Teacher as a Lifelong Learner
Revised Spring 2012
Almost 30 years have passed since the 1983 report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, was released and touched off a wave of reform efforts. The reform efforts continue to be actively addressed through legal reforms, mandates and laws (Casey, Bicard, Bicard, and Cooley-Nichols, 2008). Darling-Hammond (2010) maintains that schools of education have made significant headway by using standards to redesign their programs; creating stronger clinical practice; strengthening coursework around critical areas and teaching of English language learners and special needs students; and connecting this coursework directly to practice in much more extensive practicum settings. However, Darling-Hammond (2010) and Levine (2010) indicate that teacher preparation and certification still remain controversial and plague colleges of education. Education and its reform remain at the forefront of the nation's concerns, thereby requiring the university role in teacher education be strengthened.
Given this state of affairs, the teacher education program at Kutztown University (KU) is dedicated to having a positive impact on the lives of children and youth in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the preparation of highly qualified candidates. Our goal is to provide preparation programs that blend a strong knowledge base in the content area, and understanding of human development and grounding in pedagogy with frequent and continuous field experiences. The candidates prepared in our programs will be willing and able to effect change in an increasingly diverse and technologically integrated educational environment. Our graduates will be committed to professional development throughout their careers, thus supporting the College of Education model of lifelong learning. Through this model, candidates acquire the essential knowledge, skills and dispositions that contribute to the development of professionals who strive for continual excellence in the diverse and changing school contexts in which teachers find themselves.
Domains and Candidate Proficiencies
Education of candidates includes general education courses that cultivate intellectual and practical skills in written and oral communication, quantitative literacy, critical thinking and wellness.
In addition to his or her general knowledge, candidates must be thoroughly versed in their subject matter and have sufficient preparation in a major academic area related to the field of specialization. Further, teachers must be able to demonstrate the ability to apply content, pedagogical competencies and critical thinking in educational settings. Teachers additionally must possess knowledge about the materials available for the teaching of their subject matter.
Knowledge and use of effective communication skills are at the heart of effective teaching. An educator must be able to demonstrate appropriate written and verbal communication skills including articulation, expressive language, voice quality, usage, and grammar. A teacher must also be aware of the messages relayed via nonverbal communication. Additionally, an educator must be able to select and utilize appropriate communication media. Clarity in presentations, feedback, direction of learning and goal setting contribute to the educator's ability to structure and reinforce learning. Communication skills allow the educator to accomplish these goals and communicate enthusiasm to learners, both about the subject and about learning. The teacher as a lifelong learner is continually refining communication skills with students, parents, and colleagues.
I.2. Critical Thinking
Teachers must practice critical thinking in all content areas; they must be able to ask appropriate questions, gather relevant information, efficiently and creatively sort through this information, reason logically from this information, and come to reliable and trustworthy conclusions. Additionally, the teacher is able to model and teach the process of critical thinking and inspire students to be responsible citizens who contribute to society.
Professional knowledge is vast in scope, begins with the pre-service aspect of a teacher preparation program, and expands commensurately with experience. Examples of practical/experiential knowledge include an awareness of the climate, issues and politics that affect the role of teaching, a passion for teaching, an ongoing curiosity about the world, the confidence to become a risk-taker and change agent, and a belief that all students can learn. The teacher as a lifelong learner is always extending practical/experiential knowledge.
II.1. Interpersonal Skills
Effective interpersonal skills are also essential in the act of teaching. The capacity for empathy, a belief that every child can learn, attention to individual needs, sensitivity to home and community issues, ability to be at ease in the presence of children or young adults, and the ability to provide a positive, caring atmosphere for learning are examples of these skills (Gideonse, 1989). The teacher also must possess interpersonal skills that foster peer collaboration. In the continual process of learning, the teacher must be willing to seek help, advice, or solace from peers. The teacher revises and expands interpersonal skills on a continual basis.
II.2. Integration of Discipline
Knowing content is important for a teacher; however, broadening the context and applicability of content through integration of disciplines provides students with a richer academic experience. Integration fosters ongoing reinforcement of skills learned in one area of study and utilized in other areas. This integration of discipline allows teachers and students to view their content discipline with perspective and understanding of how it all relates together.
II.3. Technology Integration
Integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class. Rather, technology should be used to engage students and facilitate their thinking and construction of knowledge. Students learn to access, evaluate, and use information.
II.4. Organization and Classroom Management
Organizing and managing instructional settings are complex activities, requiring effective skills and supportive affective relationships. The teacher adopts a proactive organizational and managerial style that involves interventions and strategies designed to include positive expectations, self-evaluation, and growth.
Kutztown University defines dispositions as internal values, beliefs, and attitudes that are manifested in patterns of professional behaviors. The assessment does not focus on values, beliefs, and attitudes directly; instead, dispositions are only assessed as they are manifested in patterns of behaviors and candidate performances in their work with P-12 students and his or her families, peers, faculty, and the community. Candidates demonstrate classroom behaviors that are consistent with the ideal of fairness and the belief that all students can learn.
III.1. Scholarly Inquiry
Candidates must be well versed in their content and be aware of current trends and issues. Toward that end, teachers must have the ability to be collaborative and conduct and use action research within his or her own academic disciplines.
III.2. Reflective Wisdom
Through reflection, candidates gain a deeper understanding of their own teaching style and ultimately, greater effectiveness as a teacher (Schon, 1983). It is essential that teachers reflect in action - while doing something - and on action - after they have done it. Thus, teachers are engaged in the process of continuous learning.
III.3. Cultural Awareness and Acceptance
The teacher must be able to work with an ever-changing diverse student population and have the perception to see diversity in people as a strength rather than a deficit. Cultural awareness and acceptance includes those similarities and commonalities found across cultural lines as well and is not merely a study of contrasts. The teacher must provide for educational opportunities that will strengthen students' appreciation of the diversity that enriches our nation.
In Kutztown University's College of Education, wherein all programs are guided by our Conceptual Framework, we strive to prepare every learner to live a life characterized by high moral character, and to experience a satisfying and rewarding career.
Kutztown University's mission is to provide a high quality education at the undergraduate and graduate levels in order to prepare students to meet lifelong intellectual, ethical, social, and career challenges.
Reflective of the KU mission statement and through a committed, qualified, and diverse faculty collaborating across organizational boundaries, we prepare educational professionals for today's schools and other educational agencies. These are diverse professionals who instill a life-long responsibility for continued learning and accountability for their students' capacity to live, work, and participate fully in a globally networked world.
The knowledge, skills and dispositions learned during the preparation program at KU will lead the way for increased student achievement in our schools and districts, as KU teacher candidates will possess a thorough understanding of the skills and attributes needed to help all students learn.
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