The unit's philosophy calls for the preparation of teachers who believe that "all students can learn" even if in different ways, at different rates, and at different levels. Those who accept this premise must therefore "not only be knowledgeable about the content they teach, but must also know about and be committed to making decisions that involve the use of a variety of instructional strategies and approaches appropriate for the diverse learning needs of their students" (Framework, Philosophy, p. 3). The decision-making model that is at the core of this unit's preparation of professional educators calls upon candidates for that role to acquire and use
"a body of professional knowledge" that includes "foundational knowledge" (knowledge of learning, development, and human exceptionalities) and an understanding of the principles of effective practice (knowledge of pedagogy, instructional technologies, motivational strategies, management techniques, and assessment methods). This body of knowledge forms the basis of the information from which available alternative for the decisions questions are formulated (Framework; Theme, p. 2).
Elements of all ten of the unit's program goals provide a foundation of professional knowledge in which candidates' can anchor their decisions about teaching and learning. Course, field, and clinical experiences guided by these goals offer candidates' the opportunity to realize the context within which their practice as professional educators will take place. Further, as they integrate these experiences, candidates begin to form a personal "knowledge base" to guide their decision-making.
A conceptual foundation for teaching practice is consistent with the performance-focused accreditation standards offered by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). That organization finds that candidates for licensure should use "professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills delineated in professional, state, and institutional standards" to create experiences that will help all their students learn (Professional Standards, p. 18). In doing so, candidates enrich their understanding of the context in which they will practice through work directed by five of the unit's program goals. They are described in detail in the unit's knowledge base as well as in the unit's abridged 2012 Conceptual Framework. These five goals include...
Goal 2 Student Learning and Development,
Goal 3 Diverse Learners,
Goal 5 Learning Environment,
Goal 9 Reflection, and,
Goal 10 Collaboration.
Revised during the 2011-2012 academic year, as this foundation grows will support the development of "pedagogical content knowledge" representing a synthesis of content (the subject to be taught) with a growing knowledge of teaching methods adapted to that content (how to teach that subject). This interaction of subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge informs, and is informed, by one's evolving sense of a content specific pedagogy. Knowing "what to teach" tempers the selection and refinement of "how to teach." Candidates thus adapt "a broad knowledge of instructional strategies" to the unique demands of their subjects, the needs and talents of their students, and the influences of the settings in which they will teach to offer the "multiple explanations" that will help all their students learn (Professional Standards, p. 17).
Two performance dimensions drawn from analysis of the first program goal reveal indicators of the candidate's integration of subject matter and teaching methods. Four related program goals contribute an analysis of candidates' pedagogical content knowledge, including dimensions of...
Goal 1 Subject Matter,
Goal 4 Instructional Strategies,
Goal 6 Communication,
Goal 7 Planning, and,
Goal 8 Assessment.
The unit's perspective on the role that such pedagogical knowledge, skills, and values might play in candidates' teaching is reinforced by the institutional standards for the approval of teacher preparation programs by Minnesota's Board of Teaching. That agency requires candidates for licensure to be prepared in "high quality education programs that are cohesive, comprehensive, and based on research, theory, and accepted practice (Minnesota Rules; 8700.7600.5.A.1). Further, approved programs must require that its candidates "complete a professional sequence of courses" that provide opportunities to know, to apply, and to be assessed on each of the 136 Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers (8700.7600.5.A.2). In doing so, the Board expects that candidates "can integrate general, content, professional, and pedagogical studies as measured by teacher performance and the performance of the students they teach" (8700.7600.5.B.4). This integrative process could be reinforced by faculty who "encourage the candidate's development of reflection, critical thinking, problem solving, and professional dispositions" (8700.7600.5.G.10).
We should thus expect those who are prepared for licensure as teachers in Minnesota to have acquired pedagogy appropriate for the content area and grade level they are prepared to teach. This expectation leads to the third assessment question. Do candidates possess the pedagogical knowledge, skills, and values appropriate for their areas of licensure? Reflecting the distinction between foundational and functional knowledge, the question is divided to address these two types of teaching knowledge. Matrices for these two sub-questions reveal the linkage between standards, proficiencies, and performance indicators.
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