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Conceptual Framework

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The Conceptual Framework of the School of Education at the College of William and Mary incorporates a shared view of how to best prepare our graduates to deliver services to children, schools, families, and communities in a manner that will promote educationally and psychologically healthy environments in a pluralistic society. This framework embodies the essential elements for our programs, courses, teaching, student and faculty scholarship, and student performance. As an integrative whole, the framework is comprised of the four main strands of the Content Expert, the Reflective Practitioner, the Educational Leader, and the Effective Collaborator, which we believe constitute a highly qualified professional who will positively and productively contribute to the lives of students, clients, community, and the profession.

1. Content Expert

We believe fundamentally that professionals must have specific knowledge to learn in context and problem solve throughout a career. A profound understanding of disciplinary subject matter is vital. Content knowledge must be accompanied by pedagogical content knowledge for educational practitioners to be able to interpret, communicate, and construct knowledge that promotes learning ( Shulman , 1987; Abell, Rogers,Park, Hauscin, Lee, & Gagnon, 2009) and to understand the role of identity in knowledge construction (Tatum, 1999). The value of our long-standing  commitment to intellectualism by our faculty is confirmed by recent research conducted by Hill, Rowen and Ball (2005), Krauss, Brunner, Kunter, et al.,(2008), Goldhaber and Anthony (2003), and Griffen, Jitendra, and League (2009) that validates the need for intellectual rigor in subject matter. The role of our programs is to provide opportunities and a local, national, and international context for students to build and evaluate knowledge that equips them to work in a diverse global society (Banks, 2008). To accomplish this goal, we encourage students to master content appropriate to their disciplinary foci, consider diverse perspectives, participate in engaged learning, reflecton their actions, and generate responses based on research and best practice.The organization and transfer of knowledge and skills across these experiences results in deeper learning for our students and those whom they will serve.

2. Reflective Practitioner

Our beliefs and preparation programs emanate from the continuing scholarship on reflective practice by Dewey (1901, 1933), Schon (1983, 1987), Kolb (1984), Johns (1994), Zeicher and Liston (1996), Newman (1999), Sherwood (2005), and others. We believe that ideal professional preparation produces an educator who can “reflect-in-action” and “reflect-on-action.” According to research-based principles of reflective practice, learning does not occur through direct transmission of knowledge from instructor to student. Instead, instruction provides students in all fields of education with multiple opportunities to articulate their own ideas, experiment with these ideas, construct new knowledge, and make connections between their professional studies and the world in which they live and work. To this end, the School of Education cultivates a style of reflective practice that embraces the role of data, active inquiry, careful analysis, and thoughtful decision-making that leads to effective and culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1994). This reflective practice begins with self-examination of one’s own identity and the myriad ways that identity and life experiences influence one’s view of the world. We believe that teaching is a cognitive process that involves decision making (Sergiovanni & Starratt, 1993), and we hold that our responsibility is, in large part, to educate our students to reason soundly and to perform skillfully. Although students in our programs prepare for specialized roles, we focus overall on the development of analytic and creative practices through which they can approach new issues and problems in a proactive way throughout their educational careers.

3. Educational Leader

Given the strengths of our students and preparation programs, we expect that our graduates will assume leadership roles in a variety of educational and societal settings. We broadly define educational leadership to include traditional positions such as preK-12 and university administrative assignments, as well as emerging and expansive roles such as leaders in research and scholarly positions, teacher-leaders, and leaders in the counseling and school psychology professions. To prepare our graduates for these varied roles within their respective specializations and career settings, we aspire to equip them with the essential skills and dispositions requisite for successfully supporting innovation and excellence across the field of education (Fullan, 2005; Fullan, Bertani, & Quinn, 2004; Hattie, 2009). Among the important abilities that will inform the leadership practices of our graduates are research-based technical skills, conceptually  sound decision making, thoughtful and informed problem solving, and clear and inclusive communication. We expect our students to embrace and model ethical principles in all aspects of their work. As reflected in these ideals, we hope our graduates develop a personal sense of competence and confidence in leadership roles that encourages resilience in coping with and promoting desired change within the context of a globally connected environment (Zhou, 2009). Further, we expect our graduates to conduct and apply research for the public good through their schools, clinics, and community and state organizations (Anyon, 2005; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006). Ultimately, we believe that our graduates will contribute significantly to the educational organizations in which they work and thereby improve the quality of life of the students and other individuals they serve (Hallinger & Heck, 1996; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004; Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005).

4. Effective Collaborator

Finally, we promote and develop the use of a collaborative style for working effectively and cooperatively in professional communities, no matter how broadly or narrowly defined. As Glaser (2005) states, a collaborative style empowers individuals and groups to make changes necessary for improvement. We find the evidence compelling that partnerships among professionals, as well as between academic and non-academic realms, are critical for the successful education of all students, as such collaboration allows students to take full advantage of their schools’ academic opportunities (Baker et al, 2009). Collaboration aids in the interpretation of data, the development of goals and interventions, and the measurement of progress (Camizzi, Clark, Yacco, & Goodman, 2009; INTASC, 2007), which are all integral to understanding students and meeting their individual needs. In addition to professional partnerships, it is vital for educators to build positive and effective relationships with the racially, culturally, economically, and linguistically diverse families and communities we serve (Delpit, 1995; Sleeter, 2008). We believe that programs that prepare individuals who will assume roles of teaching, service, and leadership must expect graduates not only to demonstrate effective collaborative skills but also to model these skills for their students (INTASC, 2007).

A Dynamic and Core Framework

The Conceptual Framework of the School of Education must be adaptable to the experience and background of the candidates within programs, the relative importance of the four strands within program areas, and to the external forces of our society. The dynamic nature of the framework is most clearly demonstrated by the relative emphasis placed on the four strands by each program. While all of our graduates embody the core qualities of the Content Expert, Reflective Practitioner, Educational Leader, and Effective Collaborator, we recognize and account for the valid and important degrees of emphasis, distinction, and definition that these core concepts take not only in a program area, but also with regard to the unique strengths and weaknesses of each student and over the duration of the professional life of a graduate and beyond.

Ultimately, the Conceptual Framework reflects the core elements of a graduate of the School of Education and, as such, it provides a structure for our programs and a process for generating and responding to new knowledge. The framework guides the experiences we require of students in their programs. The framework also provides the basis for the expectations and the evaluation of candidates and their programs. Through the process of candidate and program evaluation, we expect that our programs will produce highly qualified professionals and continuously evolve in response to our students’ experiences within the program and our graduates’ contributions to the profession as practitioners.