c. knowledge bases, including theories, research, the
wisdom of practice, and educational policies that drive the work of the unit
The unit’s conceptual framework is based upon a knowledge base with six key elements: 1) reflection, 2) facilitation, 3) constructivism, 4) information technology and literacy, 5) diversity, and 6) inquiry and assessment. These areas are detailed below:
- Reflection:Teachers need to be able to reflect upon their practice. Reflection is a post-teaching act intended to provide evaluation of the teaching/learning process (Bright, 1996; Clark, 1995; Dewey, 1916, 1938; Jervis & Montag, 1991; Kilpatrick, 1927; Schön, 1983, 1987). Reflection, in part, evolved out of the pragmatists’ view of the nature of man and how individuals learn. Reflection is part of the continuous and self-evaluation which provides an understanding of the process of teaching and reshapes it based upon an inquiry approach. Reflectivity represents a cognitive style that is characterized by responding more slowly and accurately with attention to subtle details (Kogan, 1983; Smith & Caplan, 1988). Reflection is evidenced by a number of behaviors including: journaling, committing to continuous learning, engaging in professional discourse, linking new knowledge to students’ prior understandings, evaluating teaching resources, capturing experiences in writing and verbalizing, and transforming reflections into actions and further reflections.
- Facilitation:To facilitate is to provide a creative learning experience for students. The emphasis is upon students creating their own knowledge from the artifacts of cultures (Dewey, 1916, 1938). To accomplish this outcome, teachers must be able to transfer and relate knowledge in cross-disciplinary modalities that enhance students’ understandings. Facilitation is evidenced by a number of behaviors including: using multiple representations and explanations of concepts, engaging students’ knowledge generating and hypothesis testing strategies, creating interdisciplinary learning experiences, designing instruction capitalizing on students’ strengths, active student advocacy, modeling effective communication, monitoring and adjusting strategies and responding to learner feedback.
- Constructivism:Central to the constructivists’ view of learning is the emphasis upon students taking an active role in their own learning in order to build understanding and creating meaning from information (Fosnot, 1996; Marshall, 1992; Von Glaserfeld, 1995, 1996). Some of the elements of constructivists’ views are first, learning environments using authentic tasks which challenge all students, not just a few. Second, there is shared responsibility for learning, and that all learning is accomplished in a social setting where negotiation is part of the learning process. Third, there are multiple representations of the content including the perspectives of the students. Fourth, knowledge is constructed (Cunningham, 1992). That is, students use the full-range of experiences (personal, cultural, social, etc.) to create their own understandings and interpretations of their world, not just the teacher’s or other outside experts. Students are directly taught the role of the constructivist’s pedagogy in order to play an active role in learning; not just passive observers. Finally, instruction is student-centered (Driscoll, 1994; Marshall, 1992). Reflection and facilitation are key aspects of the constructivists’ approach. Some evidence of the constructivist approach could include: directing student activity in the learning enterprise, using multiple representations and explanations of concepts, creating interdisciplinary learning experiences, identifying differences in approaches to learning and performance, supporting development of cultural awareness and knowledge bases.
- Information and Technology Literacy:The conceptual framework reflects the unit’s commitment to preparing candidates who are able to use technology to help students learn. Technology is a tool for collaboration, communication, thinking, analysis and interpretation of experience, and presentation of multiple-representations of knowledge. When implemented systemically, technology can enhance student achievement as measured in a variety of ways (Valdez, 2000). The Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Information & Technology Literacy provide a framework of knowledge and skills essential for all Wisconsin students in grades K-12 to access, evaluate, and use information and technology and College of Education students should have mastered these 12th grade level skills prior to entering the university. Technology can assist teachers in applied strategies for problem solving and increasing collaboration and communication in the learning environment. There have been several changes over the past several decades including a shift from discrete faculty attempts at including technology to an infused seamless integration across the curriculum to support student learning (Glenn & Carrier, 1989; International Society for Technology in Education, 2001, 2003).
- Diversity:Diversity is more than a slogan, it is a way of accurately reflecting the existing world-reality: the world is dynamic and diverse and becoming more so every year (Darling-Hammond, 1998; Lara-Alecio & Rendon, 1995; Smith & Caplan, 1988). The legacy of discrimination has prevented some cultures from fully participating in education and reaping its benefits (Calmore, 1986; Kantor & Lowe, 1995; Pine & Hilliard, 1990; Schofield, 1995; Wells & Crain, 1994). The University and the College, supported by considerable research, have made the acceptance of diversity as one of the multiple representations of content (Bruner, 1966; Needles & Knapp, 1994; Resnick, 1987; Spiro, Feltovich, Jacobson, & Coulson, 1991). Diversity, or cultural pluralism, creates a sense of unity resulting in a cohesive society enriched by divergent ethnic experiences. The unit, as part of a broader university and Wisconsin state educational system, provides direction to these goals and outcomes through its units, curricula, programs and individual initiative stemming from our multiple mission statements. Some evidence of diversity can be found in activities and programs that: integrate content, construct knowledge processes, reduce prejudice, create empowering school culture, eliminate the negative effects of tracking, establish home environments that support student learning, include families in school decisions, work to eliminate stereotype threats and bias in the classroom, support bilingualism and biculturalism, integrate gifted and talented students, support inclusive practices for students with special needs, facilitate intercultural sensitivity activities and support and challenge students in developing adaptation competence.
- Inquiry (Research/Scholarship) & AssessmentEducational decisions are based upon research (scholarship) based evidence (Boyer, 1990). The role of the teacher is to actively engage in the reading and employing of scholarship in their acts of teaching, facilitation and reflection upon their practice. Scholarship is not only a tool for faculty and teachers, it is a fundamental source of information driving the practice of teaching and taught directly to students who are engaged in scholarship (inquiry) as part of the constructivist’s approach to teaching/learning. Some of our students are also actively engaged in undergraduate research and are supported by the College of Education and the University. The University has an active Undergraduate Research Program organized by a faculty-run Undergraduate Research Council. Students from UW-Whitewater frequently participate in the National Council for Undergraduate Research annual conference. At the graduate level, all students are required to take a course in research. The unit’s Gibb-Harris fund, supported by an endowment, helps pay for undergraduate and graduate research travel.