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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 with 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;

• personify an ethic of caring;

• uphold the ideals of justice, equity, and opportunity for all people;

• think creatively, reflectively, and critically in grappling with a myriad 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 embody Thomas University’s branding statement:

 “ Education that Engages…Empowers…TRANSFORMS.”

The Education Division 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.

Thomas University's philosophy, inherent to the conceptual framework for it's teacher preparation programs, is founded upon the principles of a constructivist paradigm. We believe that learning is a socially mediated process in 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 by 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 paradigm for 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, 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, in turn can 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, our teacher candidates 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 accomodations to modify lessons for advanced students as well as students with special needs.

The Division of Education’s conceptual framework of professional practices includes candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions that are aligned with the expectations of professional and state standards. Teachers must be critical thinkers, respect and understand diversity, communicate effectively, and possess strong pedagogical abilities. Candidates also need to develop deep content knowledge, and classroom management skills. They must demonstrate a passion for life-long learning, effectively use technology; and exemplify professionalism.  Teacher candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions include:

Critical Thinking

  • The successful candidate provides learning experiences which encourage critical thinking, problem solving, informed decision making, and creativity. 
  • The successful candidate uses performance data to reflect upon and improve practice.

Diversity

  • The successful candidate plans lessons that indicate a respect for cultural and linguistic diversity.
  • The successful candidate plans lessons for differences in individual student needs, abilities, and interests that all students can learn.
  • The successful candidate modifies instruction to create a student-centered classroom believing all students can learn.

Communication

  • The successful candidate demonstrates oral, written, and/or nonverbal communication consistent with the expectations of a teacher candidate.
  • The successful candidate collaborates with supervisors and colleagues on lessons and integrates feedback, as appropriate.
  • The successful candidate establishes, communicates, and maintains high expectations for student achievement and participation.  .

Pedagogy

  • The successful candidate plans appropriate and logically sequenced lessons.
  • The successful candidate develops learning objectives which are appropriate for the subject and grade level and are connected appropriately to state performance standards.
  • The successful candidate provides learning experiences that allow students to form connections between the specific subject area and other disciplines.
  • The successful candidate uses a variety of instructional strategies to actively engage students.
  • The successful candidate uses a variety of instructional materials.
  • The successful candidate assists students in connecting subject matter to everyday life.
  • The successful candidate plans appropriate assessment strategies to assess student learning.
  • The successful candidate uses formative assessment to explore student learning and recognizes modifications that demonstrate knowledge of instructional judgment.
  • The successful candidate utilizes appropriate assessment strategies to assess student learning and uses data to plan future lessons.
  • The successful candidate implements meaningful introductions and closures in lessons.
  • The successful candidate uses self-reflection to evaluate instruction.

Content Knowledge

  • The successful candidate demonstrates knowledge of the subject matter taught.
  • The successful candidate selects meaningful, engaging, standards-driven content.
  • The successful candidate links subject matter with other disciplines.

Classroom Management

  • The successful candidate maintains a positive and safe classroom environment.
  • The successful candidate maintains effective rules, procedures, and routines.
  • The successful candidate provides for smooth transitions between activities.

Technology

  • The successful candidate integrates technology appropriately into student learning activities.
  • The successful candidate uses a variety of technological tools to implement instruction.

Life Long Learning

  • The successful candidate engages in professional reflection.
  • The successful candidate defines purposeful professional goals.
  • The successful candidate examines and uses research.

Professionalism

  • The successful candidate presents self in a professional manner in terms of appearance, attitude, attire, and conduct.
  • The successful candidate maintains an appropriate level of professional ethics in terms of personal conduct, academic integrity, and emotional maturity in the school setting.
  • The successful candidate demonstrates a positive rapport with students, parents, colleagues, administrators, supervising teachers, and university supervisors.
  • The successful candidate is receptive to constructive criticism from the supervising teacher, university supervisor, and administrators and incorporates this feedback.

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

Areas of pedagogical and professional practice were identified as the conceptual framework prior to the 2002 GaPSC program review.  These were developed by unit faculty in collaboration with university and PK-12 partners. Minimal review of the conceptual framework has been conducted since that time.  What has been missing is an understanding of how those identified areas of pedagogical and professional practice align with the broader structural elements of a conceptual framework; the University and Division vision and mission statement, the philosophical underpinnings and knowledge bases which undergird the framework and lead to a coherent purpose and set of goals. To that end, work has begun with the new division chair to discuss each of these critically important structures that together serve as the framework that guides and drives the work of the unit. Discussions since September 2010, have led to the present presentation of the division's conceptual framework. Future work will continue to refine the Thomas University conceptual framework so that the philosophical principles on which we do our work are clearly articulated.

Education that Engages... Empowers... TRANSFORMS

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