I.3  What is the professional education unit at your institution, what is its relationship to other units at the institution that are involved in the preparation of professional educators, and what are the significant changes since the last NCATE review?

In 1998, the “Education Department” of Bellarmine College was dedicated as a “School of Education” with Dr. Doris Tegart as its founding dean (Dr. Tegart is currently Provost of Bellarmine University). The School of Education was named the Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education (AFTSE) on October 31, 2001, after adding a Master of Arts in Education program and a Master of Arts in Teaching program. The AFTSE is one of six (6) schools within the university, including the College of Arts and Sciences, and has the primary authority and responsibility for delivering and operating all initial and advanced professional education programs. The university acknowledges that the preparation of educators is a shared responsibility among all schools, as appropriate, with the College of Arts and Sciences as the primary collaborative partner in teacher training. The AFTSE currently offers 20 programs in educator preparation, including a doctoral program in Education and Social Change as of Summer, 2011. Exhibit I.5.e.1

The dean of the AFTSE, Dr. Robert B. Cooter, Jr., Ed.D., is the unit head. Additionally, he is the university’s first Endowed Chair in Teacher Education in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. The dean is the academic, administrative, and managerial head of the unit, and is a member of the Academic Deans Council of the university, which meets bi-monthly with the vice-president for academic affairs to collaboratively plan and problem-solve in alignment with the mission and vision of the university. Administrative personnel in the unit, under the direction of the dean, include: the associate dean, chair of the Department of Undergraduate and Initial Teacher Certification, chair of the Master of Arts in Teaching Program, chair of the Department of Advanced Education Programs, chair of the PhD in Education and Social Change Program, and program coordinator for field and professional semester experiences. The certification officer has a combined role as a course instructor and director of the assessment clinic that is part of the unit. (Exhibit I.5.e.2)

Since the NCATE re-accreditation visit in October, 2004 (and follow-up focus visit in October, 2006), a number of changes have occurred to the unit: a physical change in location to the Allen building located across from the main part of the university’s campus, a change in unit head – actually three different deans since 2004, and an increase in the unit’s full-time faculty from twelve (12) to sixteen (16), excluding the dean, with only two of the twelve from 2006 currently part of the full-time faculty. Thus, the most significant change is in faculty turnover since 2006.

All full-time faculty in the AFTSE are assigned to the unit as either instructors, clinical faculty, or tenure-track professors. Full-time faculty generally teach across unit programs, depending on their areas of expertise. The unit employs a number of adjunct faculty who are course instructors, field supervisors, or professional semester supervisors. Additionally, the unit employs three support staff:  the deans’ secretary and two faculty secretaries.


I.4  Summarize basic tenets of the conceptual framework, institutional standards and candidate proficiencies related to expected knowledge, skills and professional dispositions as well as significant changes made to the conceptual framework since the last NCATE review?

The theme of the AFTSE, Educator as Reflective Learner, is the outgrowth of more than ten years of reading, discussing, and reflecting on the philosophy of the unit and its conceptual framework. The AFTSE reaffirmed this theme (May, 2011) based on its recognized consistency with the mission of the institution and with the philosophy of the education faculty and community partners, as well as with the various programs for candidates.  The theme, based on Linda Valli’s (1997) five types of reflection (technical, reflection in-and-on action, personalistic, deliberative, and critical) captures the essence of the conceptual framework in that effective educators are called to reflect consistently and systematically on their own practice, as well as mentor and collaborate with their colleagues in reflective practice, in order to advance successful professional learning communities within schools and the broader community. As Valli (1997) notes in her discussion of the merits of reflective practice, it is reflection that produces problem solving from multiple perspectives, permitting the use of new evidence to improve practice and therefore, student success. “Reflective teachers link theory and practice by using varied sources of information, examine their own practices and school policies in order to become better teachers, analyze problems from multiple perspectives, and use new evidence to reassess decisions” (Valli, 1997, p.70).  Foundational to the conceptual framework and inclusive of the theme of the AFTSE are the Program Objectives, which form the basis of the overall Continuous Assessment Plan of the unit, and specifically frame the assessments in each of the three Transition Points (in the continuous assessment plan) of both the initial and advanced programs. The AFTSE requires candidates in all initial and advanced programs to demonstrate proficient performance on its Program Objectives through the following criteria of continuous assessment:  individual course assessments, field and clinical evaluations, dispositions assessments, benchmark and/or anchor assessments, and Capstone Project and/or standardized exams (where appropriate). Based on this program assessment data, the candidate who achieves proficiency accomplishes the following Program Objectives:

1)      Collaborates with education stakeholders, including parents, teachers, administrators, and the community, to improve student learning and achievement;

2)      Reflects on diverse field and clinical experiences, making instructional decisions based on individual learner needs;

3)      Demonstrates educator dispositions that value the dignity and unique development of individual learners, and the intellectual, moral, ethical, and professional competencies that characterize effective teaching and leading;

4)      Analyzes data to make pedagogical and content based decisions that inform teaching, learning, leading, and achievement in the 21st Century; and

5)      Employs Valli’s five reflective processes which include technical, personalistic, deliberative, in and on action, and critical reflection.

It is mastery of the Program Objectives, in concert with the practice of continuous reflection, that candidates in AFTSE programs personify as the unit's mission:  [The AFTSE] prepares caring, effective educators in the Catholic liberal arts tradition of Bellarmine University to teach and lead in diverse settings.

Proficiency in knowledge, skills, and dispositions is further measured in alignment with the Kentucky Teacher Standards, Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards, and other related specialized professional association standards that provide a consistent structure for candidate performance and impact on P-12 student learning. These standards are the framework for accomplishing both the mission and our vision…”to prepare dynamic educators to serve, work, and lead in a changing global community.” These basic tenets of the conceptual framework serve to guide our diligent work in preparing the finest educators for the diverse learners of the 21st century.

A number of significant changes have been made to the conceptual framework since the last NCATE re-accreditation visit in October, 2004. These changes include:

  • A re-affirming of the unit's theme Educator as Reflective Learner and Valli's (1997) types of reflection as integral to effective teaching and leading.  A review of current research on reflection confirmed its authenticity and continued relevance to educational practice in addressing the diversity of today's learners;
  • The addition of a vision statement for the unit that captures the dynamic of change – personal, professional, and global;
  • The updating of the knowledge base for the Conceptual Framework to reflect more current conceptualizations of the reflective professional educator in a diverse and rapidly changing world and extension of that knowledge base to include the theoretical and standards base for the Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership program and the Educational Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership and School Administration;
  • A re-conceptualizing of the AFTSE Program Objectives to emphasize the diversity of learners and the skills needed for success in the 21st century, the need for data-driven instructional decisions based on assessment for and of learning, and the inclusion of leadership dynamics in all facets of educational practice. The Program Objectives have been expanded to include the commitments and philosophies of the AFTSE as well as their connection to the Kentucky Teacher Standards and Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board themes; and
  • The framing of candidate dispositions in initial certification programs within five Themes (I: Continuous Reflection and Lifelong Learning; II: Personal Integrity, III: Cultural Responsiveness; IV: Professional Integrity; and V: Collaboration and Leadership), which better articulate the mission and vision of the unit and the program objectives as they integrate with the Kentucky Teacher Standards. The unit’s dispositions continue to be articulated within a developmental framework of self-and institutional assessment, as well as intervention in areas of concern.