Aligned with the college mission, the School of Education’s mission is to prepare future educators who will challenge a new generation of students to reach their highest potential, acquire a love for learning, and become productive citizens in a 21st century democracy. Through exemplary teaching, service, and scholarship, the School of Education is committed to preparing educators for a diverse community of learners.

Philosophy, Beliefs and Goals

The School of Education’s philosophy is built on the fundamental belief that all school-aged students can learn. This belief incorporates the idea that these learners are unique and capable students who reach success in a safe learning environment where the instructional focus is on building communities of learners. These learning communities reflect collaborative and experiential inquiry with students, parents, colleagues, administrators, and community members. The School of Education is guided by this fundamental belief which integrates the knowledge of best practices for preparing teacher candidates, focusing on state and national standards.

The School of Education’s teaching philosophy aligns with constructivist learning theory. Jonassen (1994) proposed seven tenets of constructivist learning environments that best describe the unit’s understanding:

  • represent the natural complexity of the real world
  • focus on knowledge construction, not reproduction
  • present authentic tasks, contextualizing, rather than abstracting instruction
  • provide real-world, case-based learning environments, rather than predetermined instructional sequence
  • foster reflective practice
  • enable context and content-dependent knowledge construction
  • support collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation, not competition among learners for recognition. (p. 35)

The School of Education recognizes the complexity of constructivist theory. We use and integrate cognitive and social branches of constructivist learning theory in order to best meet the diverse learning styles of our teacher candidates. A brief overview of the unit’s understanding of cognitive and social constructivism is provided.

Based on the work of Piaget (1952), cognitive constructivism focuses on the individual learners’ need and not the learner in a social context (Oxford, 1997). Piaget’s work centered on the processes of the individual’s understanding: “we must study its {knowledge} formation rather than examining only the end product” (Kamii & Ewings, 1996, p. 260). On the other hand, social constructivism brings together the work of Piaget with that of Bruner and Vygotsky. Social constructivism views each learner as a unique individual with diverse needs and backgrounds that are shaped by the social context of the learning situation (Bruner, 1997; Phillips,1995; Wertsch, 1997; Wood, 1998).

Based in the School of Education’s fundamental beliefs and guiding social constructivism philosophy, the School of Education’s faculty developed four professional outcomes for the professional programs: competent, collaborative, caring, and reflective. The four outcomes are what we believe our candidates must demonstrate upon program completion and are supported by our research based discussed below.

Knowledge Base

Competent Educator

Research supports the belief that effective, competent teachers make a significant difference in student achievement relatively independent of any other factors in the schools (Marzano, 2003; Nye, Konstantopoulos, & Hedges, 2004). The unit believes that competent teachers have a strong, flexible content knowledge base integrated with appropriate pedagogical content knowledge that allows teacher candidates to support the diverse learning needs of students (Bransford, Darling-Hammond, & LePage, 2005; Cummings, 1989; Delpit, 1995; Krashen, 1987). Furthermore, teacher candidates need to be introduced to the complexity of teaching. Competent teachers use and draw from multiple knowledge bases to plan and deliver instruction including both content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. Content areas include content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, decision-making skills, lesson design, knowledge of assessment, differentiated instruction, understanding diversity, and technology.

Caring Educator

The unit strives to prepare educators who understand the role and importance of motivating students to excel and to be self-confident in a caring, risk-free environment. Gordon (2008) proposes that creating an effective learning environment is multidimensional. A teacher must give equal footing to both instructional delivery system and connecting with students. By connectedness, Gordon describes a teacher who is self-confident in her/his pedagogical content knowledge all the while understanding the importance of fostering caring relationships with students in the context of the learning environment. The unit recognizes that caring plays a major role in building an effective classroom learning environment, but we also celebrate the multiple ways to demonstrate caring in a classroom context. Students always remember teachers who care, make class interesting, and teach in a special way.

Collaborative Educator

The roles and responsibilities of teachers in school settings are changing; we have seen a shift from the expectations of educator competence in the individual setting toward professional, collaborative community expertise whereby educators jointly define goals and take responsibility for all students’ progress (Anderson, Rolheiser, & Gordon, 1998). It is imperative that educators develop collaborative skills to work effectively with various stakeholders involved in the educational process (Friend & Cook, 2003). Through collaboration and supportive interaction within the classroom, school, and community, the collaborative educator influences positive student achievement.

Reflective Educator

Boud, Keogh, and Walker (1985) define reflection as an activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull it over, and evaluate it. We believe reflective educators consider the experiences in which they are engaged, recalling or detailing salient events, and then evaluate the experiences to constantly refine and improve their teaching skills. The reflective educator reflects and revises practice based upon a commitment to continual growth. We believe our teacher candidates will be able to self-assess their abilities to analyze their work through careful consideration and to use the experiences to effect student learning and achievement.