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Conceptual FrameworK

This section provides an overview of the unit's conceptual framework(s). The overview should include a brief description of the framework(s) and its development.

C.1.   How does the unit's conceptual framework address the following structural elements? [Please provide a summary here. A more complete description of the conceptual framework should be available as an electronic exhibit.]

  • The vision and mission of the unit
  • Philosophy, purposes, goals, and institutional/agency standards of the unit
  • Knowledge bases, including theories, research, the wisdom of practice, and educational policies that drive the work of the unit
  • Candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions, including proficiencies associated with diversity and technology, that are aligned with the expectations in professional, state, and institutional/agency standards
  • Summarized description of the unit's assessment system

The vision of the Education Division is to be a national leader in the preparation of highly effective teachers using innovative teaching and interactive technology strategies.  We envision a Division with faculty who improve the intellectual lives of students and create an academic environment recognized nationally for excellence in teaching that leads to the personal and professional transformation of our students.  Quality teaching is our paramount concern and we believe our students must be prepared to engage in creative problem-solving to compete in a global market.

The mission of the Education Division is to provide high-quality undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation programs that result in the personal and professional transformation of our students.   Our programs combine classroom and field-based experiences in various programmatic areas to promote the acquisition of essential knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to teach successfully in a variety of educational settings.  The Division fosters relationships with our PK-12 partners and highly regarded educators in an effort to achieve our mission. Our partnerships are a critical component of our ability and strategy to cultivate, nurture, and prepare future educators.

The mission of the Education Division is echoed in its strong commitment to pedagogical practice that is inclusive and constructivist. The Division aims to prepare teacher candidates to work with diverse populations by remaining committed to the deep seated disposition that all students can learn. Candidates are encouraged to model a constructivist view of knowledge and see learning as a self-regulated process (Vygoyski, 1986; Lincoln, 2001). The mission of the Division, ultimately however, is to prepare caring, competent, committed, and community-active professionals who:

  • demonstrate a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences that affords students the skills and  intellectual knowledge base upon which mature and in-depth study can be undertaken;
  • value experiential learning and interdisciplinary study;
  • possess content knowledge (knowledge about the subject they are teaching), pedagogical knowledge (knowledge of general instructional strategies), pedagogical content knowledge (knowledge of specific strategies for teaching a particular subject), and context knowledge (knowledge of community, district, and school);
  • possess an unwavering respect for learning, diversity, cultural difference, and multicultural education;
  • strive to differentiate instruction so that all students can learn at their own pace;
  • personify an ethic of caring;
  • uphold the ideals of justice, equity, an opportunity for all people;
  • think creatively, reflectively, and critically in grappling with a panoply of educational challenges;
  • act collaboratively and professionally;
  • maintain high standards of excellence for themselves and for their students; and
  • honor critical life-long learning.

The Education Division’s vision and mission statements clearly embrace and operationalize Thomas University’s branding statement:

 “ Education that Engages…Empowers…TRANSFORMS.”

The Division of Education is dedicated to producing the highest quality professional educators.  Currently, the Division offers Bachelor of Science degree programs in early childhood education, middle grades education, secondary grades education (Mathematics and English), and a post-baccalaureate certification program in middle grades and secondary education (mathematics and English).  The Education Division’s philosophy is focused on using principles of effective teacher preparation programs, including, but not limited to: small class size; frequent one-on-one interaction between teacher candidates and faculty;  field experiences in school classroom that begin early and take place throughout the program; courses taught by highly-qualified professors; advisors who provide academic and personal support; and technology-integrated classrooms.

The philosophy inherent to the conceptual framework of the teacher preparation programs at Thomas University are the principles of a constructivist paradigm.  We believe that learning is a socially mediated process which learners use new knowledge and apply what they have learned (Vygoyski, 1986; Lincoln, 2001). These beliefs emphasize “minds-on” learning. This endorses our belief that all learners, including the candidates we prepare, must be intellectually engaged in the learning process by building on their previous knowledge and experiences, and applying their new learning in meaningful contexts. To become a constructivist (mediator of learning) the teacher preparation candidate must be guided by the development of the child, motivation, and learning.

The adoption of a developmental approach(Fuller 1970; Conway & Clark, 2003) to teacher preparation provides the rationale to personalize the education of both traditional and non-traditional age professionals, as well as supporting the constructivist paradigmfor teaching and learning. Learning experiences are designed that are cumulative in nature and move the teacher candidate from “exploratory” performance towards “empowered” expertise.

The purpose of the programs in the Division is to develop teachers who are self-directed decision makers, recognizing the need for personal and professional growth, having the skills necessary to pursue them, and secure enough to engage in personal and professional self-evaluation. Candidates can recognize and meet the needs of young people and use their liberal arts background, content preparation, and the principles of education in attempting to meet those needs and facilitate the acquisition of knowledge. They can provide an educational environment to enhance the social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of individuals so that they may make sense of their world by making effective decisions. The candidate will also interact effectively within the community and the school environment by having the skills and willingness to communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds. By analyzing emerging trends and thinking critically about them, they will effectively and ethically balance the needs of the child and society as well as use intellectual skills and knowledge to think critically and pursue self-directed goals.

The Division has adopted a developmental approach to teacher preparation. Each developmental stage represents knowledge of general and disciplinary content, and pedagogical content from a prescribed sequence of courses. Candidates are assessed at multiple transition points to ascertain their worthiness to continue with the program.

 To accomplish our mission, the goals of the Division of Education are to:

  • Provide programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels based upon sound pedagogical and clinical practice
  • Prepare teachers and educational leaders for Georgia who believe “all students can learn”
  • Employ and support faculty members who are committed to excellence in teaching
  • Provide a variety of teaching venues incorporating the latest technologies to a range of diverse student interests, backgrounds, and aspirations
  • Maintain resources and facilities that allow each program to meet its expected outcomes
  • Collaborate with PK-12 school partners to enhance students’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions, and to influence the ongoing exchange of ideas for mutual benefit
  • Engage in outreach services
    • To address specific needs in the broader community,
    • To enhance student learning,
    • To instill commitment to service, and
    • To promote the reputation of the University

The faculty recognizes the need for learner-centered education. That is, faculty empowers graduates with the ability to customize their teaching to meet the needs of their individual students. Faculty promotes this by utilizing an inquiry-focused pedagogical model wherein candidates learn by solving real world problems. These include adapting practice for different learning styles and incorporating diverse perspectives to make their practice relevant to students from different racial and cultural backgrounds. Candidates also learn to include adaptations to modify lessons for advanced students as well as students with special needs.

The Division of Education’s conceptual framework professional practices include candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions that are aligned with the expectations in professional and state standards. The Thomas University Advanced Outcomes and Proficiencies are:

1.     Advanced Professional Knowledge

Candidates use research-based, discipline-specific knowledge and pedagogy in coordinated and engaging ways to facilitate student learning.   Each candidate: 

    1. Possess a deep understanding of learner development and learner differences to ensure learning environments where all learners meet high standards.
    2. Utilizes a comprehensive body of content knowledge as well as the knowledge and ability to represent the content in meaningful ways for students.
    3. Employs curriculum planning and instructional strategies that facilitates student learning at the highest levels.
    4. Embraces and utilizes socially just principles and practices that fully and authentically incorporate students in the learning process.

2.     Research and Inquiry Skills

Candidates design and implement research and assessment practices to improve teaching and learning for all learners.  Each candidate: 

    1. Utilizes research and data to improve teaching and learning for all learners.
    2. Uses research and data to promote the teaching profession.

3.     Professional and Ethical Practice

Candidates possess and practice a core set of professional and ethical dispositions and models practices that embrace the importance of life-long learning.  Each candidate:

    1. Advocates for learners, the school, the community, and the profession
    2. Collaborates with learners, families, colleagues, and other professionals and provides leadership to ensure learner growth and to advance the profession.
    3. Engages in reflective practice and professional learning to stay current and knowledgeable of policy, trends, and practices in education and to strengthen school effectiveness.
    4. Demonstrates professional and ethical practice.

The unit’s system includes a comprehensive and integrated set of evaluation measures that are used to monitor candidate performance and manage and improve program and unit operations.  The unit assessment system provides regular and comprehensive information on applicant qualifications, candidate proficiencies, competencies of graduates, unit operations, and program quality.  Analysis of aggregated and disaggregated performance data enables program assessment and ongoing program improvement. Data from all key teacher candidate assessments are entered in the LiveText system and the Division of Education EDUbase for the purpose of aggregating, disaggregating, trending, and analyzing data regarding candidates’ performance related to standards to enable program improvements. Each May an assessment retreat is held that involves all program faculty together with program stakeholders in review of data, discussion of what the data mean, and consideration for what changes the data may indicate.

 

C.2.      How was the conceptual framework developed and who was involved in its development?

At the heart of our framework is the concept that highly effective organizations have a set of shared commitments.  The faculty of the Divisions of Education, Math and Science, and Humanities, Thomas University Executive Provost/VPAA, along with our PK-12 school partners have all shared in the ongoing creation and application of the conceptual framework.  Each May an assessment retreat is held that involves all program faculty together with program stakeholders in review of data, discussion of what the data mean, and consideration for what changes the data may indicate.  It is through ongoing dialogue at this meeting and monthly division meetings throughout the year that we have continued to create, refine, and revise our conceptual framework.

 

Education that Engages... Empowers... TRANSFORMS

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