Learner Goals

College of Education

Learner Goals

The 1989 policy statement of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS, 1989), "What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do," describes the knowledge base for teaching. It states:

The fundamental requirements for proficient teaching are relatively clear: a broad grounding in the liberal arts and sciences; knowledge of the subjects to be taught, of the skills to be developed, and of the curricular arrangements and materials that organize and embody that content; knowledge of general and subject-specific methods for teaching and for evaluating student learning; knowledge of students and human development; skills in effectively teaching students from racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds; and the skills, capacities and dispositions to employ such knowledge wisely in the interest of students.

As such, the College of Education teacher and administrator preparation programs are designed to ensure that learners aspire to a set of personal and professional goals that will enable them to be educators focused on student learning and achievement, as a direct reflection of the College's mission and the above NBPTS policy statement. These eight goals are reflective of standards espoused by state and federal departments of education, professional education organizations, and accrediting bodies.

Learner Goals and Standards Alignment

Learner Goals

NCATE 2008

INTASC 2008

NBPTS

ISLLC 2008

APTS

Professional Dispositions

1, 3

9

4, 5

2, 4, 5, 6

6

Content Knowledge

1, 3

1

2

2

1, 3, 7

Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Skills

1, 3

1, 2, 3

1, 2, 3

1, 3, 7, 9

Professional and Pedagogical Knowledge and Skills

1, 3

4, 5, 6, 7

1, 2, 3

1, 3

1, 2, 3, 7, 8

Data-Informed Decision Making

1, 3

8

1

3

4

Performance Assessment

2

8

1

2

4

Technology Integration

6

4, 7

1, 2, 3

2

1, 6, 7, 8

Field Experience/Clinical Practice

3

10

5

5

 

Professional Dispositions

Learners will develop the values, commitments, and ethics that positively impact the educational community as well as the educator's own professional growth.

Teacher education has moved from knowledge, skills, and attitudes to knowledge, skills, and dispositions (Villegas, 2007). Disposition can be defined as a tendency to exhibit frequently, consciously, and voluntarily a pattern of behavior that is directed to a broad goal (Ros-Voseles & Moss, 2007). In a sense, dispositions are an individual's personal qualities or characteristics, including values, attitudes, beliefs, interests, behaviors, and performance. They extend to professional modes of conduct and the ways in which beliefs and attitudes are displayed in and out of the classroom. An educator's professional dispositions can be observed through appearance and verbal and nonverbal actions. Teachers with positive professional dispositions tend to act in ways that elevate the profession of teaching in the eyes of others (Ros-Voseles & Moss). Dispositions build an educator's ability to work as part of a professional community to support the ability for all students to learn. All of these impact the effectiveness of teachers and administrators, and translate into student learning, achievement, and well-being.

 

Content Knowledge

Learners will master the content they intend to teach and will be able to explain its important principles and concepts.

Content knowledge and its principles and concepts are delineated in professional, state, and institutional standards, for the most part. It is important that teacher candidates have acquired sufficient content knowledge to be able to help all students learn and meet these standards of PK-12 education. As Bergman (2010) indicates, "In the current age of accountability and standards assessment, teachers [need to be] equipped to consciously promote content learning in students" (p. 130). To meet this expectation, programs of study that lead to credential are built with a minimum of 24 credits of content in preparation for the content area tests of the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessments (AEPA); for those learners not seeking Arizona certification, Praxis I® (Basic Skills) and Praxis II® (Content Area) testing is required. Content experts from the GCU Colleges of Liberal Arts, Fine Arts and Production, Health Sciences, and Business ensure that content is linked to prior learning and experience.

 

Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Skills

Learners will develop an understanding of the relationship between content and content-specific pedagogy, instructional strategy, and technology.

According to Marzano, Pickering, and Pollack (2001), effective pedagogy consists of three elements: instructional strategies, management techniques, and curriculum design. College of Education learners cultivate a broad knowledge of instructional strategies that draws upon content and pedagogical knowledge and skills delineated in professional, state, and institutional standards to help all students learn. They facilitate student learning of the content through presentation in clear and meaningful ways and through the integration of technology. Learners in advanced programs for teachers demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the content of their field and of the theories related to pedagogy and learning. They are able to select and use a broad range of instructional strategies and technologies that promote student learning and are able to clearly explain the choices they make in their practice. The abilities and decisions of individual teachers in planning and implementing instruction has a far greater impact upon students' learning than any decision made at the school or district levels, and determine the quality of instruction. The teacher is the most important factor influencing student learning (Marzano, 2003).

Learners are taught to evaluate their students' performances so as to design instruction that is appropriate for social, cognitive, and emotional development. Their program of study trains them to plan instruction based upon knowledge of subject matter, students, the community, and curriculum goals, and to evaluate grade level appropriate use of technology within a content area. During their student teaching experience, they demonstrate the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the discipline that they will be teaching and create learning experiences that make these aspects of subject matter meaningful for students. They are required to demonstrate an understanding of how children learn and develop, and provide learning opportunities that support their intellectual, social, and personal development. They are trained to understand and use a variety of instructional strategies to encourage student development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills.

Multicultural considerations must also inform instruction. According to Gollnick and Chinn (2002), "effective instructional strategies for all students in the classroom should not evolve solely from the teacher's culture; they should be drawn primarily from the cultures of students and communities" (p. vi). Effective planning in a multicultural environment is a critical skill new teachers must be able to demonstrate. Teacher candidates must develop more than just an awareness of diversity. Rather, through direct observation and teaching interaction within diverse settings and with students who present a variety of needs, candidates must practice and acquire skills in planning for diversity. Thus, GCU teacher and administrator candidates are assigned field experiences in schools with diverse populations. For example, one partner school serves students who speak 22 languages within a student body population where over 50% of students are English language learners. Some of these students also attend special education classes.

 

Professional and Pedagogical Knowledge and Skills

Learners will be able to develop meaningful learning experiences that improve student learning and achievement, collaborate with other education professionals, and reflect on their practice.

Learners enrolled in teacher and administrator preparation programs are able to demonstrate that they can create meaningful learning experiences that improve student learning and achievement through an e-portfolio that is an effective tool to showcase a learner's knowledge and skills (Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis, & Chappuis, 2006). Every course in the College of Education has a benchmark or signature assignment that is aligned to state and national standards as well as to the standards of specialized professional associations where appropriate and which is uploaded into the e-portfolio. These assignments scaffold learning across each program. Learners study and apply the most current instructional strategies from the works of highly regarded leaders in the field such as Marzano (2001) and Tomlinson (2005) delivered by highly trained instructors in the classroom. For example, students learn about a data-driven learning cycle in their coursework and apply it in embedded practicum/field experiences prior to the student teaching experience. Furthermore, College of Education instructors in teacher preparation programs are required to hold a valid teaching or administrative certificate. This provides learners with instruction that is relevant and current in professional pedagogical knowledge and skills.

The ability to collaborate with other education professionals is a critical skill that learners seek to acquire over the course of their program of study. Opportunities to do so exist during practicum/field experiences scattered throughout the coursework, and then during the student teaching or internship experience. Additionally, campus learners can apply for participation in the Partnership for Learning, Leading, and Serving program described above.


Data-Informed Decision Making

Learners will use data to make informed decisions about student learning and achievement, continuous school improvement, and professional practice.

Data is necessary for educators to make informed decisions regarding student learning and achievement, school improvement, and professional practice. Shen and Cooley (2008) indicate that "data should become a tool to connect achievement with curriculum, instruction, remediation, acceleration, teacher professional development and the allocation of human and fiscal resources for school improvement" (p. 320). Bernhardt (2004) notes that educators should be asking such questions as What data do we need to measure adequate yearly progress?, Now that we have the data, what analyses should be performed with it?, and What do the analyses indicate about us? Unfortunately, there are many learning communities which are data rich but analysis poor (Daggett, 2010). As such, both credential and non-credential programs of study are designed to train learners to access, generate, manage, interpret, and act on data in a myriad of ways on behalf of their students' continuum of learning, their educational environment, and their personal teaching practice.


Performance Assessment

Learners will align educational objectives to content and professional education standards, as well as design formative and summative assessments including rubrics that analyze student learning and teacher effectiveness.

Assessment drives standards and accountability in the education field, and it should be authentic, accurate, and relevant. Teachers recognize the usefulness of assessments in instruction. Their competence in designing assessments and modifying instruction as a result of them is critical to improving student performance, as it is expected that students prove mastery of specified standards and performance objectives. Informed teachers plan lessons based upon the results of multiple assessments, which identify student needs and, ultimately, improve student learning (Orlich et al., 2004). Because performance assessments require a clear understanding of curriculum goals and measurable standardized test objectives, teachers ensure that experience and content are relevant to the needs of their students to perform successfully on assessments based on the learning tasks required of them. The parameters for performance assessments can be specified with the use of rubrics to set criteria. Learners create rubrics that can be used as part of data collection and to accompany a product created by the student. Rubrics are important in providing criteria at the beginning of an assessment so that students fully comprehend what is expected of them and how they will be graded for it. Learners come to understand that teachers should create rubrics for all their assessments.

According to Stiggins et al. (2006), "assessments for learning happen while learning is still underway [while] assessments of learning are those assessments that happen after learning is supposed to have occurred to determine if it did" (p. 31). As learners precede through their methods courses, they come to understand that formative assessments are used before and during instruction. Their value is in helping to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their instructional strategies and to provide students with feedback on their progress.

Learners understand that at the end of a unit or study, the assessment is summative. Information from these tests indicates if students have acquired mastery based on the cumulative instructional experience. They learn to mine the data to identify levels of student success for monitoring and adjusting instruction that in turn improves their own effectiveness as a teacher. The results are also useful for analyzing teaching strategies and modifications made in the curriculum or customized for a specific class, but they are not good instruments for helping teachers to improve their instruction or modify their approach to individual students (Reeves, 2007). Finally, learners are also encouraged to use summative assessments as a measurement of their professional effectiveness as they can indicate what they did well throughout the year and what they need to improve upon as they anticipate a new class the coming year.

 

Technology Integration

Learners will be able to select and use applicable technology to enhance learning experiences.

K-12 students need to gain technological skills in order to compete in the 21st century workforce. It is incumbent upon teachers to instill certain core technology skills and competencies in their students in order to prepare them to be productive employees. They need to engage students in technology not only to facilitate learning but also to prepare students for life in a technological society.

Teachers must use technology not only to make the teaching and learning process more efficient, but also to fundamentally change the way students interact with the content they learn. Today's technology permits students to research, collaborate, create, and publish with the aid of technology tools. This allows curriculum and instruction to be more student-centered, an aim of teachers. Fortunately, standards have also been created to assist educators in using technology effectively in the teaching and learning process. As teachers implement technology in their classrooms, they should be aligning student learning and engagement activities with the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). The NETS outline specific objectives students should be meeting as they move through their elementary and secondary education. Teachers align their curricula with these standards to ensure their students are meeting these objectives.

 

Field Experience/Clinical Practice

Learners will participate in field-based learning opportunities that focus on observation, participation, application, leadership, and/or reflection in real world settings.

The College of Education prepares teachers, administrators, and other professional school personnel to enter and serve the education profession. Practicum/field experiences are an exciting opportunity for learners to observe, participate, and lead in diverse educational settings, and to apply the theories and concepts learned in program course work. Faced with the challenge to meet the needs of PK-12th grade students in low performing schools and the national movement towards 21st century learning built around standards, a practicum/field experience affords learners the unique opportunity for introspection, personal change, professional growth, and self-assessment, all of which empower a sense of development as a professional. The opportunity to work in a practical setting within the field coupled with supportive guidance from the University instructor provides each learner with a strong sense of professional self-reflection.

Student teaching is an integral component of GCU teacher education programs. It provides learners with a field experience in their area and grade level of interest, giving them the opportunity to demonstrate program competency and mastery of educational knowledge and skills in a classroom setting. Student teaching is designed to prepare learners to assume the duties of a certified classroom teacher, emphasizing the achievement of recognized state and national standards and leading to certification. It is a 16-week, unpaid, full-time placement, scheduled as two consecutive 8-week sessions, during which the learner is under the direct supervision of a certified Mentor Teacher. During this time, the teacher candidate is required to utilize and further develop their observation, analysis, reflection, and conferencing skills within a classroom setting. Duties and responsibilities include but are not limited to preparing lesson plans, teaching lessons, developing formative and summative assessments, and evaluating student progress.

Administrative internship is an integral component of GCU administrator education programs. Prior instructional opportunities across educational philosophy, pedagogy, learning and cognitive theory, content knowledge, and field experiences prepare learners for their administrative internship experience. The administrative internship serves as an extended culminating experience that focuses and applies learners' knowledge, thus transforming them into professionals. Throughout the administrative internship, instruction includes the use of technology, collaborative learning teams, the action inquiry process, and the sharing of knowledge and skills.