5b. Modeling Best Professional Practices in Teaching
1. How does instruction by professional education faculty reflect the conceptual framework as well as current research and developments in the fields?
Unit faculty understand the importance of being exemplars of our conceptual framework. Unit faculty engage in professional development each year to demonstrate their journey toward excellence. These experiences may involve reading about current research and understanding how to integrate it in to classroom practice. Unit faculty are also engaged in their own research projects involving children in specific school sites. The results of the research are presented at national conferences. Unit faculty involve teacher candidates in the research projects as much as possible so that they understand the concept of life-long learning.
Unit faculty are evaluated annually by the Director of the School of Education and Dean of the College of Professional Studies. Just as faculty in the unit are driven by the four organizing themes in guiding students on their journey towards excellence, faculty are also evaluated in light of the themes. For example, a faculty member that effectively utilizes small group work in the classroom would be demonstrating the organizing theme 'creating communities of learners'. A faculty member who engages students in a large group discussion would be demonstrating the organizing theme ‘facilitates learning for others’.
2. How do unit faculty encourage the development of reflection, critical thinking, problem solving, and professional dispositions?
Professional dispositions are introduced in the first education course (ED 120) via Candidate Assessment 2. They are officially reviewed and assessed by faculty in sophomore block and in senior seminar. Professional dispositions are also assessed by classroom teachers during all internships. This assessment by classroom teachers provides faculty, teacher candidates and classroom teachers an opportunity to discuss appropriate demonstrations of professional dispositions.
The concept of reflection is threaded throughout the entire teacher preparation program. Students are given specific questions or prompts in ED 120 so that they begin to understand how to reflect on their learning. Each candidate assessment that is completed throughout the program requires a reflective component before it is submitted for review.
Professional education unit faculty make critical thinking and problem solving a central theme in their teaching. In order to bridge theory to practice, faculty offer teacher candidates examples of how information can be applied in their future classrooms. Group projects and assignments often involve situational problems to solve or presentations that involve putting several concepts together, such as a classroom management system. Candidates in Biology and Chemistry Education look at a typical high school science laboratory and make decisions regarding classroom safety, laboratory equipment storage and set-up, as well as classroom management.
Critical thinking skills are the key to a successful home visit when an early childhood major shadows a developmental therapist as she goes in to a home to assess an at-risk infant and collaborates with the caregiver.
Each assignment that involves a critical thinking component will include a follow-up debriefing of the thinking process that the student engaged in. Students need to be able to articulate how they arrived at their decisions and to reflect on the effectiveness of their course of action.
3. What types of instructional strategies and assessments do unit faculty members model?
Professional Education faculty model instructional strategies and assessments that they desire our teacher candidates use in their internship placements and student teaching experiences. One type of instructional strategy is the literature circle. A faculty may choose a non-fiction professional book about the crisis of non-reading males in P-12 schools. Teacher candidates form literature circles each week in class and discuss the non-fiction professional book and how it pertains to what they may be experiencing in their internships. Discussing relevant literature also helps prepare the teacher candidate to design better lessons for teaching.
Another instructional strategy that faculty members model is role play and simulated situations. A faculty member teaching classroom management may ask several students to role play inattentive behavior so that the faculty member can demonstrate re-directive strategies.
Faculty give as many opportunities as possible for teacher candidates to design learning centers, science demonstrations and labs. These authentic learning experiences are rehearsed with peers and then taken in to the P-12 school setting for practice teaching.
The assessments in education courses are typically projects such as classroom management systems, research presentations, in-class essay exams, or student-led discussions of a particular journal article. These authentic assessments ensure that candidates are meeting teaching standards and are showing proficiencies that prove readiness for classroom teaching.
4. How do unit faculty members incorporate the use of technology into instruction?
As teacher candidates are expected to use technology, faculty model the use of various tools and programs in class as well. Examples of technology used by faculty include LiveText, PowerPoint, video clips, internet, email, Blackboard, Moodle, faculty websites, on-line quizzes, tutorials and YouTube.
For example in ED 120 Introduction to American Education, a professor may use a YouTube clip of an interview with Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities. This video gives freshman students an authentic experience understanding the diversity and inequality of our nation’s schools. A more advanced teacher candidate in an internship may be required to produce a learning activity for the children in their P-12 classroom using websites and designing a webquest where children learn a specific body of content. Faculty utilize Moodle, a course management system, to post syllabi, assignments and carry on discussions with students in their courses. Moodle has created a very vibrant platform for involving students beyond the typically scheduled class periods on campus.
5. How does unit faculty systematically engage in self-assessment of their teaching?
Teaching excellence is of utmost importance at Millikin. Although teaching at a “competent” level is acceptable in some places, a minimum teaching rating of “excellent” is required for tenure according to Policy and Procedures: Faculty. Faculty reflect on their teaching officially during the annual review process. As part of this review process, faculty prepare a self evaluation in which they consider their teaching in terms of five areas as identified by the university’s Policy and Procedures: Faculty. The areas are: knowledge of the material, rigor of teaching, course organization, clarity of presentation, and attention to individual academic needs of students (which includes academic advising). Faculty knowledge is indicated in their full vitae. Additionally, faculty mastery and pedagogical expertise is reflected in the course syllabi.
The School of Education has been honored to have two faculty members selected as Distinguished Faculty Lecturer (Dr. Darlene Hoffman and Dr. Ray Boehmer), and one faculty member selected for the Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award (Dr. Darlene Hoffman). These awards are worth noting as faculty would not receive them if they had not been effectively and systematically engaging in self-assessment to consistently become better teachers.
Course evaluations are conducted in all classes as a requirement of the university’s evaluation process (Policy and Procedures: Faculty). The results of the surveys are tabulated and distributed to the instructor as well as to the Director of the School of Education and the Dean of the College of Professional Studies.
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