Commitments

Commitment to Technology

Shaped by the tenets of our conceptual framework, our Technology plan guides the Education Department’s efforts to prepare prospective educators “who have the knowledge and skills to make decisions for using technology to most effectively help all students achieve their full potential as persons and as responsible world citizens in a democratic society.” Our candidates realize this vision for the technological transformation of education as they work toward six outcomes drawn from the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) developed by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, 2000). Their progress toward each of these six program outcomes is described through our use of a set of performance standards as outlined in our technology plan.

We intend that the candidates we prepare for licensure as teachers by Minnesota’s Board of Teaching will

  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of technology operations and concepts.
  • Plan and design effective learning environments and experiences supported by technology.
  • Implement curriculum plans that include methods and strategies for applying technology to maximize their students’ learning.
  • Apply technology to facilitate a variety of effective assessment and evaluation strategies.
  • Use technology to enhance their productivity and professional practice.
  • Understand the social, ethical, legal, and human issues surrounding the use of technology in schools and apply those principles in their teaching practice.

To help our candidates achieve these outcomes we are integrating seven technology goals throughout our curriculum. As new courses and field experiences are created or revised, we will use our human, physical, and fiscal resources to…

  • Provide all our pre-service teachers with appropriate opportunities to learn, apply, and be assessed on the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS).
  • Annually assess the current state of technology integration in courses completed by pre-service teachers.
  • Provide staff development for faculty and staff that will help them continue to implementation “best practices” for using technology in teaching.
  • Give high priority to recognizing and encouraging both the effective and the creative users of technology by Education Department faculty and staff.
  • Work with our partnering and cooperating schools to help them develop and implement
  • their respective plans for effective integration of technology in P-12 teaching.
  • Provide Education Department faculty and students ready and appropriate access to the best available instructional and informational technologies and support their use in research, personal productivity, and teaching.
  • Establish annual benchmarks and employ a review process for assessing the preparation and readiness of pre-service teachers to teach effectively with technology.

Once fully implemented, this technology plan will have helped us provide candidates with opportunities to acquire and refine a foundation of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will enable them to determine how to best use available technological resources to help all their students learn.

Commitment to Diversity

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University present us with an ethical imperative to conscientiously and comprehensively address diversity. As liberal arts institutions sharing a common vision and mission, our colleges’ exist to help “ensure the preservation of human cultures, to deepen human understanding and interdependence, and to prepare students for fully integrated lives of thought, action and love.” As Benedictine institutions, our colleges are further committed to “the cultivation of the love of God, neighbor and self through the art of listening, worship and balanced, humane living.” These values support a heritage of recognizing the worth of each individual. Supporting and encouraging each other, liberal arts and Benedictine values are not simply compatible with diversity initiatives; they demand them (Academic Catalog: 2000-2001).

There is also a very practical imperative that propels our colleges to act on their shared commitment to a diverse student body and faculty. The portion of ethnic and racial minorities in the United States is increasing. Demography reveals that about 30% of today’s school-age population are not Caucasian. By the year 2020, the non-white school-age population is predicted to increase to over 50% of those enrolled. Moreover, the number of school-aged children living in poverty is expected to increase substantially from the current rate of one it five. All colleges, secondary and elementary schools, as well as all other social institutions, must prepare deliberately for these anticipated changes. Our colleges must work to ensure that their graduates are prepared to live peacefully and productively in an increasingly pluralistic world.

Commitment to diversity is also an integral part of the Education Department’s conceptual framework. Our department’s philosophy identifies key values that we believe should inform effective teachers’ professional decisions. Two of those values are particularly germane to our perspective on diversity. The first is “humane interaction.” The second is embedded in our belief that all children, without exception, are capable of experiencing academic success. The Education Department reveals its deep committed to these values, in part, through its diversity plan.

As the Department’s conceptual model "Teacher as Decision-Maker” affirms, our aim is to prepare candidates who will make effective and responsible decisions on behalf of their students’ learning and development. According to James A. Banks (p. 34), the “key goal of the multicultural curriculum should be to help students develop decision-making...skills.” He explains that effective and responsible decision-making requires higher level thinking and knowledge, clarification of related values, and informed action choices. Our conceptual framework confirms that those components form the backbone of the Education Department’s vision for its candidates. That model is intended as our guide to ensuring that our candidates have the preparation and the will to ensure that all learners have the opportunity to succeed.

Thus anchored in our colleges’ and our own sense of mission to prepare teachers who can help all students learn, we work toward each of six goals. As we do so, we are…

  • Developing a strong diversity focus in our early foundations of education courses.
  • Increasing our candidates’ field and clinical work in classrooms with diverse student populations.
  • Increasing the diversity or our faculty and candidates.
  • Ensuring more pluralistic thinking among our candidates and faculty.
  • Increasing our knowledge about minority groups and their cultures.
  • Learning about and use pedagogies that give all learners opportunities to learn.
  • Helping candidates learn how to plan, implement, and assess differentiated instruction or adapted pedagogies.

We are now in the first phase of this ambitious plan, focused on revising the first courses in a prospective educator’s preparation program. Subsequent phases leading toward full implementation will continue over the next three to five years.

Commitment to Performance Assessment

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

Performance Assessment. We draw support from three of the principles of good assessment practice developed by the American Association of Higher Education (1992). The first principle holds that meaningful assessment of our candidates’ performance should not be “an end in itself but a vehicle for educational improvement. It’s effective practice, then, begins with and enacts a vision of the kinds of learning we most value for students and strive to help them achieve” (p.2). Our conceptual framework offers that vision. It directs the design and execution of performance assessments that mark each phase of candidates’ progress through our program. Because we value a liberal education “that provides a core of knowledge and enhances basic skills” of reading, writing, and using mathematics, we provide candidates with opportunities to assess their development of those skills and to correct those found to be deficient (Conceptual Framework, Philosophy) The value we place on acquiring expertise in the discipline or content area to be taught to others encourages our search for that competence when candidates are accepted, when they complete their methods field experiences, and again when they conclude their teaching internship. Our search for evidence of candidates’ successful efforts to foster learning in their K-12 students is focused by the high value we ascribe to helping all students learn.

We further agree that meaningful assessment of candidates’ learning is more likely to result from an approach that employs “a diverse array of methods, including those that call for actual performance, using them over time so as to reveal change, growth, and increasing degrees of integration. Such an approach aims for a more complete and accurate picture of learning, and therefore firmer bases for improving our students’ educational experience” (AAHE, 1992). We thus combine the contributions of in site performance measures such as work samples or performance profiles describing candidates’ teaching in methods course field experiences or teaching internships with their work on projects and their success with classroom and standardized examinations. We plan these indicators to provide a sense of candidates’ evolution, beginning with their discernment of a call to teaching by helping them confirm the strength of that call and the academic skills upon which they can draw to respond to is demands. Later assessments reveal the development of new knowledge skills, and values which will enable them to teach something to someone in some way and in some place.

We have focused our assessment of candidates’ performance on the ten goals guiding the design of our program. These goals are drawn from a body of knowledge anchored in empirical research and the wisdom of practice. They reflect the Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers, the principles upon which licensure of Minnesota’s teachers is based. We thus see our efforts to assess our candidates as “a goal oriented process. It entails comparing educational performance with educational purposes and expectations – these derived from the institution’s mission, from faculty intentions in program and course design, and from knowledge of students’ own goals” (AAHE, 1992).

As we continue to refine our assessment of candidates’ performance, we are working to incorporate Wiggins’ first postulate for the design of a “thoughtful assessment system” by providing opportunities for “students to justify their understanding and craft, not merely to recite orthodox views or mindlessly explore techniques in a vacuum” (Wiggens, 1993). Our assessments reflect the design of courses and experiences that are intended to help our candidates discover, acquire, and integrate a family of skills, knowledge, and dispositions that will help them prepare for a shift from “learner” to “learner-teacher.” Our assessment system needs to be responsive to that process of discovery, describing the efforts of candidates to grow into a role that demands creative, sometimes unorthodox responses to students’ needs to foster their learning.

Four broad assessment questions serve to focus our review of candidates’ performance as defined by institutional, state, and professional standards. We gather and assess information in response to the first of those four questions early in students’ work with us. "Do the candidates we prepare for licensure as teachers possess the basic academic skills that will sustain learning during our program of study and practice?" Our prospective candidates enjoy several opportunities to help us respond to this question as they assess their written, oral, and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of settings as they progress through their program of preparation for licensure. Students who discover deficient academic skills complete a remedial program in each such area prior to their acceptance as Education Department majors or minors preparing for licensure. Those remedial options include further diagnostic testing to confirm the Profile’s findings. Classroom, small group, or individual instruction follows for those with confirmed deficiencies. Tests or other assessments following instruction confirm remedial success.

We approach initial dispositions toward teaching through the introduction of ethical behavior as central to an effective educator’s practice. Students seeking acceptance as education majors or minors explore the meaning and implications of the “Code of Ethics for Minnesota Teachers” as approved by Minnesota’s Board of Teaching. These students are also expected to follow our own “Code of Ethics for Students Applying to or Accepted as Education Majors or Minors” as they progress through their program of study

Our second assessment question requires a different approach. “Do the candidates we prepare possess an integrated body of knowledge, skills, and values drawn from one or more disciplines central to their areas of licensure?" In responding to this question we focus our attention on candidates’ success in gathering and organizing the “subject matter” they are preparing to teach. Information responding to this question is often provided by candidates’ performance in courses or experiences offering them opportunities to know, apply, and be assessed on licensure standards We collaborate with arts and sciences faculty to develop analyses of how candidates experience standards drawn from institutional, state, and professional groups or learned societies guide this examination. The results are documented in our application to the Board of Teaching for approval of each licensure area included in our teacher preparation program.

Courses or programs may be selected for more intensive review based on patterns of student performance, changes in teacher licensure, and accreditation requirements. Such reviews of candidates’ performances provide evidence of the how they respond to opportunities to learn, apply, and be assessed on relevant “subject matter” standards. We use a family of related indicators, some embedded in courses completed by prospective educators and others external to their coursework, to reveal the extent of candidates’ integrated understanding of the knowledge, skills, and values that form their discipline or area of practice. Indicators suggesting an integration of subject matter knowledge include performance in a “capstone” course or experience providing candidates with opportunities to meet terminal performance standards in the subject matter for their area of licensure. Such courses usually come near the end of a candidate’s work in that discipline. These summative experiences often require the development of papers or projects created through use relevant modes of inquiry and analysis which together reveal one’s understanding of “major concepts, assumptions, debates, processes of inquiry, and ways of knowing that are central to the disciplines taught. These experiences often provide public affirmation of candidates’ understanding of their fields of study.

A third question guides our assessment of candidates’ teaching skills. “Do candidates possess pedagogical knowledge, skills, and values appropriate for their area of licensure?” All courses and field experiences included in our teacher preparation program provide prospective teachers with opportunities to learn, apply and be assessed on their attainment of the 130 enabling and terminal Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers. These standards together describe a necessary and sufficient pedagogy for those who would be licensed as elementary, middle, or high school teachers in Minnesota. Candidates reveal the effectiveness of these opportunities through evidence of their attainment of standards embedded in foundation courses, in their field experiences, in their pedagogy courses and related field experiences appropriate for their area of licensure, and in their teaching internships.

One of those indicators is an elemental “work sample” developed by each candidate during the field experience component of their pedagogy or “methods” courses. More comprehensive work samples prepared by candidates during their teaching internships. Such samples include the plan of instruction, (aims, goals, and objectives) for a hypothetical “unit” of several “lessons.” Work samples examined for this assessment question provide estimates of candidates’ knowledge of what they will teach.

Our fourth assessment question provides a summative focus for our review of candidates’ performance. “Can the candidates we prepare teach knowledge and skills to others while modeling values appropriate for their areas of licensure?” Opportunities to perform included in the teaching internship provide a comprehensive estimate of candidates’ emerging pedagogical knowledge and skills. This sixteen-week experience also affirms the extent to which candidates have successfully integrated the fund of disciplinary knowledge, skills, and values that will support their work with students during this extended internship. All candidates plan a unit (aims, goals, objectives, plausible learning activities and feasible assessment techniques) for the students and subject matter that falls within their area of licensure. They develop several lessons from that unit, which include estimates of their students’ prior learning, a plan of instruction, an estimate of their students’ learning at the close of the lesson or set of lessons, and a reflective analysis of their effectiveness as teachers. Assessments by candidates, their cooperating teachers and their college supervisors document the effects of these clinical experiences. Lessons are also videotaped for later review. Summative assessment of candidates’ clinical performance is documented in performance profiles prepared by college supervising teachers.

Program Evaluation. Examining our assessment of candidates’ performance over time on key indicators will reveal areas of our program in need of review and possible revision. Our evaluation of program elements, driven by the formulation of evaluation questions that reflect discrepancies between observed and intended performance, follows’ Stufflebeam’s approach to a decision-oriented evaluation process. This goal-based approach to evaluation defines the context in which patterns of assessed performance deviate from the expected performance on one or more goals. The knowledge, skills and dispositions candidates bring to their performance as well as the resources available to help them do so provide a second dimension (input). An examination of the process used to encourage and effect candidate performance helps us understand how those inputs are used. Candidates’ performance, the “product” of their and our efforts, offers a fourth component for our analysis of the value of a program element under review (Worthen and Sanders, 1987) A general procedure for pursuing a “CIPP” evaluation model as outlined by Stuffelbeam, included in Worthen and Saunders, provides us with a process for gathering organizing, exploring, and reporting evaluation findings to encourage improvement of candidates’ preparation.

Involving Professional Communities. Our success in preparing candidates for practice as educators depends on the collaboration of professionals from several intersecting communities. We are well aware of the “gap” that can all too easily appear when the world of “theory” that some expect to guide a colleges’ preparation of teachers comes into conflict with a world of “practice” as experienced by K-12 educators. We try to bridge that gap with the active involvement of faculty from our partnering and cooperating schools in the design of programs and assessments.

  • The Department’s faculty assess candidates’ progress toward our program goals through their work in foundations and methods courses.
  • The Department’s faculty often invest a portion of their sabbaticals working with K-12 schools to renew their understanding of the context in which our candidates will practice and thus anchor their teaching and assessing in that context.
  • We support the efforts of our colleagues in the arts and sciences to provide candidates with opportunities to know, apply, and be assessed on the knowledge and skills included in their area of licensure.
  • We invite K-12 faculty to join our faculty as instructors on leave from their schools or as adjunct faculty retaining their elementary or secondary appointments in area schools.
  • We formed teams of K-12 educators and college faculty to work together to design and refine our Teaching Internship Performance Profiles. Similar teams will contribute to the refinement of our concept of work samples.
  • Practicing K-12 teachers offer short term mentoring to our candidates during field experiences associated with their methods courses, offering formative reviews of their work.
  • Practicing K-12 educators also mentor candidates during their longer teaching internships, offering formative assessments of their emerging practice.
  • Employers of our candidates contribute their perceptions through annual surveys intended to identify program areas in need of closer review.
  • Candidates completing their programs with licensure as well as recent graduates are surveyed to gather their perspectives on our program’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Department’s Assessment Committee works with Arts and Sciences as well as K-12 faculty to review performance assessment information. That group commissions and conducts evaluation research to explore patterns of assessment data suggesting program elements in need of improvement. Evaluation findings are shared with the Department to encourage further exploration of ways to improve those elements found to be deficient. In this way differences between assessed and expected performance, linked to program goals, professional, and state standards, encourage focused evaluation and, when warranted, program revision.

References:

Academic Catalog 2000-2001. (2000). Saint Joseph, MN: College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

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

McIntosh, P. (1990). Interactive Phases of Curricular and Personal Re-Vision with Regard to Race. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.

National technology standards for students. (2000). Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE). (http://www.iste.org/standards/index.html)

Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning. (1992) Washington, D.C.: American Association of Higher Education.

Smith, G. P. “Who shall have the moral courage to heal racism in America?” Multicultural Education. 1998. Spring. pp.4-10.

Wiggins, G. P. Assessing Student Performance. (1993). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. p. 47.

Worthen, B. R. and Sanders, J. R. Educational Evaluation: Alternative Approaches and Practical Guidelines. (New York: Longman. 1987. p. 78.