Continuous Improvement

Faculty in the AFTSE continuously reflect individually and collectively to improve curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment so that candidates are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions to improve P-12 learning. Based upon continuous data analysis and curriculum review; feedback from university, community, P-12 partnerships, alumni and current students; as well as standards and policy revisions enacted by the Kentucky Department of Education; the unit continuously revises and improves both initial and advanced programs as follows:

1) In spring 2011, the unit, including adjunct faculty, agreed to incorporate a matrix on all course syllabi that helps candidates understand both the importance and interconnectedness of professional standards, AFTSE program objectives, course objectives and assessments. The matrix is an integral part of the syllabus template for every course in the unit in that it aligns objectives with assessments (course and benchmark or anchor) as well as professional standards. This consistent approach provides a structure that emphasizes for candidates the integration of content with standards (Exhibit 1.3.l.1).

2) Since the last accreditation visit, the unit has made a number of changes to the initial certification benchmark assessments. In 2008, the AFTSE enacted strategic improvements to strengthen candidates' utilization of Valli's (1997) types of reflection. Analysis of performance data indicated that reflective essays concluding every benchmark too often lacked depth and detail since candidates were expected to incorporate four of the five forms of Valli's reflections to achieve a distinguished score. Thus, the unit decided to narrow the number of required types of reflection to the specific form(s) most relevant to each benchmark's purpose (Exhibit 2.3.h.4.a; Exhibit 2.3.h.4.b). As a result, candidates are demonstrating deeper analytical thinking and application of Valli on each of the required benchmarks. In fall 2011, the unit agreed to improve candidates' knowledge of content and pedagogy by raising benchmark scores necessary for proficient and distinguished performance (Exhibit 2.3.h.5). The unit believes that increased rigor in the performance criteria is necessary in view of the challenges that face 21st century educators. In fall 2011, the unit decided to begin a process of reviewing all initial certification benchmarks for their continued relevance to teacher preparation by establishing committees to study each one. This work is on-going, however the unit voted to adopt the revised rubric for the Web Page for Content Enhancement Benchmark in April 2012 (Exhibit 1.3.l.2).

Since 2004, all initial certification candidates have followed both the Bellarmine Lesson Plan Template and the Bellarmine Standards Based Unit of Study (SBUS) Template as guides for design of effective lessons and units of instruction. In fall 2011, the unit finalized our year-long revision process and piloted both a new Lesson Plan Template and a new SBUS Template aligned with Kentucky Teacher Internship Program expectations. New components in these templates challenge candidates to demonstrate deeper levels of pedagogical knowledge that impact P-12 learning such as analysis of pre-assessment and post-assessment data, designation of culturally responsive strategies, provisions for differentiated learning experiences, and implementation of IEP goals in both general and special education classrooms (Exhibit 1.3.l.3.a; Exhibit 1.3.l.3.b). Pilot templates and rubrics will continue to be refined in summer 2012, based upon continuing unit feedback as well as analysis of candidates' performance.

3) In 2011, the unit moved from a content major approach in secondary education to a new "major in secondary education" with a content area emphasis. This change, approved by the university's governance structure in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences, resulted from feedback from secondary candidates and P-12 partners, who indicated a need for a re-examination of curriculum and a separate identity from freshman year forward as a "secondary education major." This move has increased candidates' sense of inclusion and involvement in the AFTSE, and provided earlier and more consistent program advisement. Additionally, meetings with each Arts and Sciences content major department afforded an opportunity to discuss Praxis II content, Senate Bill 1 and the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, and consistent advising practices between the unit and content area advisors (Exhibit 1.3.l.4).

4) Since 2009, the unit has implemented a "Junior Field Practicum" at the undergraduate level to provide a consistent weekly placement in one school for the junior year. In fall 2010, based on feedback from school partners and the unit's determination that candidates needed additional experience teaching lessons, the expectations for candidates were increased in terms of planning and implementation of observed and evaluated lessons. On campus classes for elementary and middle school junior level candidates were arranged so that candidates could spend one full day (fall semester) and one and one-half days (spring semester) in the same school (Exhibit 1.3.c.4, p. 15). Secondary education majors were unable to arrange their content courses to permit this time commitment, however their required hours were increased and school placements were extended to two consecutive semesters including observed teaching and intervention work with schools determined to be "low performing." In January 2012, all secondary candidates were also assigned to participate in an additional ten hours of field work in special needs classrooms at state agency and residential schools. Thus the unit continues to diversify and deepen candidates' practicum experiences with the intention of producing highly effective teachers who impact P-12 learning (Exhibit 1.3.l.5).

5) To maintain program quality under EPSB regulations and to insure success of candidates who seek Alternative Certification (Option 6) prior to completion of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program, the AFTSE enacted positive policy changes in fall 2010 to provide increased mentoring to candidates in the alternative certification track, including participating in monthly seminars with their assigned university mentors who coach, support, and collaborate with candidates in P-12 classrooms (Exhibit 1.3.l.6). In Spring 2011, the unit voted to increase prerequisites for those seeking alternative certification by mandating that all MAT candidates must first complete Module I, demonstrate evidence of teaching competency, and complete all academic prerequisites before being eligible for the unit's recommendation to pursue school employment.

6) Feedback from faculty and cooperating teachers indicated that the dispositions assessment in use from 2006 to 2009 did not adequately measure affect and/or attitudes that reliably predicted a candidate's success in the Professional Semester. As a result, in fall 2010, the AFTSE piloted a new Dispositions Self-and Institutional Assessment organized around five themes and aligned with both program objectives and the Kentucky Teacher Standards. The unit's revised instrument now yields more explicit detail concerning candidates' dispositional strengths and areas for growth as well as providing a far more accurate index of professional behaviors needing remediation (Exhibit 2.3.h.2.a; Exhibit 2.3.h.2.b).

7) The addition of the Bellarmine University Regional Assessment Clinic (BURAC) in 2009 has further increased candidates' assessment and remediation proficiencies by offering authentic opportunities to evaluate P-12 children/youth with learning challenges and to design individual interventions to improve learning. Another positive change as a result of the 2009 WHAS Crusade for Children grant funds for the clinic is the addition of extensive assistive technology resources both for hands-on experience in clinic assessments and integration into methodologies introduced in special education methods courses (Exhibit 1.3.l.7). The unit hopes to expand the clinic's free services each year to meet the growing demand for educational evaluation as well as provide authentic training to candidates.

8) In Spring 2012, the unit approved a sequence of IRIS training modules (Vanderbilt University) for integration into general and special education course work in all programs as a means to enhance candidates' preparation to meet the needs of all learners (Exhibit 1.3.l.8). These modules will be used by faculty and candidates to enrich their knowledge of strategies such as positive behavior supports and differentiating instruction for increasing P-12 student learning and achievement.

9) The unit introduced two re-designed programs since the last accreditation: the Master of Arts in Education (and Rank I program) in Teacher Leadership and the EdS in Instructional Leadership and School Administration. Both of these programs are state-of-the-art advanced programs with an emphasis on the qualities and skills of highly effective instructional leaders, particularly as data-driven decision-makers. The first cohort of the MAED in Teacher Leadership just completed their uniquely individualized program in December 2011. The first cohort of the EdS program has yet to finish, with completion projected for summer 2012. Both programs will benefit from the new Degree Audit Portlet – an internal database that will enable the unit to better track data in all advanced programs. The unit has found it difficult to track systematically the progress of many MAED and Rank I candidates in particular, as they "drop in, out, and back in" programs prior to completion. Additionally, the unit has mandated all advanced candidates to use LiveText.

Exhibits

1.3.c.4 Initial Certification Field Experiences and Junior Practicum Handbook

1.3.l.1 Sample Matrices from Course Syllabi

1.3.l.2 Revised Web Page Benchmark Assessment Rubric

1.3.l.3.a Bellarmine Lesson Plan Template

1.3.l.3.b Standards Based Unit of Study Template

1.3.i.4 Unit Final Candidate Exit Survey

1.3.l.5 Secondary Field Placement Revisions

1.3.l.6 Alternative Certification Mentoring Plan

1.3.l.7 Assistive Technology Resources for BURAC

1.3.l.8 IRIS Modules Aligned with Education Courses

2.3.h.2.a Dispositions Assessment and Intervention Plan

2.3.h.2.b Dispositions Intervention Plan Data

2.3.h.4.a Data Sampling for Changes in Valli Section on Benchmarks

2.3.h.4.b Changes to Valli Section of Philosophy Benchmark

2.3.h.5 Chart on Benchmark Percentage Changes

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