OUR PHILOSOPHY, PURPOSES, AND GOALS
The Educational Unit at Arkansas Tech University provides several undergraduate and graduate professional education programs designed to positively impact student learning through the preparation of Professionals of the 21st Century. Due to the variety of programs offered to accomplish this mission, the Educational Unit has actively, consistently, and collaboratively worked with a variety of stakeholders in the learning community to determine what our core values should be to anchor the unit, the expression of these core values in our vision and mission, the programs within the unit, and the assessment throughout. We believe these core values to be central in our vision of "impacting learners in diverse learning communities" and in preparing Professionals of the 21st Century to do just that. These core values are lasting beliefs that when adopted by our students as their own will assist our graduates in becoming "professionals who interact effectively within dynamic educational systems to impact learners in those diverse learning communities."
The core values are the context for how professional, state, and institutional standards are addressed within the programs as we prepare Professionals of the 21st Century. The core values direct the development and refinement of programs, courses, design of instruction, research, service, and assessment. Our assessment of student learning (both of our students and the students they work with) then drives the process in the other direction to assist us in improving each of the aforementioned factors and in revisiting and/or the reconsideration of the outworking of these core values within our students. The core values include the following statements of belief:
- All human beings grow, develop, and learn.
- Educational processes have discipline-specific key components.
- Educational practices are systemically coherent and developmentally appropriate to produce a quality P-20 community.
- Educators are moral and ethical professionals that are contributing members of the educational community.
- Educators focus on maximizing growth, development, and learning opportunities for all students.
- Educators continually assess student learning outcomes.
Founded upon these core values our mission, vision, and conceptual framework Professionals of the 21st Century, have been developed. The framework emphasizes the Professional of the 21st Century as a continuously learning individual with a strong and developing knowledge of school systems and culture; with an increasing level of content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions; with a strong and growing liberal arts background; and with growing expertise concerning developmentally appropriate practices. As candidates progress through their undergraduate preparation and as they then pursue their graduate preparation, these areas of expertise are expected to grow. Ultimately, this preparation is centered-upon the improvement of student learning.
This framework agrees with the expressed mission of Arkansas Tech University. By considering our students as life-long learners (continuous learning professionals), and by assessing our students' knowledge and skills carefully and consistently, the mission of Arkansas Tech University and the mission and vision of the Arkansas Tech University Education Unit are aligned. Further, the fulfillment of our mission by modeling best practices, by being committed to continuous learning and purposeful reflection, and by working collaboratively with internal and external constituencies not only serves in the preparation of our candidates as Professionals of the 21st Century but improves our teaching and learning environments as well, which are main functions of Arkansas Tech University.
To summarize, the Professional of the 21st Century is a continuously learning expert with a(n):
- Increasing Level of Content and Pedagogical Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions;
- Strong and Growing Liberal Arts Background;
- Growing Expertise Concerning Developmentally Appropriate Practices; and
- Strong and Developing Knowledge of School Systems and Culture.
These four foundations are unified through the following factors:
- Oral and Written Communication
- Purposeful Reflection
- Parents and Community
In other words a strong and developing knowledge of school systems and culture should include the understanding of the diversity within the school systems and culture, leadership structures and processes within the school systems and culture, the key role of technology in the school systems and culture, and so forth. An increasing level of content and pedagogical knowledge, skills, and dispositions should include emphasis upon issues of diversity, technology, oral and written communication, and so forth. The emphasis of these same unifying aspects throughout each of the four foundations of the conceptual framework is present and is evidenced in each separate program that seeks to prepare Professionals of the 21st Century. As our candidates progress through each program (undergraduate through graduate) their expertise in these aforementioned unifying forces and foundations should continually grow.
These key unifying forces and the aforementioned four foundations are evidenced in each program via the particular program standards and the assessments of our students based upon the program alignment with these respective standards. For example in the undergraduate teacher education program, the Arkansas Standards/Principles for Beginning Licensure and the Pathwise Criteria (both of which are founded upon the INTASC Standards) along with the National Education Technology Standards adopted by the Arkansas State Department of Education are considered the Benchmarks from which we determine whether or not our students have: 1.) Adopted the core values evidenced in the conceptual framework, 2.) Provided appropriate evidence to demonstrate their expertise concerning the four foundational aspects of the framework, and 3.) Provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate an expertise concerning the aforementioned unifying aspects. In alignment with our ultimate focus, which is Student Learning, the INTASC-based standards and criteria provide benchmarks for determining if we are preparing Professionals of the 21st Century who are capable of impacting learners in diverse learning communities and who, when actually practicing in diverse learning communities; have a positive impact on student learning.
In addition to the Arkansas Standards for Beginning Licensure, Pathwise Criteria, and National Educational Technology Standards used as benchmarks in the undergraduate teacher education programs, undergraduate programs also use national standards from their respective program areas as benchmark indicators. For instance the Middle Level Program uses the aforementioned standards and criteria as well as the National Middle School Association standards as benchmarks in the development of the Middle Level Program and in the assessment of candidates within the program.
In graduate programs such as the Master of Education in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership, for example, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) are used as benchmarks. In addition the program uses the Arkansas Curriculum Program Administrator Standards and appropriate National Educational Technology Standards as benchmarks of their candidates' progress.
Each undergraduate and graduate program is standards-based in the development and refinement of programs, courses, design of instruction, and assessment. In summary the Arkansas standards and Pathwise Criteria serve as the basic benchmarks for program development, student assessment, etc. Further benchmarks are developed through the examination and alignment of programs with their respective national standards.
Based upon this alignment to state and national standards, the Arkansas Tech University Education Unit has three primary goals:
- Our Professionals of the 21st Century will meet and/or exceed the standards of the State of Arkansas and the respective national standards for their particular program of studies.
- Our Professionals of the 21st Century will impact learners in diverse and evolving learning communities.
- We as a faculty will exhibit professionalism by modeling best practices, by being committed to continuous learning and purposeful reflection, and by working collaboratively with internal and external constituencies.
There are several knowledge bases that inform our conceptual framework. The work by Danielson (2007) in agreement with the INTASC standards (Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, 1992) and directly aligned to the Pathwise criteria provide the initial support for each of our four foundational areas previously discussed. The importance of each of these four foundational areas connected through the six unifying factors cited previously is strongly established upon a rich theoretical, research, wisdom of practice, and educational policy base. Each of the four foundations with their informing knowledge bases will be briefly reviewed.