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CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK:

The institutional vision as established by the faculty and professional staff at Chadron State College is:

This vision sets the focus for the future of the institution and the strategic plans which will guide us into a continuous state of improvement, designed to meet the needs of the region we serve.

The mission statement for the institution describes our actions and the quality and definition we want to bring to the actions.

Education Unit Mission/Philosophy

Chadron State College’s location in the high plains of western Nebraska results in significant challenges to fulfilling our role and mission. Professional preparation programs are designed to produce "Visionary Leaders for Lifelong Learning" and bequeath a vital educational vision to candidates, one that honors both tradition and innovation and embraces the profession’s traditions and tools. Candidates are made aware of best contemporary educational research and developments.

The mission of the unit, founded on educating Visionary Leaders, is committed to creating diverse educational environments that are thoughtfully structured to provide opportunity for the success of all learners, now and for the future. The mission is accomplished by providing teacher, administrator, and counselor candidates with deliberate and appropriate educational experiences. Knowledge, skills, and dispositions are developed through extensive classroom and field-based interactions. Candidates have opportunities to develop their own professional philosophy and style, while learning to meet the needs of individuals in authentic educational settings. This is completed with a vision that embraces tradition, innovation, and the strength of diversity—always with an eye to the future.

, unit faculty act upon a set of beliefs that reflect the importance placed on the preparation of qualified professional educators who will meet the learning needs of all children in P-12 educational settings. To this end, unit faculty are dedicated to the development of Visionary Leaders. We believe the educator’s role is to facilitate learning. The facilitation of learning is accomplished by creating opportunities for all learners to actively participate in the learning environment and to process knowledge through methods appropriate to their individual learning styles. The model is based to a great extent on the constructivist theory of learning.

As defined by the No Child Left Behind legislation (2002), a "highly qualified" teacher is a teacher with full certification, a bachelor’s degree, and demonstrated competence in subject knowledge and teaching skills. The question remains, how does being a highly qualified teacher translate to being a good teacher and do we know what makes a good teacher?

There has long been a disconnect between teacher education and student learning at a number of different levels. With regard to teachers and administrators, both speak of standards, student achievement, best practices, and school reform, but, generally speaking, neither have been successful in addressing these issues together. In addition, many public school personnel feel that university professors are disconnected from the realities of K-12 schools/education, yet these same faculty prepare teachers to work in their schools. Consequently, in many cases, teacher education has not gained the respect of the K-12 community.

At the national level, in an effort to bridge this "disconnect", professional organizations have set forth performance-based standards/expectations for what teacher candidates should know and be able to do. The Education Unit at CSC has embraced these proficiencies (i.e., Learning Outcomes Proficiency Summary Sheet), and work to ensure that our teacher education candidates know their subject matter, and are prepared to teach it so that students learn. These standards require teacher education programs to prepare future teachers to conduct reflective appraisals of the impact of their teaching on student learning. At CSC we have re-visioned our importance as both training agents and supportive collaborators in preparing graduates, and ask them and their employer’s to document their impact on student learning.

The Constructivist perspective on learning holds particular relevance for teachers at all levels and is the central theme in CSC’s instructional methodological philosophy. The origins of constructivism may be traced to the perspectives on the learner as portrayed by John Dewey. Dewey (1934) placed great emphasis on connecting to students’ "capacities, interests, and habits" through the establishment of interactive, student-centered "learning communities" within the classroom. According to Fosnot (1996), Jean Piaget concurred and described learning as a dynamic, multi-dimensional, nonlinear process involving stages of disequilibrium, consideration of existing ideas in light of new information, and subsequent construction of new cognitive structures. Lev Vygotsky (1931/1978) placed greater emphasis on the importance of a social context as the learner actively constructs knowledge.

Learning, from the constructivist perspective, is best promoted through an active process that emphasizes purposeful interaction and the use of knowledge in real situations. Unit faculty believe that much about the constructivist perspective can be conveyed through an ancient Chinese proverb:

"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand."

If we operate from this mindset, the important question for teachers should no longer be, "How shall I present this information for maximum recall?" but rather, "What is the student doing mentally during instruction, and how can I provide opportunities for active mental processing?" (West et al., 1991). A constructivist teacher recognizes the following:

  • Learning is something the learner does, not something that is done to them;
  • Learning is a continuous process that involves building connections from lesson to lesson and from the classroom to the outside world; and
  • That continual reflection on practice is a vital part of teaching effectively.

A constructivist classroom must be an active environment that features the following dimensions (Gabler & Schroeder, 2003):

  • Assessment through performance, using a range of assessment methods.
  • Philosophy that the teacher is a guide/facilitator and the student is an independent thinker.
  • Use of a variety of teaching/instructional methods is essential.
  • Students must become engaged in the subject matter and the learning process.

Similarly, candidates in the CSC teacher education program are constructing their own beliefs about effective teaching practices. To achieve this end, the professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions imparted to CSC candidates.

The core of the Visionary Leader Model was originally developed through workshops and faculty meetings during the academic years of 1990-1993. The original model, called "Developing Visionary Learners" was revisited in a series of unit meetings during the 1997-98 academic year and reviewed for continued applicability. The model and its components were found to be effective and still representative of the mission. In the spring of 2003, another unit faculty review was held to ascertain whether, after 10 years, the model was reflective of the unit and its mission. In light of new National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) 2000 standards and focus, and a new institutional strategic plan (Vision 2011), updates were made and details added.

The unit met in the fall of 2003 to review the vision, mission, and conceptual framework. Subsequently, the Visionary Learner became the Visionary "Leader" in consideration of the characteristics of the region, and what is expected of teacher, principal, superintendent, and counselor candidates. As part of the review, each knowledge base component was thoroughly discussed and a decision made to elevate the "leadership" component from the conceptual framework to the overall vision statement. Reaffirmation of the remaining components was by unit consensus. In further discussions unit faculty modified "critical thinking" to "thinking skills," "technology" was added to "methodology", and "diversity" was added to "human relations." The conceptual framework for our model of "Developing Visionary Leaders for Lifelong Learning" now has six components (listed alphabetically): Assessment, Communication, Human Relations/Diversity, Methodology/Technology, Professionalism, and Thinking Skills.

The term "visionary," in the context of our model, implies a forward looking, positive, and open-minded approach to learning. The unit prepares candidates to provide visionary leadership within high plains educational settings and to educational environments beyond this region. Our model supports and compliments the CSC Vision 2011 Strategic Plan, which contains objectives promoting leadership and innovation.

The Visionary Leader Model is depicted by three interlocking circles, each representing an interrelated area of the College curriculum: General Studies, Specialty Studies, and Professional Studies. The General Studies curriculum, required of all students at CSC, is designed to provide candidates with a broad background in communication arts and mathematics, science, social science, physical and mental well being, global and social/cultural studies, and reasoning and logic. The Specialty Studies curriculum is comprised of the content course work in each teaching endorsement area offered at Chadron State College. The Professional Studies curriculum is made up of those core education courses taught by Education Department faculty. These Professional Studies courses emphasize the pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions candidates use to effectively teach P-12 students.

The Professional Studies circle of the model embraces the six components that make up the conceptual framework for the unit. These components are:

  • Assessment
  • Methodology/Technology
  • Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Human Relations/Diversity
  • Thinking Skills

Each of these six components is interwoven throughout the professional preparation programs and forms the basis of the constructivist approach in preparing candidates to become Visionary Leaders. Constructivism is a theory about how learning occurs. It holds that individuals make sense of new information by connecting it to previously acquired understanding. Constructivism is a set of psychological and philosophical beliefs that separate it from traditional, teacher-centered beliefs (Henson, 2004).

The six components are introduced and developed within the first three years of the candidate’s educational program. Following the constructivist approach, the learning environment created by unit faculty for candidates includes a variety of methods to meet their interests and learning styles. Learning environments usually include some balance of lecture, discussion, cooperative groups, projects, multimedia, online tasks, and other appropriate methods. Candidates may then internalize pedagogical and endorsement concepts and generalizations based on their background experiences and preferred learning style.

At the advanced level, the "Visionary Leader" model continues to build on the pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions developed for the candidate’s academic and professional career. At this level, the constructivist theory is based on the personal and professional experiences candidates bring to the counseling and administrative endorsement programs.

There is a heavy emphasis on practicum experiences, discussions, oral and written examinations, and portfolios to demonstrate how their personal understanding of professional concepts and generalizations parallel the standards for professional practice.

Candidate Proficiency Outcome Expectations

Following are a listing of the proficiency outcomes required of each successful program candidate. Outcomes reference both undergraduate and advanced programs, noting differences in degree of sophistication and professional application.

  1. essential concepts of their content and general studies curriculum.
  2. effective communication techniques using listening, writing, speaking and media skills
  3. learning environment management strategies that encourage individual/group motivation, positive social interaction, and active engagement in learning.
  4. effective pedagogical methodologies.
  5. effective feedback mechanisms to analyze and eliminate bias and practices that impact learner success.
  6. growth/development of students as it pertains to teaching in an inclusive environment.
  7. meet the educational needs of all learners, within all classroom environments, in all educational leadership settings.
  8. model effective pedagogical methodologies to provide opportunities for all students to become engaged in the learning process.
  9. demonstrate the effective application of techniques in communication with others, in support of the teaching/learning process.
  10. demonstrate effective facilitation of learning environment management strategies.
  11. improve instruction based on reflection, practice and research-based best practices.
  12. use assessment results for making academic/program decisions about students, teaching, curriculum, and/or school improvement
  13. formulate and use a variety of instructional strategies to encourage students’ development of critical thinking, problem solving, and performance skills.
  14. plan and deliver instruction based upon knowledge of subject matter, the contextual background of students’ lives and interests, the community, and curricular goals.
  15. communicate clearly using listening, writing, speaking, and media skills tailored to the audience.
  16. communicate assessment results to students, parents, lay audiences and other educators
  17. develop valid pupil grading procedures that utilize student assessments
  18. administer, score, and interpret the results of both externally produced and teacher-produced assessment methods
  19. select and develop assessment methods appropriate for making instructional decisions
  20. recognize unethical, illegal, and otherwise inappropriate assessment methods and uses of assessment information
  21. develop strategies to involve students in assessing their own learning
  22. exhibit respect for all persons and backgrounds.
  23. promote a learning environment (climate) that embraces elements of diversity and multicultural perspectives.
  24. challenge students to question, investigate, and develop their own conclusions about stereotypic societal views and perceptions.
  25. practice from a specific set of professional values related to their leadership role, modeling integrity and commitment to their field.
  26. engage students, guardians, peers, administrators, and community members in a professional and ethical manner to lead toward common goals.
  27. value classroom assessments in a manner designed to meet the informational needs of specific users, uses, and contexts
  28. actively seek opportunities to grow as a professional educator.
  29. demonstrates acceptable ethical behavior and continually reflects on the effects of his/her choices and actions on others.
  30. fostering relationships with school colleagues, parents, and agencies of the larger community based on an understanding of the impacts of philosophy, sociology, political and legal forces on public education.

Following is an overview of how candidate proficiency outcomes are related to the conceptual framework model.

In the conceptual framework document each of the six components of the Visionary Leader Model is identified, with specific candidate proficiency outcomes listed underneath their respective model component. For example, the proficiency outcome requirement to, "Infuse multicultural perspectives and opportunities throughout the curriculum" is listed under the component of Human Relations/Diversity. This structure helps to illustrate the relationship between the concepts of our model components and our candidate proficiency outcomes. In general terms, the outcomes we require of our candidates support components of our model and serve to integrate these components across unit programs. The method of assessing a proficiency outcome may vary in each program, however, they are all tied to our unit assessment plan and assessed in multiple formats (e.g., Teacher Intern Checklist, Cooperating Teacher Evaluations, initial and advanced program Graduate and Employer Follow-up Surveys). The Teacher Intern Checklist (which follows) clearly illustrates the link between the conceptual framework and candidate and program assessment. Multiple perspectives of data from this instrument and other tools based on the Checklist constitute the backbone of the assessment system. Because CSC unit candidate proficiency outcome requirements are directly related to program outcomes, the unit has worked to ensure that candidate outcomes are also aligned with institutional, state and national standards. This is further described under the section addressing discussions regarding program alignment to standards.

Applying components of the Visionary Leader model with their associated proficiency outcomes, candidates meet the NCATE /Nebraska Department of Education professional standards for preparing educators and other professional school personnel for initial and advanced programs.

The conceptual framework is evident throughout the teacher education programs at Chadron State College. The conceptual framework is described in the Teacher Education Handbook, the 2005-07 CSC General Bulletin, and the Handbook for Cooperating Schools (in document center). Copies of these documents [respectively] are distributed to candidates and school-based personnel at the beginning of each semester.

The unit’s focus is grounded in producing Visionary Leaders who stimulate and inspire the students they serve as they enter the world of the future, while preparing candidates to succeed in the changing educational world. Unit efforts are measured and evaluated in order to gauge success. Assessment-informed decisions are made which constantly guide our learning-centered programs.

To provide this information, assessment is undertaken through multiple means and at various points in each program. Data gathered is purposeful, collected in a structured manner, and analyzed. Results are then applied to desired outcomes in order to measure success, find strengths and weaknesses, identify individual challenges, and find ways to meet candidate needs. Candidate learning, faculty development, and program effectiveness are all examined through assessment. The assessment system is structured to align with state, regional, and national standards. In the 2000 standards, instituted for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, assessment takes its rightful place as a truly critical component of program success.

Unit faculty recognize differences between the processes of assessment and evaluation. Assessment is an on-going process which provides information regarding the measurement of what is to be learned and how that learning will be measured. Evaluation refers to a judgment that is made concerning a particular point in time, i.e. in whether a candidate’s progress as determined by assessment is where it should be at this point in his/her program or career (Airasian, 2005;

Wiggins,1998).

In the unit, candidates are led in a student-centered learning focus. In classrooms and in practice, they experience the range and variety of tools that can help them determine what students learn and how to reflect on results to evaluate individual student progress and needs. Effective educators need an ongoing process providing consistent feedback and a multifaceted selection of measurement tools in order to understand, adjust, and guide. Evaluation and assessment, as well as the feedback they provide, allow candidates to have "vision" into their own progress. This insight enables them to make decisions regarding modifications in their programs that will aid them in successfully reaching their goals.

Unit faculty provide models for candidates through their use and application of assessment. Candidates’ accountability for their own progress and for their students’ learning is a concept that becomes familiar through the use of assessment. As the candidate is exposed to assessment of their own progress, they begin to understand how different methods and tools can produce different kinds of information. Important in learning the use of assessment is the identification and development of classroom assessments designed with an understanding of specific needs, users, and contexts (Airasian, 2005; Roschewski, 2003).

Important aspects of assessment are validity and reliability. Candidates learn about sampling strategies that accurately reflect student learning and how to develop assessment plans that include both formative and summative measures (Creighton, 2001; Scherer, 2003). Recognizing and controlling for sources of bias in assessment are paramount to producing valid data. An important aspect in the application of assessment is to understand strategies for controlling and eliminating bias along with the disposition that values equality and fairness (Airasian, 2005).

Ultimately, the goal of assessment is to evaluate and apply the data gathered for purposes of improvement. Faculty and candidates learn to utilize data in making decisions at all levels of the educational system (Creighton, 2001). Candidates gain knowledge and skills of statistical concepts and in the interpretation of data, along with application of the assessment tools. Candidates learn skills to help them utilize the information to improve student learning at all levels. Their practice helps them to understand the process of accurately interpreting and applying data to instructional planning, program evaluation, and, especially in the case of other school professionals, to school and program improvement (Scherer, 2003).

The assessment system of Chadron State College’s Education Unit is an on-going process, always under review for ways to affect improved candidate learning success. Unit faculty examine methods for strengthening the curriculum, examining the evaluation and comprehension of data, and watch for opportunities to achieve excellence.

Assessment is designed to engage candidates in the process of their own professional development through simulations and authentic classroom experiences, coupled with coursework and reflective portfolios as evidence of preparation to enter the profession. It allows candidates the ownership of their achievements and provides a path for development of shared understanding of dispositions, knowledge, and skills. Assessment, as an integral component of learning, is a shared and continuous process, bringing the Unit faculty and candidates together with participating P-12 school partners.

Further detail is outlined in Table CF.1 and Table CF.2 [matrices] depicting the

undergraduate and advanced (respectively) program gateways, assessments, and feedback processes. In depth information regarding the assessment system is provided under the Standard 2 section of this institutional report.

The Visionary Leader Model was developed to guide current and future unit faculty, candidates, and the future students of unit candidates to function confidently and effectively in a world environment of rapid change. It is based, to a great extent, on the constructivist learning model that emphasizes shared responsibilities in the teaching/learning process and supports the needs of all learners as individuals. "Developing Visionary Leaders for Lifelong Learning" is the goal of the Education Unit at Chadron State College.

Summary

Candidate Assessment and Gateways

Evidence for the Conceptual Framework

Relationship of Proficiency Outcomes to the Visionary Leader Model

Dispositions – Candidates will:

Skills - Candidates will be able to:

Knowledge - Candidates will exhibit knowledge of:

The Visionary Leader Model and its Six Components

Knowledge Bases of the Conceptual Framework

Philosophically

Chadron State College will enrich the quality of life in the region by providing educational opportunities, research, service, and programs that contribute significantly to the vitality and diversity of the region. (http://www.csc.edu/csc2011/csc_vision2011.pdf )

Chadron State College aspires to be a premiere institution of higher education in the western high plains states, innovatively pursuing excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. (http://www.csc.edu/csc2011/csc_vision2011.pdf)

"Developing Visionary Leaders for Lifelong Learning"

Institutional Vision and Mission

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