Knowledge Bases, including Theories, Research, Wisdom of Practice, and Educational Policies
Content and Pedagogical Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions
One fundamental trait of a Professional of the 21st Century should be an expertise and increasing expertise of professional and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions. As indicated by the research of Danielson (2007) and other frameworks, professional and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions should be considered vital characteristics of educational professionals (Carter, 2008-2009; Carter, 2008). In agreement with this assertion, the Arkansas Department of Education has accepted and adopted much of the work of these research efforts in designing the Arkansas Standards for Beginning Licensure and as a basis for specialty licensure in Arkansas.
The College of Education at Arkansas Tech University in support of these findings is committed to developing within its Professionals of the 21st Century the content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions to assist these professionals in "impacting learners in diverse and evolving learning communities." Research has consistently verified that content knowledge, communication skills, and intelligence (as measured by traditional intelligence tests) are vitally important, but these alone are not sufficient characteristics of professional educators. Rather research has demonstrated that content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions are essential characteristics needed by professional educators to impact learners in diverse and evolving learning communities (Wilson, Floden, Ferrini-Mundy, 2001; Richardson, 2001; Wilson, 2008). Therefore, the Arkansas Tech University Education Unit in its goal of preparing Professionals of the 21st Century deems content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions as a critical foundation for our programs.
The Unifying Forces of Diversity, Leadership, Oral and Written Communication, Technology, Purposeful Reflection, and Parents and Community in our Content and Pedagogical Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions
These content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions are benchmarked through the appropriate state and national standards in each program. This emphasis is infused throughout our programs via the aforementioned unifying forces. For instance part of the essential content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions preparation involves issues of diversity.
As noted by Stronge (2002):
The effective teacher truly believes that all students can learn it is not just a slogan. These teachers also believe that they must know their students, their subject, and themselves, while continuing to account for the fact that students learn differently. Through differentiation of instruction, effective teachers reach their students and together they enjoy their successes (p. 19).
Content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions as they relate to aspects of diversity are essential in the preparation of Professionals of the 21st Century particularly since current theory and wisdom of practice suggest that students are not "blank slates" to be written upon but who are individuals who bring diverse backgrounds and experiences to the learning community that affect what is learned and how it is learned (Freibert, 2010-2011; Womack, 2004; Woolfolk, 2008). In support of this claim, Putman and Borko (2000) suggest that knowledge of the [diversity of the] learners and of learning itself is the most important knowledge a teacher must possess.
In addition these content and pedagogical knowledge, skills and dispositions should include evidence of a growing technological expertise and a commitment to the appropriate use of technology (another unifying factor of the conceptual framework). The International Society for Technology in Education (2002) summarizes this preparation in the following way:
Through the ongoing use of technology in the schooling process, students are empowered to achieve important technology capabilities. The key individual in helping students develop those capabilities is the classroom teacher. The teacher is responsible for establishing the classroom environment and preparing the learning opportunities that facilitate students' use of technology to learn, communicate, and develop knowledge products. Consequently, it is critical that all classroom teachers are prepared to provide their students with these opportunities (p. 4).
The Arkansas Tech University College of Education is in agreement with this assertion. Therefore, we seek to prepare Professionals of the 21st Century with the necessary content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions as they relate to technology to assist in meeting this identified need.
Our Professionals of the 21st Century should also exhibit content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions expressed through each of the other unifying factors. Our students should understand that they are part of a larger learning community involving parents, the school community, business/community, etc. Research has confirmed the importance of effective student, parent, and community with professional educator oral and written communication (Danielson, 2007; Lucas, 2007; Osborn & Osborn, 2006; Stronge, 2002). Our candidates and graduates should exhibit the professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions that demonstrate these unifying factors (involvement with parents and community and effective oral and written communication). Therefore an emphasis on effective oral and written communication among various community stakeholders is deemed essential in continuously developing the professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions of our Professionals of the 21st Century (Henniger, 2004; Pathwise Classroom Observation System Orientation Guide, 2002; Stanulis & Ames, 2009).
Further, it is essential that our Professionals of the 21st Century continue to improve their ability to purposefully reflect upon the learning of their students by considering student diversity, educational theory, technology use, assessment results, informal feedback, curriculum and instruction, standards attainment, etc. This purposeful reflection is essential in the continuous improvement of the professional. Stronge (2002) suggests:
An important facet of professionalism and of effectiveness in the classroom is a teacher's dedication to students and to the job of teaching. Through examination of several sources of evidence, a dual commitment to student learning and to personal learning has been found repeatedly in effective teachers. A common belief among effective teachers, which reveals their dual commitment, is that it is up to them to provide a multitude of tactics to reach students. In essence, effective teachers view themselves as responsible for the success of their students (p. 19).
In preparing Professionals of the 21st Century, this ability to purposefully reflect as a professional must be developed and continuously improved with the goal of "impacting learners in diverse learning communities."
Finally, our Professionals of the 21st Century must be developing experts who consider themselves to be leaders within the learning community (Fullan, 2010, Marzano & Waters, 2009). This is vital for strong learning organizations that have a goal of improving the learning of students (Donaldson, 2001; Fullan, 2001; Senge, et al., 2000). According to Donaldson (2001), "Leadership satisfies a basic function for the group or organization: It mobilizes members to think, believe, and behave in a manner that satisfies emerging organizational needs, not simply their individual needs or wants" (p. 5). Further, Fullan (2001) claims that, "Strong institutions have many leaders at all levels" (p. 134).
Therefore in the preparation of individuals who exhibit content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions; leadership at increasing levels must be considered (Covey, 2004). For preservice and novice teachers this leadership may be initially evidenced through modeling, advocating, communicating high expectations, and in expressing a commitment to student learning and personal learning (DuFour, Eaker, Dufour, 2008; Donaldson, 2001; McGuire & Rhodes, 2010; Reeves, 2008; Stronge, 2002). This understanding and participation in leadership with and among other stakeholders in the learning organization should be further evidenced through continuing professional development in, for example, our graduate degree programs. According to research findings and applications, this leadership will powerfully influence the goals of the learning organization and ultimately student learning (DuFour, Eaker, & Dufour, 2008; McGuire & Rhodes, 2010; Reeves, 2008; Senge, et al., 2000).