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Modeling Best Professional Practices in Teaching

The professional education faculty members at UMM are dedicated teacher-scholars who strive to provide the best instruction possible for their candidates. The UMM TEP conceptual framework was developed not only to guide our practice, but to reflect the beliefs we hold about the best practice in our profession. The key components and characteristics of the conceptual framework are present in the instructional planning and implementation by the faculty. A focus on student learning is present in every syllabus. Faculty members work to include activities that link theory to practice. Courses have been aligned (ElEd and SeEd) to the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice, and those standards are mapped to the activities in each syllabus. A review of the syllabi will show that the faculty members conscientiously work to stay current in their field and present the most recent information to their students. Current issues are discussed and assigned readings include current publications and seminal works from earlier eras that are needed to provide candidates with context and foundations for the field. A review of faculty vitae will reveal faculty membership, and in some cases leadership, in professional organizations.

As stated in the conceptual framework, constructivism is a key characteristic of the UMM Teacher Education Program. As such, constructivism as a topic and method is included in multiple courses. In their courses, faculty members use instructional strategies that require candidates to think analytically, link new information to prior experiences, consider multiple perspectives, and consider how to enhance student learning for all students. Faculty members regularly include reflective essays in their courses and in assignments for field experiences. They encourage candidates to consider their own growth toward fulfilling the standards of effective practice. As shown in the Table of Instructional Strategies, 100% of faculty members reported their use of reflective assignments in their teaching. Importantly, UMM candidates agree. In a 2008 survey of graduating seniors, we asked—in open-ended question format—what elements of instruction were present throughout the courses in the program. Nearly a third of the respondents listed reflection as a main program characteristic.

The faculty also includes a focus on dispositions in their instruction. Course goals will include those that address professional attitudes. In particular, faculty members encourage candidates to focus on what is needed to support student learning for all students. In the 2008 survey, the graduating seniors named diversity (27%) and student learning (31%) as key program elements.

Instructional Strategies and Assessment

The unit faculty members model a variety of strategies and assessments. All courses are highly participatory and faculty members encourage candidates to learn by doing. Summaries of instructional strategies and assessments reveal that most courses use multiple strategies as part of instruction. These include discussion, simulations, peer teaching, lessons, cooperative learning, modeling of instructional strategies, and lecture. Similarly, candidates are assessed by unit faculty in multiple ways. Assessments in UMM courses include essay exams, written instructional plans, performance observation, and oral presentations and examinations. In the 2008 survey of graduating seniors, 65% described effective instruction and lesson modeling as the key element across courses in the program.

Diversity and Technology

Diversity and technology, as key program components, are integrated into all education courses. Faculty members are knowledgeable about issues of diversity and experienced in working in diverse settings. Instruction related to diversity includes readings, research, discussion, lecture, and assignments that require candidates to apply the information especially to the field of study. As explained previously in Standard 4 Diversity, some program 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 into readings, lecture, activities and assignments. Illustrating the program’s integrative approach, the diversity components are threads of instruction in many courses. Many faculty members conduct research that focuses on issues of diversity. This work impacts faculty growth and understanding. It informs their instruction and benefits their students.

Technology is also integrated into the teaching and content of courses. Core faculty members were trained in instructional technology as part of the NTNT grant activities from 2001 to 2003. They created UMM technology goals and have mapped them into their courses. In addition to using technology for instruction (e.g. PowerPoint, SmartBoard, Moodle, and ProScope) and record keeping (e.g. Excel), faculty assist candidates in using technology for their own course work and in lessons they teach.

Self-Assessment

In our program, we have a culture of reflective teaching, and faculty think deeply about their work. In weekly discipline meetings, teaching faculty share experiences, ask questions, and discuss ways to assist candidates in their learning. Several courses are team-planned as part of that planning process, faculty members consider their effectiveness in using and assessing new strategies.

Faculty members often solicit informal feedback about their teaching from their students, and faculty teaching performance is formally evaluated every semester. Candidates complete Student Opinion of Teaching (SOT) for every class. (Beginning Fall 2008, the new form will be the Student Rating of Teaching.) These evaluations of teaching are reviewed by the academic dean and the division chair, and then given to the faculty member. Faculty members are encouraged to use the information to make improvements to courses. Adjunct faculty members are also assessed by the candidates with the SOT.





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