III. Evidence

Standard 1: Candidate Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions

Candidates preparing to work in schools as teachers know and demonstrate the content, pedagogical, and professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn. Assessments indicate that candidates meet professional, state, and institutional standards.

Despite the lack of a single definition, performance assessment is aimed at moving away from testing practices that require students to select the single correct answer from an array of four or five distracters to a practice that requires students to create evidence through performance that will enable assessors to make valid judgments about “what they know and can do” in situations that matter. Elliot Eisner

Element 1: Content Knowledge of Teacher Candidates

Teacher candidates have in-depth knowledge of the subjects that they plan to teach as described by national, state, and unit standards.

The unit’s assessment system calls for evidence of candidates’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions.  Four assessment questions focus the use of that system, each aligned with relevant institutional, state, and professional standards. The first of these questions, “do candidates possess the basic academic skills and values that will sustain their learning?” encourages confirmation of the skills that all candidates will use as they acquire the knowledge and wisdom of their chosen profession. Affirmation of candidates’ academic skills enhances their “potential for professional success,” among the qualities noted in the standards used by Minnesota’s Board of Teaching to approve institutions preparing teachers for licensure (Minnesota Rule 8700.7600; D.1).

As they conclude their “tier one” courses and field experiences and apply for acceptance as candidates in preparation for licensure, college students in their second year of study present evidence of their strengths as emerging scholars, including college entrance test scores, grade averages, writing performance revealed by the unit’s essay examination, Praxis I scores, affirmation of their oral communication skills, and a recommendation from their Symposium writing instructors. Although the Academic Profile, a criterion-referenced examination of general academic knowledge and skills, is not longer used to confirm prospective candidates’ academic skills, the unit continues to use the performance levels derived from the Profile as standards describing the skills of prospective and accepted candidates. Those whose performance in any academic skill falls into “Level 1” may be provisionally accepted as candidates while they complete a developmental program for each deficient area prior to unrestricted acceptance. Those performing “Below Level 1” in reading, use of the conventions of written English, mathematics, public address., or writing performance are encouraged to reconsider their prospective major, as the time and effort needed to reach “Level 2” in a skill area may prove greater than their resources will allow. Additional information on the sources of information used to assess prospective candidates’ academic skills is included in the unit’s assessment plan (Unit Assessment System, Assessment Question 1).

Findings: Academic Skills. Indicators used by the unit to review the academic skills of students seeking acceptance as candidates during the past academic year appear in Table III.1.1. Nearly all of the unit’s candidates complete the College Board’s ACT examination as they apply for admission to our colleges. The mean ACT Composite score for 2003-2004 Saint John’s and Saint Benedict’s matriculants was 25. All who seek acceptance must have attempted the Educational Testing Services “Praxis I” or Pre-Professional Skills Test prior to their application. Prospective candidates presenting academic skills indicators below Level Two for the unit’s writing performance assessment or for either their ACT or PPST skills scores complete an additional diagnostic examination to confirm a skill deficiency. Should weakness be confirmed, all are urged to pursue one of several developmental opportunities designed to resolve skill deficiencies before seeking acceptance. Conditional acceptance may be offered to candidates who require additional time to acquire needed skills, have transferred into the college, or who apply for acceptance late in their college careers. The unit’s Student Teaching Handbook reviews required skills and more frequently selected developmental opportunities (Basic Skill Proficiency).

Table III.1.1 Academic Skills Indicators for Prospective Candidates Seeking Acceptance as Elementary Education Majors or Secondary Minors: 2004-2005

Note: Recorded ACT Composite and sub-scores in reading, writing mechanics, and mathematics are the candidate’s highest scores if more than one set is presented   Mean scores are presented for all indicators except the median scores for the Education Department Writing Assessment (EDWA). Acceptable performance in any skill area is at or above the equivalent of “AP Level 2” as suggested by ACT sub-scores of 24 or PPST sub-scores of 175 in reading, 174 in writing, and 173 in mathematics. College cumulative GPA (GPA Coll) must equal or exceed 2.5 (“C+” or “BC”) on all courses completed prior to and following acceptance. High school GPA (HSGPA) but presented for comparison.

Table III.I.2 describes candidates’ academic skills using information drawn from Institutional Summary Reports for the Praxis I, the Pre-Professional Skills Test, provided by the Educational Testing Service. Scores for all prospective and accepted candidates completing examinations from 1 September through 31August are included in each test year. These tables reveal the relative mean percent correct earned by unit, state, and national candidates on content categories forming the three Praxis I skill tests. Thus the 54,183 individuals in the United States who completed the PPST Reading examination (2.A) during the 2003-2004 test year correctly answered an average of 75% of the test items devoted to “literal comprehension.” Those taking this test in Minnesota during that same year correctly answered an average of 78% of the items in this content area, three percentage points above the national mean. The 60 individuals enrolled in our two colleges who sat for this examination in that year correctly answered an average of 79% of the items included in this category, 1% above their Minnesota colleagues and 4% higher than their national peers.

Table III.1.2 Mean Percentage Correct: Praxis I Performance by Test and Skill Area

The unit’s prospective and accepted candidates exceeded the mean percent correct for each academic skill and their respective sub-skills earned by their state peers with the exception of those who completed the reading examination during 2002-2003. In that test year the unit’s candidates equaled the national sample’s performance for “inferential comprehension (70% correct) but answered an average of 75% of the items confirming their “literal comprehension,” one point ahead of the national sample.

Since 1986 the unit has given special emphasis to writing performance as an essential academic skill required of all who would practice as elementary or secondary teachers. All prospective candidates are required to complete the Education Department Writing Assessment by providing a writing sample on an educational topic. In the fall of 2004 assessed writers described and defended a dress code suited for middle schools. Those writing essays for the spring assessment defended an honor code for middle school students. One week prior to the test date all who registered for the writing assessment received a reading packet with advice on how to write a persuasive essay, readings from several sources offering different positions on the topic chosen for their use, and the “prompt” with the scoring guide faculty would use to judge their performance. The packet invited writers to add notes or outlines to their reading packet, search for additional information they might use during the two-hour essay session. Reading packets were collected with prospective candidates’ essays. Essays were holistically scored by a trained team of unit faculty and staff. Candidates offering essays scored and affirmed below Academic Performance Level Two were invited to confirm their performance and, if necessary, pursue developmental opportunities. Table III.1.3 summarizes the essay scores awarded to those prospective candidates in their first or second year of study who completed their writing assessment during the past academic year. The table also includes comparable scores awarded to essays written by prospective candidates during the academic year of the unit’s previous accreditation visit.

Table III.1.3 Education Department Writing Assessment Fall 2004 and Spring 2005

While we might hope for more Level Three essays from these first and second year students, that demanding standard is often descriptive of fourth year candidates’ performance. Essays written during the past academic year, however, included only 10% rated below Level Two (9 of 93). Almost one-third of the 130 essays written during the 2000-2001 school year were rated below Level Two (38 of 130, 30%).  Fourteen of those 130 writing samples were judged to be “Below Level One,” a rating suggesting significant weakness in formulating and expressing ideas in writing (14 of 130, 11%). Examination of essay ratings during the intervening years confirms improvement in candidates’ overall writing performance.

Fourth year candidates enrolled in “Issues in Education” (Education 359) during the semester prior to student teaching complete a comprehensive classroom management plan focused on one of the two classroom settings in which they will observe and teach for eight of the sixteen weeks that form their clinical experience. Candidates’ plans are scored for writing quality using the unit’s common rubric. Candidates whose plans are not scored at Levels Two or Three must be revised to reach at least Level Two.

Table III.1.4 includes writing quality ratings for management plans submitted by 93 candidates during the past academic year. More than one-half were rated at “Level Three” (50 of 93, 94%). While one-fourth were written at Level Two (20 of 93, 25%), about one-fifth were rated as Level One writing samples (20 of 93, 22%). Candidates who wrote their plans at Level One most often reported that they did not revise or proof what often appeared to be a modest first draft.

Table III.1.4 Course Embedded Writing Assessment: Education 359 Fall 2004 and Spring 2005

Plans prepared by four of the 20 in this group revealed significant performance deficiencies beyond spelling, punctuation, or grammatical oversights. All candidates offering revised Level One plans reached or exceeded Level Two.

Information focused by our first assessment question generally confirms that the majority of the unit’s prospective and accepted candidates have the academic skills to successfully complete their licensure programs of study and practice and enter the teaching profession. Over the past five years candidate’s knowledge of fundamental mathematics has improved. Their capacity to express themselves in writing and orally, while improving, will continue to require vigilant review to ensure that candidates’ write at the level their profession will demand. Reading skills may emerge as an area of concern if candidates’ preferences for the diversions offered by electronic media further weaken their ability to learn from text.

Findings: Content Knowledge. All teacher preparation institutions approved by the State of Minnesota’s Board of Teaching must affirm that the candidates they prepare for licensure have opportunities to know, apply, and to be assessed on the “central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the disciplines taught” (Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers (MSEPT), Standard 1). This foundation of disciplinary knowledge is further defined by the content standards established by the Board for the each licensure program (Minnesota Rules, Chapter 8710). Candidates preparing for Minnesota licensure as teachers of “elementary education with a specialty” (8710.3200), for example, must “demonstrate knowledge of fundamental concepts of mathematics and the connections between them.” Those fundamental mathematical concepts include “mathematical patterns, relations, and functions, including the importance of number and geometric patterns in mathematics” (8710.3200.3.C.1). These content standards, derived form the work of learned societies, experienced educators, and interested citizens help the unit prepare candidates prepare to meet the needs of Minnesota’s youth.

During the 1999-2000 school year each of the academic departments supporting the unit’s licensure programs examined the courses and related experiences their faculty designed to provide candidates with the content knowledge on which they will base their teaching practice. During this internal review arts and sciences faculty documented candidates’ opportunities to know, apply, and to be assessed on the content standards for the licensure program founded on their disciplines. That documentation, when supplemented by information from the unit, was then reviewed by external evaluators prepared by Board of Teaching staff. All of the unit’s licensure programs passed this external review and were approved by the Board during the 2000-2001 academic year (Institutional Overview, Tables I. 3 and I. 4 The unit will again submit documentation affirming compliance with all relevant standards for each of its licensure programs in July of 2006.

Comforting as this external review might appear, the unit is called by its second assessment question to confirm that its “candidates possess an integrated body of knowledge, skills, and values drawn from one or more disciplines central to their area of licensure” (Unit Assessment System, Assessment Question Two). What is the influence of those carefully documented opportunities to know, apply, and to be assessed on candidate’s knowledge of the subjects they are preparing to teach to others? We can draw from several sources of information to respond to this question, including candidates’ performance in courses within their major fields of study. Course grade point averages (GPA) may serve as a general indicator of content knowledge for those courses that are intentionally aligned with state standards and confirmed through external review as providing candidates enrolled in them with opportunities to know the “major concepts, assumptions, debates, processes of inquiry, and ways of knowing that are central to the disciplines taught” (MSEPT 1.A, INTASC 1.1). Table III.1.5 reveals the grade point averages for candidates completing their preparation for licensure during the 2004-2005 academic year. Grade point averages for education courses and cumulative college grade averages are provided for comparison. As elementary education candidates take their college major in the Education Department where they acquire K-6 “generalist” content knowledge integrated with teaching methods, averages for this program are included on “Content Area GPA.”

Table III.1.5 Performance of 2004-2005 Candidates in Standards-Based Content Courses

Elementary candidates seeking licensure in Minnesota must, however, acquire advanced content knowledge from courses and experiences offered by arts and sciences faculty which have been aligned to specialty standards and confirmed through external review. Table III.1.6 provides recounts grade point averages earned by 2004-2005 elementary candidates in approved courses that provide opportunities to know and understand the content of their specialty.

Table III.1.6 Performance of 2004-2005 Elementary Candidates in Standards Based Grade 5-8 Specialty Content Courses Performance of 2004-2005 Elementary Candidates

While college faculty accept grade point averages as useful descriptions of their students’ performance, even grades from “standards-based” courses that are intentionally “aligned” to help their students meet licensure standards may include tasks unrelated to those standards on which grades are based.  Variations in faculty grading practices can introduce errors that may further distort their meaning. A more consistent indicator of candidate knowledge might be found in the examinations required of candidates who seek to be licensed as Minnesota Teachers.

Table III.1.7 Unit Pass Rate on Content Tests for Initial Teacher Preparation

For 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 Academic Years

Developed by the Educational Testing Service, the Praxis II series of examinations have been selected by the Board to affirm a fundamental level of disciplinary knowledge for all who are licensed as teachers. The unit must report candidates’ scores on these examinations to the Secretary of the United States Department of Education as required by Title II of the 1998 amendments to the Higher Education Act. Table III.1.7 presents the unit’s candidate pass rates for the two years during which passing scores were required by the Board for licensure. Candidate performance on tests completed during the 2004-2005 test year will not be available until spring of 2006. Information drawn from previous “Title II” reports is published on the unit’s web site.

While test information required for compliance with Title II affirms that all of the unit’s candidates have passed all required content examinations since the Board of Teaching required their use, we can learn more about the content knowledge acquired by our candidates from the Institutional Summary Reports prepared by the Educational Testing Service following the close of each test year. Unfortunately even these modest summaries are limited to Praxis II examinations completed by ten or more candidates in that year. The following table summarizes our recent elementary level candidates’ K-6 content knowledge in each of four broad areas.

Table III.1.8 Elementary Candidates’ Mean Percent Correct on Major Praxis II

Content Areas Compared With Their State and National Peers

Test results presented in Table III.1.8 suggest that our candidates may have recalled more of their knowledge of language arts and mathematics with greater accuracy when completing their Praxis II “elementary generalist” examinations in the past three test years. During the most recent year for which we have test information, the unit’s 47 elementary candidates completing this examination correctly answered an average of 77% of the language arts questions, a mean exceeding that of their Minnesota peers by only 2% and their national peers by 3%. Performance in mathematics was stronger, with a mean percent correct (82%) that exceeded the mean for others completing the same test in Minnesota by 6% (76%). Mean scores in mathematics earned by our candidates (82%) in 2003-2004 exceeded the mean for their national peers (68%) by 14 percentage points.

Elementary candidate’s knowledge of social studies and science, on the other hand, may be less comprehensive than that of their state and national peers. During the 2003-2004 test year the unit’s candidates correctly answered an average of 59% of the social studies items, a mean percent correct that was 2% below the means of their state and national peers (61%). Science knowledge may also be a weak area, as our candidates correctly answered an average of 65% of the items forming this content area, one point below the mean for their Minnesota peers (66%), but 2% greater than the mean for all completing the test in the United States.  The unit has begun a review of the preparation it offers candidates in social studies to uncover and strengthen areas of weakness. The departure from state and national performance levels in science suggested by Praxis II results is less dramatic, but still encourages closer monitoring of students’ performance in their science content courses.

Less information from Praxis II examinations is available to review the content knowledge of the unit’s candidates for secondary (5-12 or K-12) licensure as a result of limited number who completed any one of those tests in a given test year. Table III.1.9 summarizes the content knowledge of the eleven candidates who completed the English language and literature examination during the 2003-2004 test year. The mean percent correct on this examination earned by these eleven future English teachers is generally similar to that measure for those who completed the same test in Minnesota and in the United States.

Table III.1.9 2003-2004 Secondary Communication Arts and Literature Candidates’ Mean Percent Correct for Content Areas Included in their Praxis II Examinations

Table III.1.10 describes the experience of twelve candidates who completed their Praxis II secondary social studies content examination during the 2003-2004 test year. Their performance was somewhat higher (+2%) than their Minnesota colleagues in U. S. History, World History, and Political Science, although their mean percent correct (68%) is low. The test performance of this group of candidates was less encouraging with respect to their tested knowledge of geography (-2%), economics (-3%), and the behavioral sciences (-2%) relative to others who completed the test in Minnesota that year. Mean percent correct for these three content areas hovers at or below 68%.

As with elementary candidates, secondary social studies teachers may find that the “social studies” amalgam they must master, having no cohesive disciplinary core of shared principles or methods of inquiry, present challenges that their content courses do not help them meet. National and state social studies content standards do not provide that necessary coherence (Wineburg, 2005). The unit has begun a dialogue with college faculty in the social sciences and with experienced 5-12 social studies educators to explore ways to strengthen candidates’ performance in this licensure area.

Table III.1.10 Social Studies Candidates’ Mean Percent Correct for Each Content Area

Performance in content courses aligned to licensure standards and on examinations thought to be congruent with those standards provides two perspectives on the subject matter knowledge of the units’ candidates. A third perspective, perhaps the clearer of the three, is revealed by Student Teaching Performance Profiles describing candidates’ teaching in clinical settings. Performance Profiles are anchored in the ten program goals that guide the unit’s curriculum and in selected enabling objectives as derived from the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers (MSEPT). Profiles are completed by college supervisors from information they gather during their observations of student teachers, from judgments rendered by candidates’ cooperating teachers, and from documentary evidence preserved in candidates’ student teaching portfolios. Described in detail in the unit’s assessment system (Unit Assessment System; Appendix C), these standards-driven, rubric-based profiles of candidate performance contribute to our review of their content knowledge as revealed through analysis of their unit and lesson plans. Profiles thus estimate the extent of candidates’ content knowledge “in use” as opposed to examinations which selectively estimate accumulated knowledge potentially available for classroom use.

Median scoring guide (rubric) ratings serve as performance indicators for all candidates on each selected performance dimension. Ratings across all performance dimensions offer a summative estimate of knowledge and skill for all candidates completing their clinical teaching during an academic year for which information is available. While most performance dimensions and indicators are similar for both elementary and secondary candidates, some necessary variations reflect the unique challenges and opportunities that shape the practice of candidates teaching in clinical settings at each level of licensure. Table III.1.11 offers summative judgments of the subject matter knowledge revealed in the student teaching performance of elementary candidates over the past three academic years. The following table, III.1.12, uses as similar approach to estimate the content knowledge used by secondary candidates for the past two years. The scoring guides or rubrics that distinguish performance into one of four levels, reproduced for each of the following tables, appear in Appendix C of the unit’s plan for its assessment system.

Table III.1.11 Elementary Student Teaching Performance Profile; Content Knowledge Performance Dimensions Performance Indicators

Performance Indicators for Performance Dimensions Related to Goal 1 (Source: Unit Assessment System, Appendix C1: Elementary Performance Profiles, 2002)

1.A. Candidate’s performances reveal understanding of major concepts, assumptions, debates, processes of inquiry, and ways of knowing that are central to the subjects they share with their students (MSEPT 1.A; INTASC 1.11).

1: Not Met. Candidate reveals insufficient prerequisite knowledge to encourage students’ learning. Candidate performance reveals content errors and/or disorganized, confusing content knowledge.

2: Basic. Candidate displays basic content knowledge but does not go beyond textbook information. Performances reveal difficulty responding to impromptu questions, missed opportunities to elaborate, or uncorrected misconceptions.

3: Proficient. Candidate displays solid content knowledge, anticipates some student misconceptions, and can respond accurately to some student questions.

4: Distinguished: Candidate displays extensive content knowledge, with evidence of continuing pursuit of such knowledge; anticipates and corrects student misconceptions, and can respond accurately to student questions.

1.J Candidates integrate subject matter knowledge, skills, and methods of inquiry with that of other disciplines related to the subject matter they share with their students (MSEP 1.J; INTASC 1.36).

1: Not Met. Candidate’s planning does not reveal intentional efforts to integrate content with other subjects.

2:Basic. Candidate reveals some effort to coordinate or integrate content.

3: Proficient. Planning includes explicit objectives for integration with other content areas.

4: Distinguished Candidate’s objectives encourage student initiative in making connections with other content areas.

Performance Indicators for Performance Dimensions Related to Goal 1(Source: Unit Assessment System, Appendix C2: Secondary Performance Profiles, 2003)

1.C. Candidate’s performances reveal efforts to connect disciplinary knowledge to other subject areas and everyday life (MSEPT 1.C; INTASC 1.13). The candidate…

1. Not Met. Does not integrate content with other subjects or everyday life.

2. Basic: Makes an effort to coordinate or integrate content/experiences some of the time.

3. Proficient: Uses objectives that provide opportunities for integration with other content areas and everyday life.

4. Distinguished: Uses objectives that require student initiative in making connections with other content areas and everyday life

1.E. Candidate uses multiple representations and explanations of subject matter concepts to capture key ideas and link them to students’ prior understanding.  The candidate…

1. Not Met. Uses one teaching strategy; does not link subject to students’ prior understanding.

2. Basic. Uses more than one teaching strategy; seldom links to prior understanding.

3. Proficient. Adjusts teaching strategies in response to students’ new and prior understanding.

4. Distinguished. Displays exceptional ability to adjust and implement multiple teaching strategies; links all new learning to prior understanding.

1.I The candidate uses a variety of Bloom’s levels to encourage students to understand, analyze, interpret and apply ideas. The Candidate…

1. Not Met. Does not understand the importance of teaching at as many levels as possible, consistently teaching at one.

2. Basic. Indicates some awareness of Bloom’s levels; occasionally teaches beyond the knowledge level.

3. Proficient. Teaching methods reflect a clear understanding of Bloom’s levels; often teaches beyond the knowledge level.

4. Distinguished. Creates strategies and methods to cover several of Bloom’s level; requires students to perform at all of Bloom’s levels.

Findings drawn from these performance profiles necessarily reduce the richness and complexity of candidates’ student teaching experiences to a set of observable performance dimensions on which they can be reliably rated by experienced K-12 teachers using a set of “measurable” performance indicators. Review of the portfolios on which these ratings are based, and review of the performance database where individual candidates’ ratings are preserved, confirms the utility of this approach to supporting a summative performance review.  As we learn more from our experiences with their use, revisions in the design of the profiles and in their use by college supervisors will continue.  An audit of 2004-2005 candidates’ portfolios and their profiles, completed in July of 2005, confirmed the usefulness and the accuracy of this approach while also identifying areas for improvement and recommendations for strengthening candidates preparation for success in their student teaching (Student Teacher Portfolio Review; 2005)

Teacher candidates demonstrate their knowledge through inquiry, critical analysis, and synthesis of the subject matter that they plan to teach.

The Board of Teaching’s most recent audit of the unit’s licensure programs, completed during the 2000-2001 academic year, confirms that standards-based courses within disciplines, reinforced by those of the unit’s courses and field experiences that focus and refine subject matter knowledge, offer all candidates a range of opportunities to “demonstrate their knowledge through inquiry, critical analysis, and synthesis of the subject” (Professional Standards, p. 14).  Documentation gathered for each licensure program offers a most complete description of these opportunities.

Brief note of some of the ways our candidates develop a body of knowledge that can inform their teaching, drawn from licensure program documentation, may provide a frame of reference for the summative review of candidates’ performance toward which the unit’s assessment system is directed.  Elementary candidates must gather and integrate knowledge, skills, and values from several disciplines that form the subject matter of their licensure. Those who pursue an elementary education major will find that The Developing Person (Education 200) offers a knowledge base that includes major theories and principles of human development (MSEPT 1A). These theories guide the accretion of information from the domains of physical, cognitive, social, and emotional human development spanning early childhood through late adolescence. As they do so, these candidates will also discover principles of artistic expression through their work in Fundamentals of Art (Education 151). As they working in a variety of art media prospective candidates will encounter “discipline based art education” as a way to structure the aesthetic experiences of their future students as stipulated by national standards and Minnesota’s framework for the arts.

Elementary education majors seeking licensure will find opportunities to discover Literature For Children and Adolescents (Education 215), demonstrating their acquired knowledge informally through small group projects such as the evaluation of picture books to determine complementarity between text and graphics. Formal demonstrations completed individually include a critical analysis of age-appropriate novels to derive a set of critical criteria which could be used to guide elementary students’ learning.  Elementary candidates enrolled in Reading, Writing, and Language Growth: K-6 (Education 347) review research on how children learn to read and write and contrast those findings with professional and state standards intended to encourage such skills. They expand their understanding of this body of research by using its tenets as a guide for conducting an analysis of troubled readers in K-6 settings.

Elementary majors and physics, chemistry, and biology majors join together in an exploration of how national and state science standards define the body and structure of knowledge drawn from their disciplines to help all students learn as they complete Middle Level Learners and the Sciences (Education 358). During their work in this Tier Two course they will discover how such guidelines can define and focus the science knowledge, skills, and values they are acquiring for their teaching practice.

Secondary candidates pursuing licensure in physics and enrolled in Intermediate Physics Laboratory complete laboratory experiments in optics and thermodynamics that reinforce principles of physical science and the process of scientific inquiry (Physics 332). Their peers majoring in the visual arts will complete a series of progressively more advanced studio courses culminating in a public showing of their advanced art works.  Candidates preparing to teach French to K-12 students will use their second language to write and deliver a research paper in a public forum. Future English teachers enrolled in Post-Colonial Literature (English 383) will integrate their emerging knowledge of colonial rule and anti-colonial resistance as they uncover the emergence and development of literary themes.

Guided by our second assessment question, this summative review of secondary candidate’s content knowledge finds that the unit’s candidates possess an integrated body of knowledge, skills, and values drawn from one or more disciplines central to their area of licensure. This body of knowledge includes the “central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the disciplines” in which they will anchor their first years of teaching. Performance in courses designed to provide opportunities to know and apply content knowledge, results of licensure examinations, and performance in each of two eight week student teaching experiences confirm that most candidates in all programs have the subject matter knowledge and skills required of them by Minnesota’s licensure standards.

Element 3: Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Teacher Candidates

All of Minnesota’s approved teacher preparation programs include documented opportunities for candidates to know, apply, and to be assessed on standards that refine understanding of unique ways to teach a body of knowledge, skills, and values defined by a licensure area. These experiences were documented, externally reviewed, and approved by Minnesota’s Board of Teaching for each of the unit’s elementary and secondary programs during 2001-2002. As review of program documentation prepared for this review will confirm, the courses and field experiences that form the core of each licensure program offer candidates the opportunity to develop a pedagogical content knowledge base for their licensure areas.

Findings: Pedagogical Content Knowledge. The unit’s assessment of this facet of candidate performance is guided by its third assessment question, “Do candidates’ possess pedagogical content knowledge appropriate for their areas of licensure?” (Unit Assessment System; Assessment Question 3b).

Teacher candidates present content to students in challenging, clear, and compelling ways and integrate technology appropriately.

Candidates’ student teaching experiences provide an opportunity to confirm the influence of their growing fund of pedagogical content knowledge through expert observation and assessment of their teaching performance.  Four goals drawn from the unit’s conceptual framework and aligned with state and professional standards offer the basis for this summative review. Together with Goal 1 (subject matter) candidates’ pedagogical content knowledge is revealed in their use of instructional strategies (Goal 4), communication techniques (Goal 6), instructional planning (Goal 7), and assessment of their students’ learning (Goal 8). Performance dimensions and indicators for each of these goals, derived from elementary and secondary level performance profiles, appear in the following tables.

The unit’s assessment system recalls the rubrics or scoring guides on which each of these indicators are based (Unit Assessment System; Appendix C). All candidates must perform at or above the “basic” level on all selected standards. The unit’s expectation is that they will advance their performance during their sixteen week student teaching experience to “proficient” performance on most, if not all, of these core standards. Performance indicators included in the following tables implicitly affirm candidates’ development of relevant facets of pedagogical content knowledge. Review of individual candidates’ profiles in the unit’s performance data base and in their student teaching portfolios with the documents on which they are based will reveal individual differences not evident in group data

Profiles for each year included in the foregoing tables confirm that candidates in those groups for which data is presented met selected state and unit standards. Profiles for these selected standards suggest that candidates’ acquired a fund of pedagogical content knowledge that informed their efforts to plan, deliver, and assess the learning of their K-12 students. This finding is consistent with the unit’s expectations of the novice teachers it recommends for state licensure.

While formative experiences supporting the development of candidates’ pedagogical content knowledge are beyond the scope of this summative assessment, a brief look at the range of opportunities for learning that they provide may offer a helpful frame of reference from which to view performance profile ratings.

Teacher candidates have a through understating of pedagogical content knowledge delineated in professional, state, and institutional standards.

The unit’s “methods” or pedagogy courses are designed to encourage candidates to acquire such knowledge through opportunities to plan and execute limited teaching assignments in supervised field settings.  Candidates’ performance as judged by instructors and cooperating K-12 teachers promotes their acquisition of content-specific teaching skills that will be further honed during their student teaching clinical experiences.

Elementary candidates enrolled in Reading, Writing and Language Growth (Education 347), for example, begin to shape their pedagogical content knowledge as they discover instructional strategies from their textbooks and observations of classroom teachers. They review National Council for Teachers of English and International Reading Association standards as they consider ways to use emerging technologies to develop effective reading and writing instructional strategies. They test their growing knowledge developing and teaching lessons, first to their peers and then to school-age children.

Those elementary candidates pursuing a specialty in 5-8 social studies and their secondary level peers enrolled in Mid-Level Literacy and Pedagogy in Social Studies review the professional standards for their level of licensure as developed by the National Council on Social Studies and Minnesota’s recently revised student standards for that area within the context of the unit’s conceptual framework (Education 358). Candidates have opportunities to realize these standards through the design of lessons that draw upon and expand their knowledge of the disciplines forming this licensure program. Those lessons reflect the needs of diverse learners and learning preferences. Working together, these future middle-level teachers plan and offer a “mini-unit” that will invite middle level students in area schools to discover the customs and traditions of another country.

Teacher candidates provide multiple explanations and instructional strategies so that all students learn.

When elementary candidates pursuing a middle level specialty in language arts join English majors seeking 5-12 licensure to refine their knowledge of Mid-Level Literacy and Pedagogy in Language Arts (Education 358), they will begin to acquire, refine, and integrate pedagogical skills with knowledge of literature and language.  They do so by first playing the role of “teacher” in simulations of regular classroom events such as reading aloud, giving directions, presenting mini-lessons, and brainstorming options for dealing with a range of learners. A week-long practicum at a local middle school enables candidates to observe master teachers using a range of teaching and management styles.

They work informally with middle school students as they begin to identify their own teaching styles.  Moving closer to the actual duties of a teacher, each candidate prepares a five-day unit.  In their lesson plans for these units, candidates demonstrate knowledge of age-appropriate “best practices” in language arts instruction. They incorporate Minnesota’s language arts standards, formal and informal assessments, and modifications for diverse learners into their plans. At the end of the semester, candidates teach one of their lessons to a group of middle school students and follow that experience with shared reflection on their performance as they are critiqued by their college instructor, middle school faculty, and their peers.

Given the pattern of performance revealed for each group of candidates included in the unit’s performance profile, tempered by their experiences in the unit’s second tier of “methods” courses, we affirm that the unit’s candidates possess pedagogical content knowledge appropriate for their area of licensure.

Element 4: Professional and Pedagogical Knowledge and Skills for Teacher Candidates

Minnesota’s rules for teacher licensure require that approved programs of study and practice offer their candidates’ multiple opportunities to learn, practice, and be assessed on knowledge, skills, and values that reflect a growing base of professional and pedagogical knowledge. The Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers (MSEPT; 1999), derived from earlier descriptions devised by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, define a necessary and sufficient foundation of professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills for Minnesota’s novice teachers.  Board of Teaching review of the unit’s professional and pedagogical curriculum during the 2000-2001 academic year affirmed that all candidates have such opportunities. Extensive documentation supporting that finding reveals the role played by these 130 terminal and enabling standards in the unit’s preparation of its elementary and secondary candidates. That documentation is available for review.

Teacher candidates develop meaningful learning experiences to facilitate learning for all students. They reflect on their practice and make necessary adjustments, know how students learn, and make ideas accessible to them. They consider school, family, and community contexts in connecting concepts to students’ prior experience.

How might the unit confirm that its “candidates possess the professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills appropriate for their areas of licensure?” (Unit Assessment System, Assessment Question 3a). Five goals drawn from the unit’s conceptual framework guide candidates’ learning and performance in this area. We might expect clinical performance to reveal progress toward these goals as candidates draw upon their knowledge of learning and development (Goal 2) and diverse learners (Goal 3) to form and maintain effective learning environments (Goal 5). Eight weeks of observing and teaching in each of two clinical settings during student teaching provide opportunities to observe the effects of candidates’ work toward becoming “reflective practitioners” (Goal 9) through collaboration with their professional colleagues (Goal 10).

These goals also inform the design of student teaching performance profiles for elementary and secondary level candidates. These profiles capture expert observations of candidates’ performance and related judgments of documents included in their portfolios to provide an estimate of professional and pedagogical knowledge as it informs their teaching. Table III.1.15 includes summative ratings for elementary candidates completing their preparation during the past four years. Secondary candidates’ performance is described in Table III.1.16.

Table III.1.15 Elementary Level Student Teaching Performance Profile: Professional and Pedagogical Content Knowledge, 2001-2005

Teacher candidates reflect a thorough understanding of professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills delineated in professional, state, and institutional standards.

Minnesota requires all candidates seeking licensure as teachers to verify the extent of their professional and pedagogical knowledge by completing an examination of the “Principles of Teaching and Learning” for their level of licensure. The modest analysis of their test responses provided by the Educational Testing Service during the past three years offers a useful if indirect estimate of candidates’ professional and pedagogical knowledge aligned with Minnesota’s Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers.

The performance of all candidates on this examination equaled or exceeded Minnesota’s minimum passing score.  Looking more closely at their performance in “content areas” aligned with state standards for “pedagogical and professional knowledge” (Institutional Program Approval, 8700.7600.5.B.4), we find that the mean percent correct earned by the unit’s candidates exceeded the equivalent mean for all who completed the test in the United States. The unit’s elementary level candidates performed below their state peers on fixed response items exploring “students as learners” (02-03, -2%) and “teacher professionalism” (01-02, -4%; 02-03, -2%). Candidates in 2001-2002 found analysis of cases exploring “Instruction and Assessment” more difficult than did their state peers in 2002-2003(-2%). These deficiencies were not evident in the mean percent correct earned by candidates completing a Praxis II “PLT” examination in the 2003-2004 test year. Performance profiles for elementary candidates do not confirm these test deficiencies.

Principles of Learning and Teaching Content Areas

Candidates seeking licensure at the secondary level also equaled or exceeded Minnesota’s “cut score’ for their examination over the pedagogical and professional knowledge informing “Principles of Learning and Teaching” for their licensure. In all but one content area (“Teacher Professionalism” case analyses) for one test year (02-03) the mean percent correct earned by the unit’s candidates equaled or exceed the national performance set by all who completed this Praxis II examination. Troubling patterns of lower than expected performance, however, appear in two of the three test years for which we have test information (01-02, 02-03) describing candidates’ case analyses of “communication techniques” (-2% below state peers) and “teacher professionalism” (-5% and -4% respectively). While secondary performance profiles do not reveal observed deficiencies in these areas, the unit devised a set of Praxis guides to better prepare all candidates for the item format and content areas they would encounter in their “PLT” exams.

Candidates’ student teaching performance and their licensure test results reflect the opportunities they experienced to know, apply, and to be assessed on standards that define pedagogical and professional knowledge. Among these first tier “foundations” and second tier “methods” learning opportunities, all fully documented for licensure program approval, we find all prospective candidates in their first year exploring their personal histories to find the roots of what will become their emerging educational philosophy as they encounter research on effective teachers and schools tempered by the history of American public education (Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World, Education 111). Those who prepare for elementary licensure will enroll in Literature for Children and Adolescents (Education 215) where they will distinguish between selection and censorship as they learn specific criteria for selecting books by and about oppressed groups to better know the values of one’s local, regional, and world communities.

All preparing to teach language arts to middle level learners will encounter the challenge of planning and teaching students in grades five through eight who offer a wide range of abilities and prior learning (Mid-Level Literacy and Pedagogy in Language Arts, Education 358) In these diverse instructional settings candidates realize that their well-crafted lesson plans offer only one of many possible paths to learning. Success at helping all students learn will depend on their skillful adjustment of those plans to fit learners’ needs.

If acquiring and using knowledge of schools and schooling enhances instructional practice, then those elementary and secondary level candidates for whom summative judgments are reviewed in the preceding analyses possess the professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills appropriate for their areas of licensure.

Element 5: Dispositions for Teacher Candidates

Candidates work with students, families, and communities in ways that reflect the dispositions expected of professional educators as delineated in professional, state, and institutional standards.

The unit’s conceptual framework identifies a set of values drawn from the monastic communities that founded our two colleges.  These values are woven throughout the formal and informal experiences that prospective and accepted candidates experience during their preparation for licensure. Recalling that framework, we claim that …

Exemplary teachers embrace the Benedictine values of commitment to service, concern for community, and respect for all persons (deWaal, 1984) and are, therefore, not only knowledgeable and caring, but have a passion for teaching and improving the lives of their students. This 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 interest 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 decisions made by others.

(Conceptual Framework; Philosophy)

We thus expect that the candidates we prepare will make reasoned decisions that will encourage the learning of all their students. They will judge the merit of their decisions through a process of reflection that draws on “self-evaluation through a critical analysis of decisions and their outcomes” balanced by “moral and ethical reflection to ensure that the decisions were in students’ best interests (Conceptual Framework; Theme).

In addition to a disposition for action that reflects the unit’s unique set of values, we further expect candidates to choose to behave in ways consistent with the “Code of Ethics for Minnesota Teachers” as enforced by The Board of Teaching (Minnesota Rule 8700.7500). Licensure standards call upon candidates to “understand standards of professional conduct” that might guide their practice (MSEPT 9.k). Inspection of the unit’s licensure program documentation will confirm the range of candidates’ opportunities to know, apply, and to be assessed on facets of that code of conduct through analysis of case studies in foundation courses and recalled in assignments completed during student teaching.

Candidates are expected to follow the unit’s code of professional conduct as described in “Guiding Principles for Faculty and Students” and shared with them in the unit’s Teacher Education Handbook. As we work together we “accept responsibility for our performance of the duties included in our roles,” working for “unity with diversity that draws on our individual strengths to form a unified community of scholars, teachers, and students” (Guiding Principles).

Evidence of how dispositions might guide behavior is more difficult to acquire. The fourth assessment question in the unit’s fourth assessment question includes a focus on dispositions that reflect the unit’s conceptual framework and which are evident in Minnesota’s institutional and core pedagogical standards (question 4). Evidence gathered in response from the portfolios of elementary candidates draws on their guided reflections concerning their fulfillment of key Standards of Effective Practice. These guiding questions encourage an ethical analysis of the candidates’ decisions and the behaviors they compel. Responses influence ratings reported in candidates’ summative performance profiles.

How did you provide information regarding student progress to other students, parents, and colleagues?

How did you demonstrate professionalism in dress, conversation, or other ways?

How did you demonstrate dependability, initiative, enthusiasm, commitment to the profession, flexibility, and keeping an open mind?

Secondary student teachers complete a comprehensive “reflective practice summary” guided by the unit’s program goal nine which offers an opportunity to explore and “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.” This assignment often draws ethical issues emerging during their clinical practice into focus for many candidates (Portfolio Assignment 13, Reflective Practice Summary). Elements of “professionalism” are included in the summary evaluations of candidates offered by cooperating and supervising teachers.

Founded on such formative assessments as are included in their student teaching experience, candidates’ performance profiles offer a useful perspective on their disposition to behave as professional educators who are guided by our institutional and unit values.

Allowing for the difficulty in ascribing actions to the influence of particular values or attitudes, inferences drawn from clusters of performance indicators and supported by portfolio assignments suggest that the unit’s elementary and secondary candidates are aware of and accept key values central to the aims of our colleges and the mission of the unit.

Teacher candidates accurately assess and analyze student learning, make appropriate adjustments to instruction, monitor student learning, and have a positive effect on learning for all students.

Candidates prepared for licensure must possess the academic skills to acquire and integrate a body of content, professional, and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and values.  If, through the units’ program of study and practice, they should reach that end, can these candidates draw upon this fund of integrated knowledge, skills, and values to teach others? To expect that they can do so is consistent with the unit’s philosophy and mission. If indeed “all students can learn…in different ways and at different rates,” then candidates for licensure must “use their content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and understanding of their students to make informed and ethical classroom decisions that foster their students’ learning (Conceptual Framework, Mission).

Such an outcome is expected of teacher preparation programs approved by Minnesota’s Board of Teaching.  That agency anticipates that “candidates integrate general, content, professional, and pedagogical studies as measured by teacher performance and performance of the students they teach” (Minnesota Rules: Institutional Program Approval;8700.7600.B.4). The influence of candidates’ work on their students’ learning is implied in standards advanced by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, anticipating that a program’s “teacher candidates…have a positive effect on learning for all students (Professional Standards, p.16). Such expectations seem to reflect the folk maxim that “if the student has not learned, the teacher has not taught” would suggest. The National Academy of Education’s 2005 call for A Good Teacher in Every Classroom advances a “vision of professional teaching” that “connects teaching with student learning and requires teachers to be able to point to evidence of that learning (p. 6).

During their student teaching the unit’s candidates follow an explicit model for planning, gathering, analyzing, and reporting their students’ learning at the beginning, in the midst of, and at the conclusion of the instructional units that are at the core of this clinical experience. These instructional units take the form of modified “teacher work samples” guided by a format developed at Western Oregon University and refined through use in teacher preparation programs affiliated with the Renaissance Partnership for Improving Teacher Quality.  The unit’s design for candidates’ work samples to be completed during student teaching was developed in fall of 2000 and adopted after revision in the fall of 2001 as part of the portfolio completed by elementary level student teachers.  Table III.1.21 reveals the elementary level work sample’s dimensions and performance ratings given to the samples prepared by the units’ candidates during the 2004-2005 academic year.

Drawing on an earlier requirement for completing an instructional unit during their student teaching experience, secondary level student teachers began using a structured work sample modeled on the format devised for their elementary level peers in the fall of 2003.  Table III.1.22 summarizes the experience of 2004-2005 secondary candidates with this approach to documenting their efforts to encourage meaningful learning of all their clinical students.

Findings. Candidates completing student teaching prepare extensive portfolios that include lessons, units, instructional materials, observations of their work, and evidence of their students’ learning in classroom settings.  All portfolios include candidates’ diagnostic review of three K-12 students’ learning as they experience the instruction that forms the core of the work sample. Their college supervisors and cooperating teachers support candidates efforts to review, judge, and reflect on the outcomes and processes related to the design and use of these work samples. Independent audit of candidates’ student teaching portfolios affirms the success of their efforts to encourage their students’ learning (Student Teaching Portfolio Reviews, 2005).

Table III.1.21 Elementary Student Teaching Portfolios: Audit of Elementary Candidates’ Work Samples, 2004-2005

Rubrics are reproduced in the Unit Assessment System; Appendix C.3

Table III.1.21 reveals that the elements we might expect to see in an assessment of students’ learning are evident in these work samples. Documentation provided by all elementary candidates was sufficient to affirm that their instruction encouraged their students to acquire meaningful knowledge and skills.  Most candidates used some variation of a computer-managed grading system to record unit scores for each student. Candidates’ analyses of assessment results, when offered for their classes as a whole, confirms the success experienced by each of the students in those classes. Elementary candidates diagnostic analyses of the learning experienced by each of three selected students in their classes offer further confirmation that learning occurred as intended.

Secondary student teachers also prepare a unit of several lessons offered to students enrolled in their clinical sites. This unit provides the work samples explored for Table III.1.22. While scoring of secondary work samples differs from scoring used with elementary candidates’ samples, an audit of those samples prepared by 2004-2005 student teachers confirms that learning occurred as intended in the unit plans of all but one candidate.

Student teaching performance profiles also describe the work of candidates in clinical settings and may thus affirm some dimensions of candidates’ success in arranging the conditions that will enhance the possibility that student learning as documented in work samples will occur in other settings and at other times.

Rubrics are reproduced in the Unit Assessment System; Appendix C.2

On the whole, candidates’ performance profiles suggest that most were able to successfully arrange conditions which are likely to encourage their students’ learning, thus supporting findings from reviews of their student teaching portfolios and particularly their work samples.

Analysis of all 2004-2005 candidates’ portfolios, work samples, and performance profiles confirms that nearly all were able to document how and to what extent they met the unit’s curricular aim, to “foster their students’ learning.” Summative review of their performance confirms that the unit’s candidates can teach meaningful knowledge and skills to others while modeling values appropriate for their areas of licensure.

Candidates whose performance is described in the foregoing analysis thus “meet professional, state, and unit standards” as they reveal their knowledge and use of “the content, pedagogical, and professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn” (Professional Standards, page 14).”


Student Teacher Portfolio Review. (2005) Saint Joseph, MN: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University Education Department

de Waal, E. (1984). Seeking God: The Way of Saint Benedict. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Eisner, E. W. (1999) The Uses and Limits of Performance Assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 9, 658-660.

Institutional Program Approval: Minnesota Rules: 8700.7600.B.4 (1999). Roseville, MN: Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Board of Teaching.

Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers. Minnesota Rules 8700.2000 (1999). Roseville, MN: Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Board of Teaching.

National Academy of Education. (2005) A Good Teacher in Every Classroom: Preparing The Highly Qualified Teachers our Children Deserve. San Francisco. John Wiley and Sons.

Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education. (2001). Washington, DC.: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Prospective Candidates’ Performance on the Pre-Professional Skills Test: 2000-2003. (2004) Saint Joseph, MN.: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University Education Department.

Student Teaching Portfolio Review (2005) Saint Joseph, MN. College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University Education Department,

Teacher Licensure: Minnesota Rules 8710 (1999) Roseville, MN. Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Board of Teaching.

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

Wineburg, S. (2005) “What Does NCATE Have to Say to Future History Teachers?  Not Much.”

Phi Delta Kappan, V86, #9, p. 658.


Revised July 30, 2005