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Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Teacher Candidates

Teacher candidates have 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 subject matter through presentation of the content in clear and meaningful ways and through the integration of technology.

Initial Teaching Programs

As a part of the EDUC 131: Introduction to Teaching, initial level candidates gain introductory knowledge of pedagogical content knowledge and complete an early field experience (10 clock hours). Candidates are encouraged to observe several teachers at different levels to gain a broad perspective of teaching practices and settings. During EDUC 131, candidates are placed in area schools by the Office of Field Experiences. Candidates complete an observation report that is evaluated by their EDUC 131: Introduction to Teaching instructor. An introductory knowledge of professional organizations and standards, professional ethics, and effective teaching practices are also included in the course.

During three of the five core Professional Studies courses (Introduction to Teaching, Education Psychology, and Observation and Participation), candidates complete general and content specific field experiences. Early field experiences (Intro to Teaching and Education Psychology) encourage candidates to choose a wide variety of placements. During Observation and Participation, secondary candidates are placed in content area classrooms (a total of at least 75 clock hours of field experience); while elementary candidates are placed in elementary classrooms (a total of at least 100 hours of field experience). At the conclusion of Observation and Participation, elementary and secondary candidates report (in writing (EDUC 300, EDUC 320) and in an oral exit interview) on their observations, learning that occurred, and professional pedagogical growth.

For initial level programs, the Unit has adopted technology standards based on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards. Technology is incorporated into initial programs through coursework, candidate assignments, technology modules, presentations using technology, required use of the Internet, and faculty modeling the use of technology.

Candidates are required to complete EDUC 224: Multimedia Support of Instruction and Learning (3 cr. hrs.). This sophomore/junior level course is designed to familiarize candidates with the creation and/or operation of audio-visual instructional materials and multi-mediated software packages/programs used to enhance instruction.

The application for the professional year (elementary, secondary) requires that candidates obtain five recommendations from advisors, content area faculty, and education department faculty. These recommendations include assessment of candidates’ academic competence and teaching potential.   In addition to faculty recommendations, the application process includes the submission of an academic portfolio. This portfolio is evaluated (elementary, secondary) by both the candidate’s content area faculty and professional studies departmental advisor for pedagogical content knowledge. Candidates also must maintain a minimum overall grade point average (GPA) of 2.50 in all content area specific course work and professional studies course work, with no grade below a “C”.

To assure pedagogical knowledge specific to the content areas, candidates complete an instructional methods course for each content area for which they plan to be licensed/certified. For secondary, middle school, and specialized elementary programs, methods courses are taught by the content area teacher education faculty member within each respective department. The teacher education faculty members each have knowledge and teaching experience at the level of licensure, and have completed a teacher education program. Candidates learn about institutional, state, and national standards; professional organizations; assessment techniques; lesson planning; classroom management; use of technology; learning styles; and teaching methods applicable to their content area. Because elementary level candidates are prepared to teach all subjects, they take a methods course in each of the subject areas taught at the elementary level. Middle level and specialized elementary candidates are required to complete all the appropriate methods courses for their endorsement(s).

Upon admission to the Professional Year (Semester 1 or “Block”, and Semester 2 or Teacher Interning—formally called student teaching), candidates first enter the professional semester called “Block”, where they become a part of a cohort group. This cohort group moves through the integrated “Block” course work together, and then proceed into their teacher internships the following semester.

At the Elementary and Middle School levels “Block” consists of eleven (11) credit hours of integrated coursework (See CSC General Bulletin, 2005-2007, p. 166).   Additionally, Middle School level candidates complete two special methods courses—one for each specialized content area (See CSC General Bulletin, 2005-2007, p. 164).

At the Secondary Level “Block” consists of eight (8) credit hours of integrated coursework. (See CSC General Bulletin, 2005-2007, p. 164)

“Block” courses are delivered in an integrated fashion where candidates meet daily in a single classroom, while faculty members come in and out to teach these courses. Course content and materials are blended and integrated. Candidates are required to demonstrate instructional strategies and pedagogical knowledge through discussion and reflection, case study analysis, and cooperative group activities, projects, and lesson planning and presentation. Candidates’ presentations are video-taped and critiqued by both the student and instructors to encourage reflection for improving the facilitation of student learning. Candidates must complete all Block course work with a minimum GPA of 2.50.

Candidates must also begin developing the Teacher Work Sample [TWS] (TWS, Rubric) that is used to demonstrate pedagogical content knowledge and skills. Students begin gathering information about the school(s) in which their internship will be done through school visits during the Block semester. The TWS is assigned before the teacher internship semester to assist candidates and their cooperating teacher(s) in planning for the TWS. The TWS, used for summative assessment, is completed during the teacher internship. Candidates demonstrate their ability to plan, deliver, and assess content used in their lesson plans that are based on state and national standards; to analyze student learning and reflect on the results; and to identify professional development opportunities for improving their knowledge and skills.

Upon successful completion of “Block”, candidates’ are then eligible for admission into their teacher internships (formally called Student Teaching). Chadron State College requires all teacher interns to teach full time for one semester or a minimum of eight (8) weeks of full-days for each subject endorsement and ten (10) weeks for each field endorsement taught during a given semester. Teacher interning is a full-time activity. As part of the internship experience, teacher interns must actively teach full-time for a minimum of five (5) weeks with a full teaching class load, with appropriate phase-in and phase-out periods. Interns are placed in a classroom situation appropriate to their endorsement program and level. All interns are assigned an on-site cooperating teacher who serves as their mentor and immediate supervisor within the classroom placement. The cooperating teacher is an experienced state licensed teacher who is employed by the respective school system, and serves as the teacher of record for each course offered within that classroom assignment. The cooperating teacher mentors the Teacher Intern on a daily basis, and provides unit faculty with documented performance assessment feedback throughout the teaching/internship semester. Also collaborating with the cooperating teacher and the teacher intern is the Chadron State College teacher intern college supervisor.   College supervisors make a minimum of five (5) site visitations over the internship experience, and provide documented assessment feedback to the Teacher Intern after each visitation. Supervision responsibilities are generally split for secondary and specialty areas between two college supervisors-- one from the Education Department and one from the content area.

In addition, interns must complete the assigned activities in the CSC Teacher Internship Guidebook (cover page, TOC page 1, TOC page 2)/Elementary Education Checklist, develop unit and lesson plans, maintain a reflective journal, and continue to update their professional academic portfolio with significant artifacts.   Unit faculty review these items during school site visitations, at the mid-semester on-campus internship meeting, and again at the completion of the internship experience. Level of performance on these assignments, in conjunction with assessment data, determine candidates internship course grade.

For successful completion of the teaching internship an intern must receive a semester grade no lower than a “B”. If a grade of “C” is assigned, the intern must repeat the internship experience in order to graduate from the teacher education program at Chadron State College.

Candidates are assessed on pedagogical content knowledge during their teaching internship (student teaching) experience. A common evaluation tool, the Teacher Intern Checklist, is used by the cooperating teacher, all college supervisors, and the teacher intern (self-evaluation), as described in “Content Knowledge” section. As noted earlier, a rating of 3.0 indicates that the candidate has met expected levels of performance, but CSC expects ratings of 4.0 or higher. It is difficult to separate content pedagogy and general pedagogy, but Table 1.14: Mean Ratings for Conceptual Framework Components Relating to Pedagogical Content Knowledge Items from the Teacher Intern Checklist lists the mean values for candidates on four conceptual framework components (critical thinking, assessment, communication, and methods) (Documents Center). 

Aggregate ratings for the conceptual framework components that include specific items relating to pedagogical content knowledge indicate a high level of preparation for candidates at all levels. Means ranged from 3.22 to 5.0 with the majority of means above 4.0, indicating candidates are performing at the “beyond expectations” (4) level (5-point scale) as assessed by cooperating teachers, college special and general methods supervisors, and the students themselves. Data show that cooperating teachers rated candidates at the 4.0 or 5.0 level on the four conceptual framework components relating to pedagogical content knowledge from Spring 2003 through Spring 2005.

The Teacher Work Sample [TWS] performance assessment provides an additional demonstration and measure of candidate pedagogical content knowledge. TWS methodology is designed to demonstrate the candidate’s ability to assess contextual factors, plan and assess student learning, teach subject matter, and reflect on pedagogical decision making. Assignments, evaluation procedures and summarizations of results for the TWS appear in “Content Knowledge” section (Table 1.4a Mean Scores for Teacher Work Sample Summary).  Detailed results are available in Documents Center Table 1.4 Means Scores for Teacher Work Sampler.

Follow-up studies of initial program graduates and their employers provide information regarding candidates’ pedagogical content knowledge. Table 1.15: Mean Ratings of Pedagogical Content Knowledge Items of Initial Program Graduates From Graduate and Employer Follow-up Studies (Documents Center) lists items from the most recent graduate and employer follow-up studies that relate to pedagogical content knowledge. Candidates (graduates) and employers rated the all items at the “acceptable” (3) or “beyond expectations” (4) level.   Mean scores near or above the “beyond expectations” (4) level (5-point scale) indicate a high level of pedagogical content knowledge. Employers generally rated pedagogical content knowledge of initial program graduates higher than did the graduates themselves. Employers rated three items (#9, #10, #11) relating to evaluation slightly lower than 4.0 which may indicate an increased need for evaluation expertise among P-12 teachers. Developing the TWS task is a partial remedy to increasing candidates’ preparation in using data to guide instruction.

Table 1.15a: Mean Ratings of Pedagogical Content Knowledge Items of Initial Program Graduates From Graduate and Employer Follow-up Studies (Summary)

Advanced Programs (Teaching )

Chadron State College offers one degree program for advanced preparation for teachers--the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at the Elementary and Secondary levels. (The specific description of program requirements appears in NCATE Standard 1-A.)

Pedagogical content knowledge for each program is developed through specific coursework required in each program and through selection of elective coursework with the approval of the candidate’s advisor and committee members (Plan of Study - Elementary, Secondary, School of Counseling, EDAD). Pedagogical content knowledge of candidates in the Curriculum and Instruction program is specifically related to Chadron State College, Nebraska Department of Education Rule 24: Policies and Regulations for Teaching Endorsements, and national standards. Course syllabi validate that pedagogical content knowledge is related to the conceptual framework and applicable standards and directly link GPA to program outcomes.

Follow-up studies of recipients of the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction (Elementary and Secondary) and their employers provide information regarding candidate pedagogical content knowledge. At this level pedagogical content knowledge is broader and deeper than at the bachelors level and intertwined with content knowledge, thus reflecting the Curriculum and Instruction degree. The pedagogical content knowledge component is based on Nebraska Department of Education Rule 24. The assessment instrument is tied to NDE Rule 24 and the CSC conceptual framework. Table 1.16: Mean Ratings of Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction--Elementary and Secondary Recipients from Graduate and Employer Follow-up Studies (Documents Center) lists items (#2, #4, #5, #6, #8, #9, #10, and #11) from the most recent graduate and employer follow-up studies that relate to pedagogical content knowledge. C&I graduates and employers rated overall pedagogical content knowledge as 4.41 and 4.81, respectively (5-point scale). Employers’ ratings tended to be higher than the graduates’ self-evaluation, indicating a high opinion for program graduates’ pedagogical content knowledge.

Table 1.16a: Mean Ratings of Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction--Elementary and Secondary Recipients from Graduate and Employer Follow-up Studies (Summary)

Curriculum and Instruction master’s candidates also demonstrate pedagogical content knowledge through exit GPA requirements (Table 1.7: Mean Exit GPA for Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction—Elementary and Secondary Graduates), course assignments (Syllabi are located in the Documents Center.), comprehensive oral exams, and graduate portfolios. Graduate candidates develop a portfolio containing major assignments from graduate courses with reflections on their learning tied to the conceptual framework. At the time of the comprehensive oral exam, the committee reviews the portfolio. The committee judges the portfolio as well as the performance on the oral exam on a pass/fail basis. Candidates who do not pass the oral exam or present a sub-standard portfolio must complete a plan of remediation developed by the committee, before continuing toward degree completion.

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