The Reich College of Education is the designated professional education unit* at Appalachian State University. Its mission is to offer high quality educational experiences that lead to Bachelor's, Master's, Educational Specialist's and Doctoral degrees, as well as programs leading to specific certificates and licenses. We prepare traditional and non-traditional candidates** to assume positions as:
- Teachers and administrators for public schools K-12
- Administrators and faculty for community colleges, and four year colleges and universities
- School psychologists and counselors for public schools, community colleges, universities, and community human services agencies
- Speech and hearing therapists for hospitals, public schools, community clinics, colleges, and universities
- Librarians for public schools, community colleges, and community libraries
- Media and technology specialists for public schools, community colleges, and four year colleges and universities
To meet its mission the Reich College of Education commits to the following:
- Providing programs of excellence that challenge and support faculty and candidates
- Approaching teaching and professional service as dynamic, social activities which reflect our commitment to both the value of cultural diversity and to the identification and solution of social problems
- Recognizing emerging societal needs, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally
- Responding with initiatives to address societal needs through new programs, teaching, human service strategies, and technologies that keep the college on the frontiers of knowledge, practice and service
- Integrating multicultural and global perspectives and knowledge into all program areas to prepare graduates to work with diverse populations in diverse environments
- Promoting a community of practice that values collaboration as well as respect for the contribution of each candidate, faculty, and staff member
- Maintaining meaningful contact and support with alumni and employers.
The Reich College of Education (RCOE) is dedicated to developing and maintaining an environment where diversity in all its forms is embraced. This commitment extends to the recruitment of faculty, candidates, and staff who act on principles that enhance diversity. The conduct of the College's academic programs, research, service obligations, special projects, and community-wide activities reflects a commitment to practice equitable behavior with all individuals and groups with whom we work.We strive to build conceptual understandings of social justice combined with experiences that provide opportunities for candidates to understand how context shapes our interactions with others. Professional development activities that increase faculty and staff awareness of diversity related issues are readily available. These include special projects, reading groups, both student and faculty sponsored seminars, as well as interactions with schools and agencies.
The Reich College of Education Conceptual Framework provides a broad description of how we believe people learn and develop, and how teaching, and other helping oriented interactions should occur. We envision graduates of our programsas thoughtful professionals, characterized by a love of learning and by the capacity to adapt to change. Such professionals reflect upon the moral and ethical nature of their work, and take seriously the public trust placed in them. Our goal is to develop highly competent professionals who make knowledgeable and ethically justifiable decisions concerning what is best for their students and clients.
The Framework forms the basis for decisions within the various professional programs about curriculum development, practices, and service. It also offers a guide for interactions among faculty, candidates, and staff. The Framework, based on socio-cultural tenets, is anchored in the historical foundations of American education. In 1897, John Dewey opened My Pedagogic Creed with the following insight:
I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race. This process begins unconsciously almost at birth, and is shaping the individual's powers, saturating his consciousness, forming his habits, training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions. Through his unconscious education the individual gradually comes to share in the intellectual and moral resources which humanity has succeeded in getting together. He becomes an inheritor of the funded capital of civilization. The most formal and technical education in the world cannot safely depart from this general process. It can only organize it or differentiate it in some particular direction (p. 77).
Dewey influences our Framework in two ways. First, we view our candidates and ourselves as active, continuous learners. Because this process proceeds despite any conscious efforts to alter it, schools and all other agencies should take into account the principles that drive the process. Second, learning occurs as individuals engage in meaningful social activity. Dewey (1897) states, "I believe that this educational process has two sides--one psychological and one sociological; and that neither can be subordinated to the other or neglected without evil results following" (p. 77). Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1962, 1978) also highlighted the importance of both social and individual factors in learning. He stressed that all higher order psychological functions occurred twice and always in order: First on the social level and then on the individual level. As a result, we must pay attention to both the social and the individual nature of teaching, learning, and organizational life.
At the heart of our Framework is the concept that highly effective organizations have a set of shared principles. Through ongoing dialogue the membership of the organization creates, refines, and revises its activities by the principles. Such dialogue serves as the key means for communication among members. For the organization to remain effective, the principles must stay in the public domain so that all members share in their ongoing creation and application. Since its adoption in the 1990's, the RCOE social constructivist Framework has continued to evolve, informed in large part by the rich body of research and theory provided by Vygotsky (1978), Berger and Luckman (1966), Kegan (1996) and others (Bransford, Darling-Hammond & LePage, 2005; Darling-Hammond & Baratz-Snowden, 2005). The five principles that together constitute the RCOE Conceptual Framework include:
- Learning occurs through participation in a Community of Practice;
- Knowledge is socially constructed and learning is a dynamic activity within a Community of Practice;
- Learners proceed through stages of development from Novice to Expert under the guidance of more experienced and knowledgeable mentors in the Community of Practice;
- An identifiable Knowledge Base that is both general in nature and also specific to specialties emerges from the Community of Practice;
- All educators and human service professionals develop a set of Dispositions reflecting attitudes, beliefs, and values common to the Community of Practice.
I. Community of Practice
Learning occurs through participation in a Community of Practice.
Broadly defined, the RCOE is a Community of Practice (CoP), a web of individuals bound together by a common set of goals and values. We believe that traditional views of education and other social services emphasize abstract learning over learning through practice and hence separate learning (schooling) from working (teaching, counseling, administering, etc.). Both formalized, abstract learning and the learning that takes place as part of work activity play an important role in the RCOE CoP.
What Is a Community of Practice?
Background. As human beings, we are continuously engaged in activities with others and with objects in the world. Consequently, we are continuously learning, thereby shaping, refining and sometimes changing the nature of the CoPs to which we belong. Despite their dynamic nature, certain aspects of CoPs' culture remain relatively stable. Relationships formed around these core components result in shared practices that reflect common goals, values and attitudes. The RCOE as a Community of Practice addresses what matters to the members, namely socially relevant work activity and the learning that results.
Membership in most CoPs is informal and loosely organized. Some CoPs have names; most do not. Seldom are there membership lists or cards. Still, it is often easy to identify the many CoPs we belong to and to recognize other members. We are highly engaged core members of some, but for others, we remain on the periphery, engaging only occasionally. Often multiple CoPs exist within formal organizations. Gaining membership is based on participation. There may or may not be an application process, but entrance is "by invitation," either formally or informally. In the CoP, we are connected through activity, and our membership and status are defined by what we do. In turn, this activity leads to shared knowledge and jointly held values.
Defining a Community of Practice. Wenger (1997) argues that CoPs are defined along three dimensions:
- What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members
- How it functions – mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity
- What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artifacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time.
A Community of Practice is always in action. Members come together because they are engaged in common work to reach agreed upon goals. While technical knowledge is crucial, it is always embedded in a complex set of social relationships. Out of these relationships emerges a set of shared knowledge, skills, values and other characteristics that define the community.
Evolution of Communities of Practice. Wenger (1998) argues that CoPs progress through stages of development as people come together to address common problems. He identifies five stages, as illustrated in the figure below:
As a CoP, the RCOE is firmly in the active stage. Equally important, we believe that individuals progress through stages of development. Our role as educators is to admit candidates in the Potential stage, help them make a transition into the Coalescing stage, induct them into the Active stage, then help them make a transition into the Dispersed and Memorable stages as they move from our teacher education programs into professional CoPs outside the college.
Learning in a Community of Practice
The knowledge that an individual must possess to gain full membership in a CoP is both tacit and explicit; it is knowledge of what is left unsaid and what is said (Wenger, 1997). To understand this dynamic, making a distinction between acquisition and learning is useful (Gee, 1996). Acquisition of knowledge occurs in the absence of formal instruction. It happens in natural social settings where the individual needs the knowledge to participate effectively. The process of acquisition is one of low awareness: the focus is not on what is learned but rather on participation. For example, a child learns the basics of language by the age of five without any formal grammar instruction. In contrast, learning involves direct teaching and conscious reflection and is most clearly exemplified by formal schooling. The complex skills and behaviors required for membership in a CoP demand both tacit knowledge gained through acquisition and explicit knowledge gained through learning. In our programs, we strive to provide an environment where both processes take place and complement each other. Our goal is to go beyond providing our candidates with the skills and knowledge of teaching and related disciplines. Our intention is to help them learn how to act, talk and believe like professional educators and human service professionals. We accomplish this by emphasizing the critical importance of both formal instruction of concepts, skills, and participation in the social activity of learning.
Dialogue and Conflict in Communities of Practice
Language is the critical tool in the balancing of acquisition and learning, of social participation and formal instruction. Our primary role is helping candidates learn how to engage in the dialogue that leads to membership in the CoP of professional teachers, leaders, counselors, media specialists, librarians, and therapists. Burbules (1993) argues that the cornerstone of democratic education is dialogue. It is an essential tool in acquiring basic understandings in the traditional student-teacher relationship. But more importantly, the process of dialogue is the means for identifying and defining problems, exploring alternative solutions, monitoring activity and evaluating results. Through this process and the use of language within this process, individuals become connected to speakers both present and past.
Dominant themes in curriculum guides and textbooks emphasize social harmony and cultural consensus (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 2001). Gee (1996), however, points out that communities may be reluctant at times to engage in such dialogue because they are resistant to internal scrutiny. We know that healthy disagreement is crucial to CoPs. The tacit knowledge required for membership often is so embedded that it is taken for Truth (with a capital T), and those who question it are viewed as heretical. Critical viewpoints that fall outside community norms are marginalized. Even when engaged in thoughtful and reflective criticism, a community member may be seen as obstructive and excluded from community practices.
A healthy Community of Practice is always concerned with the open flow of dialogue. In viewing organizations such as the RCOE as CoPs, it is important to acknowledge the crucial role of conflict (Lave & Wenger, 1991). The process of moving novices from peripheral participation to full membership often includes a confrontation of new and old ideas. In addition, the competition for prestige and power within the CoP will always create differences of viewpoint and conflict. By openly acknowledging different perspectives, by honoring the conflict, communities are able to continuously redefine themselves, and adapt to the ever changing knowledge base. It is through these processes that CoPs remain dynamic.
II. Socially Constructed Knowledge
Knowledge is socially constructed and learning is a dynamic activity within the Community of Practice.
We view learning as a shared process growing out of interactions among teacher, learner, knowledge, and context. Both faculty and candidates are coactive learners, working to transform information into knowledge that is meaningful, imaginative, and useful. The ability to ask provocative questions and seek out creative answers is valued and encouraged. The faculty's role is re-conceptualized as the management of complex intellectual and interpersonal activities rather than the management of candidates, clients, students, and lessons. This conceptualization focuses on the transformation of knowledge, the ability to apply what has become known to relevant problems, puzzles and predicaments, rather than learning, acquiring and reproducing facts.
We believe that theory should guide practice in all aspects of our work. While we use a variety of theoretical perspectives in the preparation of educators, sociocultural and constructivist perspectives (e.g., Vygotsky, Piaget, Bruner, Dewey) are central to guiding our teaching and learning. Our core conceptualization of learning and knowing—that learning is a function of the social and cultural contexts in which it occurs (i.e., it is situated) and that knowledge is actively constructed—emerges from the intersection of these two perspectives. This theoretical conceptualization helps shape our mission as Appalachian State University's professional education unit and guides our decisions about the knowledge base individual learners must acquire.
We believe learning is an "active knowledge construction process, emphasizing context, interaction and situatedness" (Salomon & Perkins, 1998, p. 4). Learning does not occur in isolation but requires interactions among people and is, therefore, shaped and transformed by one's social and cultural environment (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Diversity in such environments contributes to differential practices, experiences, and outcomes for faculty and candidates.
Connected to this highly contextualized and situated view of learning is the belief that individuals appropriate the practices, knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and beliefs of their social groups. Rogoff (1995) defines appropriation as "the process by which individuals transform their understandings of and responsibility for activities through their own participation" (p. 150). In other words, participants have experiences "outside" themselves that create new meanings and understandings "inside" them.
Meaningful learning is situated in everyday lives and relevant problem-solving activities which can vary by cultural context, socioeconomic circumstances, and other political factors. Our aim is to educate teachers, counselors, and educational leaders who understand the views and experiences of students, and clients, engage them in actively co-creating knowledge, and make learning relevant to real-world situations. Candidates learn and educators model the notion of praxis, the intertwining of theory and practice, leading to transformation of the individual's participation in the world (Freire, 1970).
III. Novice to Expert
Learners proceed through stages of development from Novice to Expert under the guidance of more experienced and knowledgeable mentors in the Community of Practice.
Our most important task is assisting our candidates as they work to become professional educators, leaders, and human service professionals. Faculty serve as Experts, guiding Novices as they acquire the requisite knowledge, skills, and dispositions to become expert members of the professional community. However, the roles of expert and novice are not absolute. Faculty are "relatively expert" and candidates are "relatively novice." But these roles can, and often are, reversed as situations and needs change.
How does one become an Expert?
Experts accomplish complex tasks by organizing knowledge around core concepts and using theoretical frameworks that can apply to multiple situations (Schwab, 1971). Expert teachers know that during instruction, theory must be combined with the "wisdom of practice" (Shulman, 1987). Theories of how and what to teach must always be modified and adjusted to fit the needs of the individual student and situation (Schwab, 1971).
Experts clearly have "acquired extensive knowledge that affects what they notice and how they organize, represent and interpret information in their environment," which later, "affects their abilities to remember, reason, and solve problems" (Bransford et al, 2000, p.19). Experts have the ability to "chunk" information, allowing them to piece small bits of data into meaningful patterns. This ability also influences the way in which experts retrieve information. We believe that professionals in all fields develop a personal knowledge structure which guides their activity. Such knowledge is organized around concepts or schemas that are easily retrieved for decision making. For experts, knowledge is not simply a list of isolated facts but a highly organized and contextualized structure. They recognize that problems can be complex and not solved effectively by the same routine solutions used over and over again. While novices will search for correct formulas or pat answers during problem solving, experts know they must probe for more information about the context and situation. Regardless of grade level or content area, teachers must:
- provide robust instruction, engaging in the continuous generation and application of complex judgments to manage classroom dilemmas;
- decide about goals for instruction;
- identify their students' instructional needs, learner characteristics, and individual differences;
- decide what to teach and how much time to allocate for instruction;
- identify appropriate instructional levels;
- choose instructional materials and strategies;
- group students for instruction;
- decide how to measure the effects of instruction;
- monitor the lesson as it is being taught;
- interact with students;
- make decisions about providing additional instruction;
- provide students with feedback;
- analyze and reflect on the results and effectiveness of instruction (Lampert, 1985).
To provide strong pedagogical knowledge for our candidates, the faculty taps into a candidate's prior knowledge evaluating the novice's readiness to take on greater responsibility for the cognitive work necessary to become expert (Rogoff & Gardner, 1999). The faculty views its interactions with candidates in terms of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) or "distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). Instruction in the ZPD is a process of assisted performance or scaffolding. To support the novice's developing capabilities, the expert scaffolds new information by providing support while the novice is learning a new task. Embedded in this learning activity is the knowledge novices need to become experts. Scaffolding extends what learners can already do according to their prior knowledge. As development progresses in a given domain, the scaffold gradually diminishes. The roles of learner and teacher become increasingly equal to the point where the learner is able to do alone what formerly could be done only in collaboration with the teacher (Greenfield, 1999).
Today's students, tomorrow's experts
Members of communities of practice often assume interchangeable roles; at one point they may be novices acquiring new knowledge and skills; at another time, they may be experts teaching others who assume the role of novices. An example of this can be found with information and communication technologies. These new technologies increase our connections with others and provide opportunities for communication and an understanding of perspectives different from our own. New technologies have become a major tool in our CoP and have had a positive impact on the expert/novice relationship.
Many of our candidates now enter our programs with high levels of computer related competencies. Most own their own computers, have web-based email accounts, use instant messaging and text messaging, and generally have been exposed to a wide range of computer based learning technology. Some have the skill to maintain their own web pages and blogs. Faculty and cooperating teachers often find themselves in the role of novice in this domain while candidates assume the role of expert. Increasingly, faculty and candidates are assuming different roles in a "learn together" atmosphere that leads to new directions, strategies, and assessments. The consequence, in the area of technology, has been an increased integration of technology into our programs and higher expectations for both candidates and faculty in regard to addressing technology standards. Such interactions have also led to the adoption of "blended" instruction with some delivery online and some face to face. Still others have promoted the use of electronic portfolios and some candidates and faculty have built virtual worlds and brought international students into instructional programs through the Internet.
The RCOE consists of practitioners with distributed expertise (Brown et al, 2000). In our professional programs we value classrooms that are populated with candidates who are in different zones of proximal development. We also value faculty who assist candidates in navigating the road to expertise via different routes and at different rates. Our goal is to refocus our instructional attention from the mere retention of facts to the active construction of knowledge.
In a CoP, experts possess the license to interpret and evaluate the performance of novices in relation to the expected practices of the community. In turn, novices agree to apprentice and have their performance interpreted and evaluated by the experts. The apprenticeship provides an environment of trust in which novices and experts can co–construct mutually recognizable and desirable social roles. To this end, we rely on authentic performance assessments such as projects centered on critical educational concepts and activities embedded in actual educational and social service contexts.
IV. The Knowledge Base for Professional Educators
An identifiable knowledge base that is both general in nature and specific to program areas emerges from the Community of Practice.
The RCOE views itself as a professional school. We consider it crucial that all our graduates come to view themselves as professionals, and assume the roles and responsibilities that this implies. One of the defining characteristics of a profession is a scholarly knowledge base (Shulman, 1998). Our obligation is to help our candidates "to both understand and move beyond their own personal knowledge and experiences to bring to bear a wider set of understandings on the problems of helping others learn" (Bransford, Darling-Hammond & LePage, 2005. p. 12). According to Darling-Hammond and Baratz-Snowden (2005), beginning teachers must acquire three general knowledge areas to be successful in the classroom: knowledge of learners, knowledge of subject matter and curriculum goals, and knowledge of teaching.
Knowledge of Learners
Darling–Hammond and Baratz-Snowden (2005) state educators must develop a deep understanding of how children learn. It is crucial that this knowledge is drawn from multiple perspectives:
- The learner and his or her strengths, interests and preconceptions;
- The knowledge, skills and attitudes we want children to acquire and how they may be organized so that students can use and transfer what they've learned;
- The assessment of learning that makes students' thinking visible, and through feedback guides further learning;
- The community within which learning occurs, both within and outside the classroom (p. 7).
The research literature provides a rich and fruitful understanding of how individuals learn. A number of fundamental concepts about learning provide beginning teachers and other practitioners with foundation for their continued professional growth. These concepts include:
- Learning as a constructive process: "Learning is an active knowledge construction process emphasizing context, interaction and situatedness" (Salomon & Perkins, 1998, p. 4)
- The zone of proximal development : "...distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86).
- Metacognition: "...how people learn to monitor and regulate their own learning and thinking." (Darling-Hammond and Baratz-Snowden, 2005, p.8).
- Cultural Competence: display the ability to: (1) develop curriculum that is representative of the myriad of individuals in our global community (Banks, 2003); (2) select materials that are inclusive that are inclusive of the contributions and perspectives of multiple groups (Delpit, 1995; Ladson-Billings, 2002); (3) develop an awareness and responsiveness to the particular cultural context within which they live and teach (Irvine & Armento, 2001; Sleeter & Grant 1999; Banks et al., 2005).
Knowledge of Subject Matter and Curriculum Goals
Hawkins (1974) and others (e.g. Grossman & Schoenfeld, 2005) have repeatedly called for teachers to become diagnosticians of learners' interests and ideas. This leads to engaging students in the study of subject matter that extends to a deeper and richer understanding of how the content they study relates to their lives and their needs. For teachers to be in the appropriate position to lead such study, they must have a deep understanding of the content themselves for which they have responsibility as well as the knowledge and ability to represent that content in meaningful ways for all students (Shulman 1987).
The kind of content knowledge teachers must possess may differ from those who seek similar content preparation but for vocations other than teaching. Educators' content knowledge most often is addressed through program standards at either the national or the state level and, in a number of cases, at both levels. Specialty organizations affiliated with NCATE have established standards, many of which focus on "the knowledge related to teaching" that teaching majors should be expected to master. North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction establishes what it believes is a necessary knowledge base for teachers by discipline. All of our programs are built on these standards and are held accountable for demonstrating their candidates' performance in relation to the standards. Each program's decision related to meeting the content standards is reflected in the curriculum check sheets prepared for all majors.
Knowledge of Teaching
Because content knowledge alone is insufficient for the preparation of teachers, it must be synthesized with pedagogical knowledge. According to Shulman (1986) pedagogical knowledge consists of
The most regularly taught topics in one's subject area, the most useful forms of representations of these ideas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations--in a word, ways of representing and formulating the subject matter that make it comprehensible to others. Pedagogical content knowledge also includes an understanding of what makes the learning of specific topics easy or difficult; the conceptions and preconceptions that students of different ages and backgrounds bring with them to the learning of those most frequently taught topics and lessons (p. 9-10).
Fundamentally, pedagogical knowledge is subject specific and therefore our candidates experience such knowledge in that context, most notably in their subject specific methods courses and in their field experiences.
We focus on preparing professionals capable of exercising "trustworthy judgment based on a strong base of knowledge" (Bransford, Darling-Hammond & LePage, 2005, p.2). We are unable to provide our candidates with all the skills and knowledge necessary to perform throughout their careers because learning is a career long commitment. Instead, our role is helping candidates develop the core understandings and skills that will prepare them for a life time of professional learning. Our aim is to develop "adaptive experts" who are capable of making the complex judgments they will have to make daily in practice. Sharon Feiman-Nemser (2001) asserts:
The study of teaching requires skills of observation, interpretation, and analysis. Pre-service teachers can begin developing these tools by analyzing student work, comparing difference curriculum materials, interviewing students to uncover their thinking, studying how different teachers work toward the same goals, and observing what impact their instruction has on students. Carried out in the company of others, these activities can foster norms for professional discourse such as respect for evidence, openness to questions, valuing of alternative perspectives, a search for common understandings, and shared standards (p. 1019).
The teaching profession is now at a point in history where substantial consensus exists about the key elements of teacher education curriculum (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005). A rich and varied body of research literature buttresses our understanding of the learning process and how teaching can best support it. The RCOE is committed to the professional standards that have emerged from efforts to codify the knowledge base that forms the foundation of good teaching. These efforts include the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education's Knowledge Base for the Beginning Teacher (1989) and the Teacher Educator's Handbook (1996). In addition, professional organizations have developed standards that guide teaching and teacher education in specific disciplines and areas. These include:
- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
- American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD)
- American Educational Research Association (AERA)
- American Library Association (ALA)
- Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)
- Association for Education Communications and Technology (AECT)
- Council for the Accreditation for Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP)
- Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
- Council for Social Foundations of Education (CSFE)
- Education Leadership Constituency Council (ELCC)
- International Reading Association (IRA)
- International Technology Education Association (ITEA)
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
- National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
- National Middle School Association (NMSA)
- National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
- Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
All members of the RCOE develop a set of dispositions that reflect the attitudes, beliefs, and values common to the Community of Practice.
The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) defines the term "dispositions" in the following way:
The values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors toward students, families, colleagues, and communities and affect student learning, motivation, and development as well as the educator's own professional growth. Dispositions are guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice (NCATE, 2002).
Learning has to be more than the mere accumulation of knowledge, skills, beliefs, and values if it is to have any meaning to those who teach or serve and to those who learn. Therefore, dispositions that manifest themselves in the actions of expert teachers are worthy of imitation. Raths (2001) suggests we should strengthen certain dispositions that we view as critical to the success of any candidate who enters the field of education and social services. These dispositions clearly are grounded in "beliefs." As an expectation of their performance as members of the RCOE Community of Practice, we ask our candidates to behave in ways that reflect these dispositions.
What habits of mind and behavior are essential to good teaching, leading, administering, and providing human services? We have identified three key dispositions:
- Candidates exhibit a commitment to meeting the needs of all learners.
- Candidates exhibit a commitment to reflective practice.
- Candidates exhibit a commitment to professional and ethical practice.
First, candidates must exhibit a commitment to meeting the needs of all learners. Haberman (1996) suggests that determination and persistence are essential to working with all learners until they succeed. This includes the responsibility for an individual's learning and the willingness to identify different approaches to teaching and working with people from diverse population. Candidates are expected to maintain a positive learning and helping environment for all individuals, using language appropriately, demonstrating an interest in all learners, and approaching the teaching/learning process with enthusiasm and commitment. Candidates are expected to prepare developmentally appropriate interventions, lessons and activities for all individuals, to provide fair evaluations and assessments, and to manage all individuals' behavior justly and fairly. Candidates should maintain appropriate relationships with all students, connect learning, leading and helping to life experiences, and work with families to support all individuals' learning. If our candidates exhibit these identified behaviors consistently and at high levels, they will have displayed their commitment to meeting the needs of all individuals they encounter in their chosen professions.
The second key disposition calls for a commitment to reflective practice. If we act without forethought or reflection upon our actions, we run the risk of not being attuned to the context of teaching, helping and learning. Consequently, we may fail to meet the needs of those we try to teach, lead, or provide services to and are destined to repeat our mistakes. Our judgments are often suspect and require questioning and constant reflection because our ability to perceive others develops within a limited cultural and familial context. Our goal is to assist our candidates in developing behaviors that will provide us with an indication of their commitment to reflective practice. We expect candidates to reflect on and actively use feedback from mentors, evaluators and instructors. Candidates are also expected to engage in reflective self-analysis about their own teaching performance and the learning performance and behaviors of all of their students, clients, or other learners. We expect evidence of their use of multiple assessments that lead to revised practice and a deeper understanding of the learning, growth and developmental needs of all students or clients.
Our third disposition calls for our candidates to exhibit a commitment to professional and ethical practice. Because teaching, leadership, and counseling are inherently moral and ethical enterprises, candidates are expected to conduct themselves according to the highest ethical and moral standards. As professional educators, we engage in a variety of interactions within schools and other social service settings as well as with parents and others outside these domains. We expect our candidates and faculty within the RCOE Community of Practice to display a set of behaviors that indicate their understanding of their roles and responsibilities in these contexts. Among these behaviors are showing respect for the diverse views of all those with whom they work: students, parents, colleagues. We expect candidates to work collaboratively with diverse populations, perform their assigned duties and meet all professional obligations. We also expect that candidates will assume active roles as participants in professional decision-making processes, and pursue growth and development in the practice of their profession.
Candidates must have multiple opportunities to display the key behaviors associated with each disposition so that both the candidate and the observer can reach the conclusion that the candidate will be likely to display the disposition in the future in similar situations. The RCOE's focus on these three key dispositions does not imply that program areas do not have other dispositions for which candidates may be held responsible by their respective areas. However, we believe that such additional dispositions will fit easily within the RCOE conceptual framework.
A Summing Up
Historically, models of educator preparation have emphasized the acquisition and mastery of individual competencies or skills, usually through courses containing ex-tensive listings of predetermined objectives, competencies, and content. In such courses, the professor transmits packages of knowledge assumed to be related to listed competencies and skills. The traditional expectation has been that the necessary packages will translate effortlessly into skills and applications during clinical experiences and ultimately into the education profession.
Although such models may have had their place at one time, the rapidly changing dynamics of our society, the incredible pace at which knowledge is being discovered, and the need for more flexible approaches to learning call for a shift in philosophy and practice related to the preparation of educators for the 21st century. The Reich College of Education, as the professional unit charged with educator preparation on the ASU campus, does not view teaching as merely telling, learning as merely listening and knowledge merely as facts. Instead, we believe that a more powerful conceptual view of teaching, learning, and preparation is possible, one that is reflective and based on a social constructivist perspective that recognizes the constructive, integrative, and transformative nature of knowledge and practice.
As the professional unit charged with preparing teachers and other educational personnel, the Reich College of Education has adopted a social constructivist framework for the preparation of candidates. Becoming an educator at Appalachian State University requires the novice to participate in a professional community of practice. Novices also experience other communities of practice, such as public schools and professional agencies.
As a result of their work in the RCOE community of practice, graduates and faculty of the RCOE will:
- Provide positive professional contributions within the various Communities of Practice of which they are members;
- Embody the view that learning and teaching are active, social and trans-formative processes that are enhanced when new learning is linked to prior knowledge;
- Use theory and research to inform practice and use experience from practice to inform theory and research;
- Engage in the ongoing developmental process of moving from novice to adaptive expert;
- Plan and adapt teaching and learning experiences, assessments, and interventions with reference to their students' or clients' diverse needs and characteristics;
- Demonstrate a commitment to three key dispositions: (1) meeting the needs of all learners; (2) engaging in ongoing reflective practice and lifelong learning; (3) embodying the highest standards of professional and ethical practice.
Becoming an educator in the RCOE Community of Practice requires acquiring and mastering a professional knowledge base, applying and assessing that knowledge in diverse settings and with diverse populations, and committing to acquiring and mastering knowledge and skills throughout one's professional life. Professional dispositions underlie such efforts and insure that each candidate commits to meeting the needs of all learners, to exhibiting reflective practice, and to pursuing the highest standards of professional and ethical practice.
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