Notes from the Dept. Chair
Change: The Tactical Approach
By Gaye R. Jenkins, Ed.D.
Chair, Department of Education
Western State Colorado University
As we are aware, change is the constant throughout the world of education. In Educator Preparation (Ed Prep), it is crucial to remain responsive to the sways and shifts required of E-12 educators in the field. Our very emphasis on the word ‘preparation’ indicates an obligation to actually perform ahead of the curves of transformation before they become evident in classrooms. Ed Prep program graduates need to be ready to not only merge with existing practices, but also to demonstrate skills of leadership into new strategies and ways of thinking that are required as current educators replace former emphases.
Western State Colorado University has a proven reputation for preempting change in the field of educator preparation at the state and national level. In 2009, we moved to the year-long clinical residency model, with interwoven, application-based online coursework as new undergraduate and graduate programs were approved by CDE and CDHE. It wasn’t until 2012 that this practice became recommended (TNTP Making Licensure Matter, August 2012). We also have been adding relevant tracks to our fleet of Educator Leadership programs as emerging trends have become apparent; the latest of these being K-12 Online Teacher Leader, and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Leadership.
Student voice: “I just wanted to let you know that I got offered TWO elementary teaching positions for next year. I decided to take the 5th grade position at the same school (and classroom) where I've been interning all year. It couldn't be a better transition. I also really wanted to thank you and the rest of the faculty at Western for developing a truly amazing education program. I have always felt prepared in the classroom and ready for my job interviews. I strongly believe that the year-long internship program offered by Western is a big reason why I was offered the job at Lewis-Arriola Elementary. I really can't thank you (and everyone else at Western) for such a positive, successful, and effective graduate program. Thanks again.” (Alison Robinson, Elementary, 2013)
Western State’s current Ed Prep work involves the adoption of the Teacher and Principal Quality Standards (T/PQS). For us, this is not just a question of replacing the former Performance Standards which were legislatively mandated in 1991 with the T/PQS in course syllabi. It is a question of examining the relevance of every aspect of our work and the candidate experience to ensure the highest quality of preparation possible over the course of each licensure or endorsement program. This year, we have been developing systemic observational protocol and measurement which can be used as a predictor of future educator performance against teacher or principal evaluations.
Because Western’s licensure candidates are in the field, working in their year-long clinical residency as they are completing our education coursework, the application of new learning is immediate. We cultivate Reflective Practitioners because for every observable measure of educator effectiveness we insist on implementation by the resident and subsequent reflection to foster maximized growth through six cycles of continuous improvement.
Student voice: “While completing this submission cycle, I realized how many of the instructional, engagement, and classroom management strategies come much more naturally for me now than they did at the beginning of the year. In completing my reflection and developing and modifying my cycle 6 goals, I considered what I can do to end this school year strong and to best prepare for my own classroom in the fall.” (Amanda Hawkins, 2014, newly employed completer, Art)
During academic year 2013-14, our course realignment process consisted of all Education Department faculty rolling up their sleeves and contributing to the work. To ensure seamless articulation through each program, we created wall charts of every licensure track offered. Syllabi from every course and program were examined to identify formative and summative assignments.
(Brooke Hanks – Faculty, with course alignment matrix document)
Weekly formative and summative assignments were mapped on the wall charts and T/PQS were then applied to each summative assignment through creative sticky notes.
(Gillian Lie, Gaye Jenkins – Faculty, examining workflow through the Elementary licensure track)
Yes, occasional gaps and redundancies were both noted, and faculty collaborated around solutions by creating course connections and developing further articulation, lending greater integrity to our goals and outcomes according to the T/PQS.
To gather evidence of not only which standard and element have been observed, key faculty designed observational online tools within our Student Management System (TK20) which drills down into each descriptor for each element of the effectiveness rubrics. Mentor teachers and university facilitators who observe candidates in the field will be using these tools to establish which specific bullets from the rubric that they observe are represented in our course and assignment requirements. These reports will become predictors of success in future evaluations against which we can tie state data from our completers, as these data become available.
(Sample TK20 screen shot of observable Teacher Effectiveness rubric bullets)
We know we are not alone in the ‘quality Ed Prep business’. There are many highly relevant and effective models of educator preparation out there! I encourage all units, administrators, and faculty to ‘go the extra mile’ to do this kind of work to ensure our profession and reputation is forever shifted from what some perceive to be ‘lethargic’ or ‘stagnant’ to what it really is: tactical, preemptive and visionary.