit Goal 6).
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 (Unit Goal 7).
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 (Unit Goal 8).
9. Reflection and Professional Development. Our candidates critically reflect on the effects of their instructional decisions on student performance, on the practice of their colleagues, and on the actions of others in their learning communities, then use those reflections to direct and sustain their professional renewal (Unit Goal 9).
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 all students' learning and well-being (Unit Goal 10).
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:
The intentional teacher actively makes decisions throughout this instructional structure and process. "The notion of an instructional regime is founded on a picture of teaching as a continuous interplay of assessment and instruction. An effective teacher is ever attentive to the current level of student skill and knowledge. The interplay is dynamic: The appropriate next step in teaching a concept or skill is predicated on the observable success in having taught the prior step" (Raudenbush, 2008, p. 210). Teachers must, therefore, learn to gather and process information, then act at each step of every lesson.
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 four-step Rational Decision Model (1992). But we believe that competent professional educators cannot arrive at such decisions without the benefit of a fifth step that encourages teachers to appraise the outcomes of their decisions. It is through this fifth step that the critical component of reflection becomes the crux of our view of the teacher as a reflective decision-maker.
- Formulating the decision question (planning, implementing, or evaluating),
- Collecting and 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)
Only upon careful and thoughtful analysis do choices become apparent. Once teachers perceive the need to make decisions about planning, implementing, or evaluating instruction, candidates who have been introduced to and practiced a reflective 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 and curricular standards established by states and school districts as well as one's philosophy of teaching and learning.
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.
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. Reflection, necessarily a conscious undertaking for most, allows teachers to examine current experiences, behaviors, and situations, in preparation to identify and address the patterns in future events (Albers, 2008).
The unit visualizes this decision-making process with a simple model. See the model here.
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 reflective 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. Then members of the department 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 that has been used by the department since 2005. 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. 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.
After presenting this new draft of the theme and rational to the Teacher Education Council, Sass collected and incorporated the feedback of his colleagues and into 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 and led 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, they 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. As 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.
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.
When the Council convened again on 3 May 2004, members returned to this task by offering a wide range of suggested revisions. 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. During the 13 December Council meeting this committee shared its findings. 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. 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.
Refining our Shared Vision. In the fall of 2010, the Teacher Education Council revisited the "Teacher as Decision Maker" framework. Recalling the work of the "model committee" during the previous summer, which included Professors Sass and Michael Borka, the Council asked that they reform to assess the suitability of the current framework for continued use. Inviting Professor Allison Spenader to join them on this quest, the three presented their recommendations during the October 2010 Teacher Education Council meeting. The team proposed that the unit retain the "Teacher as Decision Maker" framework, but enrich the model by renewing and expressing our dedication to reflection as a means of developing teacher awareness and competence. The department unanimously approved the addition of the revised model of "Teacher as Reflective Decision Maker" at that 2010 meeting.
Professors Sass, Borka and Spenader began the process of re-examining and re-envisioning the framework. They further explored the role of 'reflection' in teacher education while also reviewing the research literature that would inform the "Teacher as Reflective Decision Maker" model. The changes they proposed for the unit's conceptual framework and supporting knowledge base were presented to the Professor Grochowski, the unit's chairperson, in January of 2011.
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. Recent studies have concluded that excellent teacher education programs "have integrated clinical work with coursework so that it reinforces and reflects key ideas and learning" (Darling-Hammond & Hammerness, 2005). These studies emphasize the importance of shared vision and common standards of practice for assessing coursework and field experiences throughout the unit. Our unit's past practice, as revealed in records of its proceedings, confirms that it continues to use the core principles of 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 unit's 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 helped 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 Reflective Decision Maker" thus emerges as a significant element in its preparation of professional educators able to serve all learners. While the new graphic will begin to replace the old, the unit's increased emphasis on the role of intentional reflection is evident.
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 (MSEPT) 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).
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).
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). 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).
The unit's approach for providing greater diversity of candidates, faculty, and experiences takes more detailed form in the Education Department's Diversity Report and Plan (2011-2012). Our current plan was overseen by Ms. Jeanne Cofell, Director of Partnerships and chair of unit's Diversity Committee, draws on the foundation established by previous diversity plans (2000; 2005). Continuing consultation with the unit's faculty and the colleges' staff revealed a set of goals, related objectives, and activities for each objective. Supporting attachments provide information on the unit's progress toward those goals, derived from prior plans. With the support of its sponsoring colleges, the unit has made significant progress toward achieving the goals that drive our unit diversity plan.
- Continue to develop a stronger diversity focus in foundational courses and experiences by expanding service learning opportunities in educational settings.
- Enrich candidates' field experiences with diverse learners by identifying additional urban schools with diverse populations that could host our week-long urban immersion and 30-hour area school diversity experience.
- Continued to work for greater diversity among faculty in our unit by building stronger relationships with professional organizations serving faculty from diverse groups and with educational institutions preparing graduate students for faculty positions.
- Increase the diversity among candidates by strengthening our relationships with graduates of our licensure programs who are employed in diverse settings to help us identify and support students from minority groups who may be interested in the teaching profession.
- Increase pluralistic thinking among our students and faculty by modeling this quality in our courses and teaching practices, increasing the unit's focus on teaching students with exceptionalities in mainstream classrooms, improving the coherence within and across pedagogy practica, and improving the formative assessment our candidates' work with diverse populations and pedagogies.
- Increasing unit faculty and staff knowledge about the history and culture of minority groups by developing individual, small group, and unit-wide training programs, open to our K-12 partner school faculty, that focus on diverse groups and cultures enrolling in our partner schools and taught by our candidates and graduates.
We continue to invest in this plan as we strive to better prepare candidates who can meet the need of tomorrow's diverse society.
Our goals include preparing candidates who are equipped to make effective and responsible decisions on behalf of their students' learning and development. Bank's notes that, "the key goal of the multicultural curriculum should be to help students develop decision-making skills" (p.34). 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 our "Teacher as Reflective Decision-Maker" framework confirms that those same components form the backbone of our unit's approach to preparing teachers for Minnesota's schools who are prepared to help all their learners succeed (2011-2012 Diversity Plan and Report)
Horowitz et al. advocate for a focus on developmental awareness, wherein teachers are mindful of the "whole child developing in particular social contexts" (2005, p. 95). The unit shares the view that ongoing clinical experiences are particularly integral to the goal of developing candidates' cultural diversity awareness through opportunities for observation and apprentice teaching in a variety of classroom settings. Today's classroom teachers must differentiate instruction for a diverse, student population while adjusting to shifting federal and state education policies, creating and adapting curricula, and taking on additional tasks and roles inside and outside of the classroom (Valli & Buese, 2007). The Teachers as Reflective Decision-Maker model speaks to this aim in that all aspects of the professional preparation attend to the contextualized experiences of both teachers and learners. A review of the unit's diversity plan and related documents will provide reveal greater student diversity in the field and clinical sites welcoming our candidates (Unit Partnership Plan and Updates). Our Diversity Report will also reveal our unsuccessful efforts to strengthen the racial and cultural diversity of our faculty and candidates, despite slow growth on the institutional level.
Commitment to Technology. The 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).
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 unit 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).
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).
Guided by these tenets of its conceptual framework, in 2000 the unit developed and approved its first Unit 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 as noted in our 2000 unit diversity plan.
- Technology resources should 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.
- Technology resources should 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.
- Technology resources should 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 help 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.
Continuing pursuit of five 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. Our unit technology goals were first established in 2000, renewed in 2005, and revised 2011 by the unit's technology committee. Surveys of faculty and candidates use of technology in our licensure programs provide evidence of progress toward those goals. The 2011 Unit Technology Plan includes the following five goals to guide the unit for the next three to five years.
As a department we provide students with many opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions identified in both the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers, technology-related Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers and National Council for the Accreditation of Education (NCATE) standards related to educational technology. We recognize, however, that there is always room for growth. Analysis of our strengths reveals gaps that will influence changes in our practices and acquisition of technology in the years ahead. The following goals and objectives will guide those changes for the next three to five years.
Goal 1: To continue providing pre-service teachers with appropriate opportunities to learn, apply, and to be assessed on the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T).
Goal 2: To provide pre-service teachers with opportunities to learn about emerging digital tools and their appropriate pedagogical uses.
Goal 3: To provide pre-service teachers with opportunities to explore the uses of online teaching and learning.
Goal 4: To strengthen learning to use instructional technology in 9-12 pedagogy courses.
Goal 5: To assess the preparation and readiness of pre-service teachers to teach with technology appropriate for their grade level and discipline.
As in the past, we expect that pursuit of these goals and their related objectives will help uncover and create opportunities for the unit's candidates to acquire an ever stronger 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 report of our progress confirms that while substantial work remains, the unit continues to make progress toward each of the five goals that form 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 teachers' 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 2005 and will be submitted for Board review once again on 1 July 2013.
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 2005. Review of those programs will again take place using documentation that the unit will submit on 1 July 2013.
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 (2012), is 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 regulatory 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 upon intentional reflection 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).
Albers, C. (2008). Improving Pedagogy through Action Learning and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Teaching Sociology, 36, 79-86.
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.
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