The Conceptual Framework
The mission of the education unit at Salem State University is to develop inquisitive, reflective and culturally responsive teachers and leaders who value collaborative professional communities and whose practice engages students in transformative learning.
Nurturing Inquiry, Collaboration and Reflective Practice
Our mission grounds the unit’s philosophy or conceptual framework, which serves as a scaffold upon which we construct, carry out and evaluate our education programs. It evolves from a mission and conceptual framework developed in 2003-2005, reviewed in AY 2009-2010. In a process that engaged all members of the unit, beginning with the curriculum committee and proceeding to the departments and constituent groups to the full unit, faculty revisited the original framework and mission to determine what was still true, what was no longer true, and what new knowledge, values and principles and real conditions pointed to new concepts and priorities. At each step they suggested revisions based on changes in their fields, new needs and developments in our region, nation and world, and emerging faculty interests and orientations.
Discussion ranged from global events that have led to demographic changes in our own region, including new waves of immigrants and refugees in our several “gateway cities”; the persistent problem of gaps in educational access and achievement here and in the nation and the world; the emergence of better ways of obtaining and analyzing data; the documented success of collaborative practice in teaching, leadership, learning and the assessment of learning; the deepening of content and skills standards to include modes of inquiry and expression; and a heightened attention to the importance of asking the “big questions” behind curriculum, instruction, organizational and policy decisions. Our faculty was more interested in addressing their scholarship to questions of teaching and learning and in creating and engaging in communities of practice both within the university and in the schools. We talked about preparing our graduates for roles as educational leaders, whether classroom-, school-, or district-based—leaders who knew how to ask good questions, search for meaningful evidence and make sound decisions always with the learner at the center of their concern.
The cross-department, cross-disciplinary conversations in small groups, committees and unit meetings reflected our ongoing commitment to collaboration, not only with each other—faculty from, for example, education fields and the arts and sciences, course professors and “clinical” field supervisors—but also with our colleagues in schools, districts and community organizations. Nor did we shrink from a concern for “all” students, actively including in our work the perspectives and concerns of those who are members of underserved socio-cultural, racial, linguistic and ability groups, but also articulating the idea that the rich diversity of the population of our region is an asset—a resource—for teacher-learners. The result was a revision to the mission and conceptual framework that was both broad and deep and that reflected important principles uniting our various fields.
The conceptual framework underlying the goals and the work of educator preparation programs at Salem State University emphasizes these…
The heart of the teaching-learning process is inquiry
Educators live out their mission and philosophy through continual reflective practice within professional learning communities
Educational practice must have as its constant focus and ultimate aim student learning
The work of teaching and leading is informed by the sociocultural, economic and global contexts of the work
Underlying our mission, our philosophy and our practice is a belief that educators are inquirers. Educators ask good, deep questions about their students, about subject matter, about the organization in which they work, and about their practice. In their teaching, counseling and leading, they create climates that support inquiry and informed decision-making. They are aware of themselves as learners. Because the richest learning happens when educators are part of a community that is reflective, collaborative, and consistently focused on issues of teaching and learning, they are ideally members of a professional community that encourages them sharing, reflection, collaboration and the development of common norms and values. They facilitate student learning by creating learning communities for and with their students and by respecting and engaging with the communities from which their students come.
Educator preparation programs at Salem State University have the following common…
Help candidates’ create a coherent and sustainable vision for their work that reflects important educational priorities focused ultimately on student learning
- Deepen candidates’ understanding of and ability to respond to the educational and societal challenges facing educators and students in the 21st century
- Enhance candidates’ understanding of the processes of learning and development, including the sociocultural, emotional and physical conditions that affect those processes
- Prepare educators who can design and deliver instruction and create climates that maximize student learning
- Provide candidates with the critical ability to pose questions, select evidence, and analyze outcomes to evaluate programs and assess student learning
Build candidates’ valuing of and skills in collaboration, including respectful engagement with families and communities
The above principles and themes are embedded in the theory, research and practice we promote in various programs in various ways; for example, the emphasis on critical literacy, disciplinary literacy, and empowering students with habits of mind and tools to learn in our literacy education program; the Critical Friends model used to structure communities of practice throughout our leadership program; the balance of intentional teaching and use of developmentally appropriate instruction and play in our early childhood program; the modeling of place-based education and project-based learning in elementary education; time for dialogue and meaningful reading and writing in our ESL program and on self-determination, flexibility and collaboration in our special education program; the inclusion of “reflection” in key assessments in our initial programs; the idea that “leadership” is a proficiency expected of graduates of our advanced programs, no matter their field; the attention to issues of diversity, broadly construed, cultural responsiveness and building background in all programs; the number of projects in partnership with districts and communities that faculty and students are engaged in; the opportunities for sustained, embedded, connected and collaborative learning throughout the unit.
The lighthouse graphic, reflecting Salem State’s seaside setting and Salem’s sea-going heritage, depicts our education programs as a beacon, drawing our teacher/leader candidates, their students and the schools and districts we work with into a cycle of inquiry, practice and reflection. The base of the lighthouse embodies the strength of learning communities--both communities of practice and communities of learners.