The Conceptual Framework theme, “Promoting a Culture of Excellence in a Changing World” enunciates two key concepts: “Culture of Excellence” and “a Changing World." The unit understands “Culture of Excellence” to be the universe of knowledge, skills and dispositions that contribute to the development of personhood and professionalism in self and others. The Unit’s commitment to Professional Excellence is consistent with the University’sMission to combine “education for life with preparation for professional excellence,” and with the Vision of theCollege ofEducation and Health Professions to constantly promote Academic Excellence. In these affirmations resides the imperative that the Unit develops in its Candidates a commitment to strive for excellence in all aspects of their performance, and who promote excellence in those with whom they professionally interact.
The Unit’s programs are dedicated to fostering those personal and professional dispositions and behaviors that prepare the Candidate to participate in and contribute to ongoing excellence in an educational enterprise. An educational practitioner’s commitment to professional excellence is manifested in multiple forms: (1) a commitment to achieve personal excellence, in self and others, (2) a commitment to develop academic competence in students and peers; and (3) a commitment to excel in one’s technical capabilities. Candidates must have a commitment to excellence both in professional and interpersonal actions and in dispositions. The Unit’s programs are designed to produce Candidates who are reflective, flexible, creative and critical practitioners, who can identify the needs of students, generate multiple solutions and choose the appropriate solution that best fits the specific situation. As noted by Shulman (1986) “pedagogical content knowledge” is more than an awareness of instructional strategies and the processes of learning; it is in developing the relationship between the subject matter and education theory that opportunities for learning are created.
The second key concept of the theme is the recognition that the actions of the educator must be consistent with the effects of “a Changing World.” A fundamental premise underlying the development of the Unit’s professional programs is that a culture of excellence must be promoted within educational settings that are subject to social, cultural and technological changes. The University’s mission statement affirms that the institution “aims to assist in the development of people knowledgeable of self, rooted in faith, educated in mind, compassionate in heart, responsive to social and civic obligations, and able to respond to an ever-changing world” [Italics added].
In accordance with the Conceptual Framework’s unifying theme, the Unit is committed to developing educational practitioners who (1) demonstrate excellence and promote excellence in others when engaging in the primary educational activities of learning, teaching, and leadership; (2) demonstrate and promote excellence in educational settings that are subject to changes in the demographics of school communities, to advances in new educational technologies, and to the expansion of professional knowledge.
The philosophy of the Education Department stems from the fundamental belief that the aim of the educational endeavor lies in achieving learning advantages and success for all students, and that this goal should inform and connect the work of both teacher educators and school practitioners. The Unit seeks to develop educational practitioners committed to extending their knowledge, skills, dispositions and shared standards of performance to enable all students to reach challenging learning goals and to actualize their individual potentials. The Unit’s work is based on the presumption that such knowledge, skills and dispositions develop and are enhanced through studying, practicing, and reflecting in professional communities of educators. The Unit is committed to the idea that education is both a moral and political act, and that educators should foster and sustain a democratic and just society in the construction, transmission and use of knowledge.
The unit has organized the outcomes of its programs into five Domains that encompass knowledge, skills and dispositions related to excellence in educational practitioner performance. These Domains provide the framework on which the theme “Promoting a Culture of Excellence in a Changing World” is grounded. The Domains were identified inductively through the grouping of competencies advocated by NCATE, CSDE, INTASC, and Professional Associations. The Domains articulated by the Unit also incorporate the framework developed by Bransford, Darling-Hammond, and LePage (2005, pp. 9-11) based on the efforts of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, INTASC and professional associations which calls for a knowledge of learners and how they learn and develop within social contexts; conceptions of curriculum content and goals including an understanding of the subject matter and skills to be taught in light of the social purposes of education; and, an understanding of teaching in light of the content and learners to be taught, as informed by assessment and supported by classroom environments. They are further grounded in the work of Schwab (1973) who posited that “four commonplaces” exist in relation to curriculum building: “the learner, the teacher, the milieu, and the subject matter” (pp. 508-509). Schwab looked to the “four commonplaces” to guide the revision of existing curricula (p. 509), while the Unit contends that to be an educator committed to promoting a culture of excellence; the Candidate must demonstrate proficiency in each of five Domains identified by the Unit.
The five Domains related to Professional Excellence are: Context, Content, Learner, Pedagogy, and Educator. As presented below, each Domain is supported by a knowledge base. Flowing from that knowledge base, a specific, measurable Proficiency has been identified for each Domain. The Proficiencies (which constitute the Unit Outcomes and Institutional Standards) provide the common basis on which Candidates in each of the Unit’s three programs are assessed, thus contributing to additional cohesion and alignment with the Conceptual Framework among the programs. The Unit’s Domains and Proficiencies have been aligned with the competencies identified by CSDE, NCATE, and professional associations as demonstrated in the Alignment Charts on pages 26-38 of this Conceptual Framework document. Thus, by demonstrating the Proficiencies called for in the five Domains, our Candidates meet the standards established by these accrediting bodies. For internal program management and development purposes each of the Unit’s three programs can then further refine the Proficiencies into Competencies relevant to the particular program.
Summary of Domains and Proficiencies
Domain I: Context
The Unit believes that the educational practitioner is an active participant in a structured and changing educational environment. The Proficiency that derives from the Context Domain and applies to all three of our programs is: The Candidate understands the context of the profession, both current and past, static and changing.
Domain II: Content
The Unit believes that the educational practitioner is a master of current and evolving forms of professional knowledge. The Proficiency that derives from the Content Domain and applies to all three of our programs is: The Candidate demonstrates knowledge of facts, concepts, principles and methods of inquiry of the general and specialized content required for successful practice of the profession.
Domain III: Learner
The Unit believes that the educational practitioner is a facilitator of multiple forms of learning. The Proficiency that derives from the Learner Domain and applies to all three of our programs is: The Candidate incorporates an understanding of cognitive and affective processes in designing and implementing learning experiences.
Domain IV: Pedagogy
The Unit believes that the educational practitioner is a responsive and systematic manager of the instructional environment. The Proficiency that derives from the Pedagogy Domain and applies to all three of our programs is: The Candidate demonstrates professional/ technical skills that are associated with successful educational practice.
Domain V: Educator
The Unit believes that the educational practitioner is a model of personal qualities, characteristics and skills that promote professional excellence. The Proficiency that derives from the Educator Domain and applies to all three of our programs is: The Candidate possesses the personal skills and dispositions, and professional commitments that promote excellence in self and others.
Domains of Excellence
Based on the Principles articulated above, and in keeping with the Unit’s theme "Promoting a Culture of Excellence in a Changing World," a set of outcomes were derived that provide direction in determining the proficiencies and competencies that Candidates in each of the Unit’s three programs must meet to become the educational practitioner envisioned by the Conceptual Framework. The Unit concurs with Darling-Hammond’s contention that “one of the most damaging myths prevailing in American education is the notion that good teachers are born and not made” (Darling-Hammond, 2006, p. ix). The Unit contends, as does Darling-Hammond, that there are knowledge bases, preparation methods, and accreditation requirements, which the Unit has incorporated into its programs, that lead to the making (or at least development) of good teachers and educational practitioners.