School of Education - Accreditation Self-Study Report

Conceptual Framework: Narrative

History

The current Conceptual Framework for the Education Unit at St. Cloud State University was developed in the 1990’s and has been used through the last NCATE review process during 2007.  It has served the unit well as a holistic and integrated description of the teacher candidate roles and the process of moving towards developing skills to carry out the desired roles.  The model served as description of our shared vision and represented our intellectual philosophy during that time period.

The College of Education embarked upon a reform of our teacher preparation program in the summer of 2009 when the Bush Foundation provided a planning grant to review our program and propose a long-term process for change.  In early 2010 the College was selected as one of 14 institutions to participate in the Bush Foundation Teacher Effectiveness initiative to transform the preparation of teachers by examining our recruitment, preparation, placement and support for our teacher candidates.  Over the last 4 years the Teacher Preparation Initiative (TPI) at St. Cloud State University has engaged faculty and P-12 partners in examining current structures and policies, reviewing alternatives and proposing new ways of preparing our teacher candidates.  At the same time the University has gone through a reorganization process and the College of Education has become the School of Education, which is smaller and more focused on teacher preparation while strengthening our connections with content area departments and the P-12 schools through the work of TPI.  These TPI discussions and university changes have had a profound impact on how teacher preparation faculty think about and approach teacher preparation.

The state of Minnesota also initiated changes in requirements for teacher candidates to focus on literacy and technology standards, initial basic skills testing, and adoption of edTPA as an assessment for teacher candidates as they complete their student teaching.  These changes as well as the national level development of new INTASC standards, 21st Century Skills and an emphasis on accountability based on student outcomes in P-12 have created new demands on our teacher preparation program that propelled us to revisit our current Conceptual Framework.            

During the spring of 2012 a new structure was developed to represent the various teacher licensure programs in our education unit and to add the voices of P-12 teachers and administrators to addressing proposals for transforming our teacher preparation at the unit level.  One of the first charges for this group called the Teacher Education Advisory Council (TEAC) was to review and revise the Conceptual Framework.  TEAC is composed of 35+ faculty, students, P-12 teachers and administrators.  During the 2012-13 academic year this body met on a regular basis and included the Conceptual Framework as an official agenda item at 6 meetings.  One meeting in November 2012 was dedicated to assessing the current conceptual framework.  At this meeting the current framework was reviewed for strengths and weaknesses, including data collected from student focus groups. In addition, a number of CF models from other institutions were presented and reviewed to help identify areas that our model was missing or for new ways of thinking about representing our values and vision for teacher preparation at St. Cloud State University.  While there were a number of strengths that were identified in the current model that still reflected some key aspects of our identity, there were also new areas that were not represented (e.g., assessment, role of technology, explicit connections to P-12 schools and student outcomes).  The work of developing a revised CF continued in meetings, with a focus on the critical values that SCSU wanted to be depicted.  The group began to sort through the old model and to add new concepts.  It was clear that a new model should be developed that retained the basic role performances of the original model that were still relevant.  It was also clear that in order to better represent who we are and what we are striving to be “at our best”, some of the changes that have occurred in the national educational environment and at the university needed to be included in our new model.  A small group began meeting during spring 2013 and through the summer to create a new model that depicted our evolving vision and values.      

In the analysis of the old model the strengths that were identified were:

  • Clear focus on role performances as important outcomes for teacher candidates
  • Comprehensive view of the preparation process
  • Reflection of important unit values in the roles that teachers would be expected to play.
  • Careful depiction of learning as a process
  • Incorporated liberal education as a foundation for teacher preparation

The role performances were seen as an important foundation on which to build as the group developed a new model.  Table 1 depicts the alignment between the Role Performances of the current model and the outcomes for teacher candidates in the proposed model.              

Some of the weaknesses of the current model that were identified include:

  • The model is too complex and not easily understood
  • It did not include connections to P-12 schools and students.
  • The language was outdated.
  • Our institutional vision had changed and the model did not include important elements of the new vision.
  • There were a number of concepts that are central to teacher preparation as it has evolved over the last decade that were not included in the model (e.g., accountability, technology, 21st Century skills).

This analysis led the TEAC group to a new set of ideas that would guide the development of a revised Conceptual Framework for the Education Unit at St. Cloud State University.  Some of the ideas that emerged were:

  1. Clarity and updated language so that it would be easy to understand and easy for students and faculty to explain.
  2. Reflect the changes at the university level that align our model with the current SCSU and School of Education mission and vision.
  3. Illustrate the important connections and collaborative partnerships that we have been building with our TPI teacher reform initiative.
  4. Make a clear connection to P-12 student outcomes that also reflects an emphasis on 21st Century skills
  5. Align with the new INTASC framework that emphasizes ongoing professional growth and development.
  6. Depict faculty and teacher candidates as co-learners in relation to teacher outcomes, preparing students to work with our co-teaching model as they move into their student teaching assignments.

The new model draws from a variety of sources in creating a clear image of our vision, values and educational philosophy.  The model begins with the institutional vision that stresses our commitments to: 1) access and opportunity to students who want to become teachers; 2) excellence in teaching; 3) active and applied learning;  4) community engagement; 5) global and cultural understanding; and 6; accountability that improves teaching/learning.  This clearly reflects the vision of St. Cloud State University and the new emphasis in the Education unit on collaboration with schools and accountability that matters.  The focus on active and applied learning is consistent with the NCATE report  (2010) on field experiences as an essential element in teacher preparation.         

The second level of the proposed model identifies essential elements of effective teachers that extend beyond the narrow version assessing learning only through test scores to include the multiple role performances of teachers.  These reflect both the foundational roles from the current CF model as well as the roles of collaborative leaders and creative problem solvers.  Faculty are seen as co-learners with students and have the responsibility to model the important characteristics of effective teachers and continue to be open-minded, curious and excited about learning with teacher candidates.  This disposition reflects an important change in the revised INTASC framework that depicts standards as aspirational and acknowledges the developmental trajectory of effective teachers.  This also complements with the TPI model that begins to focus on induction and support for beginning teachers.  The effective teacher in the 21st Century is multi-dimensional and serves as an intellectual role model for students.           

The third level of the model makes the direct connection to the P-12 students and our vision of the characteristics that P-12 students will need to develop in order to be successful in the 21st Century.  The model includes some of the essential concepts from the 21st Century model of education (2008) that go beyond the basic skills to include collaboration, creativity, curiosity and thriving on diversity.