The mission of the University of Minnesota, Morris, includes the empowerment of the campus community to participate fully and thoughtfully in a diverse society, regionally, nationally, and globally. This mission is reflected in our general education requirements that require all students to take at least two courses from those included in the thematic category of The Global Village. The goal of these courses is to expand students’ perspectives on human diversity, people and the environment, the international scene, and issues of ethical and civic responsibility. Even before they join the teacher education program, UMM candidates know of the importance placed on issues of diversity.
Diversity is a key component of the UMM Teacher Education Program (UMM TEP) Conceptual Framework, and we believe that from the beginning of their careers, teachers should be able to meet the needs of all students including those with different backgrounds, ethnicities, learning styles, or languages of their own. In addition, we believe that to meet the needs of all students, teachers must understand, prepare, and implement a curriculum infused with multicultural and global understandings. The teacher education faculty at UMM is committed to offering a program infused with multicultural education despite the geographically isolated and largely monocultural setting of the campus. Candidates are expected to include multicultural content in their instruction and to recognize the importance of a curriculum filled with diverse perspectives and the stories of many cultures.
The UMM TEP draws specific candidate proficiencies related to diversity for candidates from the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice. Substandards related to diversity are woven throughout the standards and it is within Standard 3 Diverse Learners that specific knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for beginning teachers are clearly established. According to this standard, “A teacher must understand how students differ in their approaches to learning and create instructional opportunities that are adapted to students with diverse backgrounds and exceptionalities.” The required understandings in the 17 substandards in Standard 3 Diverse Learners include learning styles, exceptionalities, second language acquisition, bias, culture, race, ethnicity, Minnesota-Based American Indian history and issues, and cultural and community diversity and norms. Because of its clear connection to working effectively with all people, we also look to Standard 10 Collaboration, Ethics, and Relationships to guide our candidates. The standard states that “A teacher must be able to communicate and interact with parents or guardians, families, school colleagues, and the community to support student learning and well being.” The substandards of Standards 3 and 10 have been aligned to program assignments and provide the map for candidate experiences and growth.
In addition to the proficiencies in the standards of effective practice, candidates must also meet the unit’s professional disposition goals that relate directly to issues of diversity. Candidates must demonstrate equity and respect and show that they believe that all students deserve equal opportunities, fair treatment, and instructional decisions based on their needs. Candidates also must demonstrate efficacy and commitment to learning by showing that they not only believe that all students can learn at high levels, but also that they themselves have the knowledge and commitment to action that will ensure that all students do learn.
Throughout the program, course work and experiences enable teacher candidates to learn, study, and practice the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for working with all students successfully and bringing effective multicultural instruction into their teaching.
In the education programs, some courses assume primary responsibility for introducing instructional elements related to diversity. Elementary education candidates explore key principles in ElEd 3101: Teaching and Learning Strategies and ElEd 4101: Strategies for Inclusive Schooling; secondary education candidates study the principles in SeEd 4104: Teaching Diverse Learners. In these courses, candidates read extensively, complete projects and assignments, and apply their knowledge in concurrent field experiences. While these courses have topics of diversity as the major focus, other courses also include the concepts in readings, lectures, activities and assignments. Illustrating the program’s integrative approach, the diversity components are threads of instruction in many courses.
In all field experiences, candidates work with students who have diverse needs, backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities. Candidates must demonstrate their ability to work with integrity, professionalism, and commitment to learning for all. In addition, they must complete at least one field experience in diverse or cross-cultural settings, and many candidates exceed the minimum requirement. This requirement ensures that candidates have experienced the opportunity to teach and to learn from students who bring perspectives different from the candidates’ own.
As candidates complete the student teaching requirements (elementary or secondary) in their clinical experience, they plan and adapt instruction, base instruction on needs of learners, and communicate with families.
Candidates must successfully master all components in their professional education course work. Thus, a passing grade in education courses indicates adequate performance on assignments, examinations, and other course-based assessments of proficiencies related to diversity. These assignments include instructional units with a required multicultural emphasis, extensive readings, research, and other relevant content. Performance data on these assignments, though not aggregated, are key formative assessments. Candidates must complete these assignments satisfactorily to pass the required courses. 100% of candidates graduating in the past three years received passing grades in the required education courses and on all course assignments. The unit’s three-year average GPA in education courses is 3.7. UMM candidates demonstrate high levels of proficiency.
Program Assessments of Diversity include relevant items from the Summative Evaluations of Student Teaching, completed both by university supervisors and cooperating teachers. The most relevant items are 3 Diverse Learners and 10 Collaboration, Ethics, and Relationships. The summative evaluations, based on performance during student teaching, show that 88 to 96% of UMM candidates earned ratings of proficient or above in these two areas. Candidates also assess their own understandings of diversity and professionalism. Portfolio scores indicate that 93 to 100% of candidates can describe their growth, provide and explain evidence, and set meaningful goals for these two important areas. During student teaching, all candidates must also show evidence of the professional dispositions outlined on our conceptual framework in order to successfully complete the course. We completed a disposition evaluation analysis to see if there were specific areas of improvement for the unit to consider, especially for items especially related to diversity. An average of 97% of the candidates in the sample provided adequate evidence for each of the relevant items. In their clinical experiences, candidates demonstrate their willingness and effectiveness in working with all students.
Follow-up surveys of graduates and employers also are analyzed to determine proficiencies in these areas. On the 2008 survey of graduates, 100% of those who responded (51% response rate) reported that they were prepared to understand how student learning is influenced by individual experiences, talents, and prior learning, as well as language, culture, family, and community values; and to use the information as the basis for connecting instruction to students’ experiences. 100% of the respondents also reported being prepared to develop and use curricula that encourage students to see, question, and interpret ideas from diverse perspectives. For the last three years, 80 to 100% of graduates felt prepared on all of the relevant items (58% three-year response rate). Employers (with a 63% three-year response rate) give graduates generally high ratings on items related to diversity. The most recent surveys revealed high levels of proficiency in meeting individual needs of students and classroom management. We note that on some items, a small number of graduates have been viewed as achieving at only a minimum level. We strive to improve the performance of all candidates.