Teacher as Decision-Maker: Mission, Aims, and Goals

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University are residential colleges pursuing the liberal arts within the Catholic university tradition.  These two rural Minnesota institutions work together to offer their students “a unified liberal arts curriculum which focuses on questions important for the human condition, demands clear thinking and communicating, and calls forth new knowledge for the betterment of humankind.”  Through this shared curriculum these two colleges strive as one to offer their students “an integrative environment for learning which stresses intellectual challenge, open inquiry, collaborative scholarship, and artistic creativity.”  These colleges recall their monastic founders by celebrating learning within Benedictine settings that “foster attentive listening to the voice of God, awareness of the meaning of one’s existence, and the formation of community built on respect for individual persons” (Academic Catalog, p. 4).   

Given these colleges’ common mission, the Department of Education that is jointly sponsored by the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University takes as its aim the preparation of  “exemplary teachers who have a strong liberal arts background, exemplify Benedictine values, and make professional decisions which can help all students achieve their full potential as persons and as responsible world citizens in a democratic society” (Education Department Conceptual Model, p. 5).

Focused by this aim, and consistent with the efforts of the two colleges, the Education Department’s mission is to offer those prospective teachers “a rich and diverse background of coursework and experiences that stress intellectual challenge, open inquiry, collaborative scholarship, and that promote clear thinking.”  This unit’s mission encourages the preparation of  “teachers who make their informed and ethical classroom decisions based on a firm knowledge of content, pedagogy, and the needs of their students” (Conceptual Model, p. 6). 

Students enrolled by the colleges and prepared for licensure by Minnesota’s Board of Teaching reflect this mission and aim as they work toward the Education Department’s program goals.  The knowledge, skills, and values that are acquired and affirmed through candidates’ pursuit of these goals strengthen the decisions they make as they plan, implement, and evaluate their practice (Conceptual Model, p. 2).  The department’s goals are guided by the Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers, licensure standards set by Minnesota’s Board of Teaching (1999).  The 10 terminal and 120 enabling standards in this collection were derived from guidelines developed by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium.

The Education Department’s ten program goals, drawn out of  the knowledge base supporting the conceptual model which guides the design of its curriculum, include:

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

  2. Learning and Development.  The candidates we prepare for licensure draw on their understanding of learning and developmental processes to choose optimal ways that encourage their students’ intellectual, social, and personal development (Knowledge Base, p.9).

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

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

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

  6. Communication.  The candidates we prepare for licensure as teachers use effective verbal, nonverbal, and  media communication techniques to foster their students’ learning (Knowledge Base, p. 38).

  7. Planning.  Our candidates for licensure plan and effect instruction as they decide what content they will teach, to whom they will teach it, in what ways they will do so, and with what effect (Knowledge Base, p. 42).

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

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

  10. Collaboration.  The candidates we prepare for licensure as Minnesota teachers enhance their effectiveness as educators by working together with their colleagues, their students’ parents, and members of their school community to create and sustain a positive learning environment that can enhance students’ learning and well-being (, p. 58).Knowledge Base