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Teacher Education | Program Philosophy

The School of Education (SOE) is committed to advancing theory and professional practice through its programs and the scholarly activities of our faculty. The faculty recognize the significance of education in contemporary life, the potential of education for each individual, and our special responsibilities to produce individuals prepared for the twenty-first century. The school seeks to achieve its goals though creative teaching, rigorous research, and professional service. It is committed to ongoing social change, societal improvement, and advancing individual welfare and potential. Graduates of its programs act as agents of social change through work as health professionals, teachers, researchers, managers, and administrators. They share a professional belief in working towards excellence, equity, community, and diversity.

Beyond SOE’s fundamental commitment to its students and alumni who work in the community to advocate for the individual, both domestically and internationally, it also prepares candidates to build a learning society in many diverse environments and for many diverse populations. The mission is to equip graduates of SOE programs to meet individual needs, to nurture the strengths and talents of those they serve, and to provide leadership in public policy arenas.

The Teacher Education Program is anchored in a knowledge-based, research-and values-informed conceptual framework. The framework was developed and adopted by the faculty through almost two years of deliberations. The mission of SOE reflects and reinforces this conceptual framework, which is derived from the teaching, research, professional service, and value commitments of the faculty. It is illustrated below.

The conceptual framework for the School of Education has at its center the core value of Reflection, which is supported through the professional commitments and activities evoked by teacher Beliefs, Knowledge, and Practice. The conceptual framework is organized by the concepts of Community, Diversity, Equity, and Excellence, and is made operational through the 10 INTASC standards.


The Core Value and Process Element of the Professional Education Unit: Reflection

Reflection is at the core of the professional education programs in SOE. Reflection is integral to the goal of equitable education that attends to diversity, community, and excellence. Through this continuing reflection on knowledge, practice, and beliefs, the school feels strongly that its vision of appropriate education for all candidates can be realized. Reflection helps the individual untangle the web of deeply entrenched personal beliefs about functioning in a democratic society (Dewey, 1916). Therefore, prospective future professionals in SOE are expected to see their work as social practice grounded in values, established knowledge, myths, research, and professional customs (Freire, 1972; Schon, 1993). Because reflective practice requires thinking about and, more important, acting on those aspects of practice that frustrate and confuse, candidates are encouraged to experiment with tentative solutions to problems of practice and to examine the outcomes and implications of those trials. These necessary conditions for the development of reflective practice require curricula, instruction, and materials that help individuals develop ideas and ideals about the role of the organization in shaping society.

Professional Commitments of the Professional Education Unit: Beliefs, Knowledge, and Practice

The faculty of the School of Education seek to ensure that course and field work in all programs impel prospective professionals in teaching, education, and health promotion to examine their beliefs, attitudes, predispositions, and behaviors about the subject matter and the individual, and to consider ways to eschew negative possibilities in favor of more positive ones. Thus, the programs encourage aspiring professionals to explore, reflect, and act on their beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, and values, and to increase their awareness of policy and practice interventions, which can advance the welfare of the individual.

Effective teachers recognize the interplay between strong subject matter knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and curricular knowledge. Given the constructivist philosophy and dedication to these emerging national reforms, which stress excellent education for all students, SOE recognizes that educators must have the skills needed to integrate all three forms of knowledge. Thus, the goals for prospective teachers cover knowledge in the areas of subject matter, pedagogical content, and curriculum.

The courses and faculty of SOE emphasizes the importance of grounding teaching practice in sound theory. Theories that inform practice are grounded in a commitment to social justice; and recognition that all knowledge is socially and culturally constructed (Apple, 2002; Kincheloe, 1991; Pearson, 1993; Steffe & Gale, 1995; Vygotsky, 1986). Through their beliefs about practice, the SOE faculty hope to inspire professionals to construct curricular practices that provide equitable support for all learners through consideration of the relationships among the individual, the context, and knowledge systems. In so doing, the SOE faculty aim to foster graduates ability to create classroom crossroads where worlds can come together and open up new environments (Dyson, 1993), understand the linkages between knowledge and power, and recreate forms of consciousness (Apple, 2002).

The Organizing Principles of the Professional Education Unit

Four interrelated principles - equity, community, diversity, excellence - shape the curricular, instructional, research, and professional service activities of the SOE faculty and the means by which they assess candidate development. The democratic ideals of these four organizing principles indicate fundamental convictions and commitments. Those ideals and principles organize and direct teacher education programs in the school. They do so by compelling broad relationships among general education studies and between them and the teaching of field content, professional and pedagogical studies, field experiences, practica, and internships. They also inform the outcomes of the teacher education programs intend and through which our programs are regularly evaluated.

Equity in educational opportunity assumes that the response of the school to social inequalities may limit children’s educational opportunity and, thus, opportunity generally. The SOE faculty associate this with democratic ideals and conclude that such fairness is a necessary condition for educational excellence, for social and economic opportunity, and for helping to make democracy a way of life (Bastian, et al., 1986). Limits to opportunity embedded in teacher education, schooling, and teaching, as well as in textbooks and other instructional materials relative to socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and special need populations, must be exposed and overcome. Understanding and demonstrating the meaning and implications of educational equity are essential to aspiring teachers. Ultimately, faculty seek to impart to candidates the conviction that schooling without equity is contrary to democratic values and inimical to the goals of a pluralistic democracy (Banks, 1994; Coleman, 1966; Friere, 1972; Jencks, 1972; Sadker, 1994; Smith, 1992; Tesconi, 1974 and 1995).

Community evokes a group of people with shared interests and convictions, collaborating through those commonalities to attain mutually agreed upon ends in view. The SOE faculty believe that excellence among aspiring teachers is enhanced through the experience of building community, developing kinship with a broader network of caring education professionals, and working in service to the community writ large. Community building is pursued through collaborative relationships among and between prospective teachers, faculty and school professionals in and through a variety of teaching and learning experiences. The work of community building helps bring coherence to pre-service professional experiences, fosters an appreciation of the efficacy of cooperative enterprise, encourages civic discourse, enhances understanding and appreciation of diversity in all its forms, and promotes broad values, such as kindness, fairness, responsibility, and the virtues of recognition, non-oppression (Howe, 1997) and empathy.

Diversity, a reality of American life, enhances democratic living. Thinking about democracy “as a way of life" (Dewey, 1916) reveals a paradox: there is no way of life common to all. Americans choose to live in diverse ways. Yet, as Arnstine (1995) observes, “It is easy to forget that only a particular kind of social order can protect and guarantee this individuality.” Only mutual respect, equality before the law, equality of opportunity, and participation in governance can preserve the social order that is our “way of life." A society governed by democratic ideals is necessary to a healthy and vibrant diversity, just as diversity is necessary to a healthy and vibrant democracy.

Excellence is an intelligible and achievable attribute by which teacher education programs must become known. SOE faculty believe that teachers who excel are able to demonstrate in-depth comprehension of the forms of knowledge embedded in established disciplines; command of content central to one's teaching; knowledge of disciplines that provide the foundation for professional practice; an understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of inquiry; appreciation of multiple ways of seeing, knowing, and being in the world; understanding of the limits and possibilities of schools as agents of cultural transmission and opportunity; and a commitment to life-long learning and a caring professionalism as defining features of a professional teacher’s community.

Making the Conceptual Framework Operational: The INTASC Standards

Candidates’ understandings of the core value of Reflection and the organizing principle of Community, Diversity, Equity and Excellence are evaluated through the use of the 10 INTASC standards. We use INTASC to organize the coursework, practica, and assessments in the School of Education. Within the specific presentation of the INTASC standards at AU, candidates are able to show the development of the conceptual framework in their beliefs, knowledge and practice.