Continuous Improvement

The university and the unit continue to expand their awareness of all types of diversity as part of each entity's mission and vision. A number of changes have occurred in both the unit and its programming since the last accreditation visit that impact candidates' understanding of culturally responsive teaching/leading and working to meet the needs of diverse learners. Two of these changes have been mentioned: the addition of several multi-ethnic faculty and the lowering of graduate tuition. Additional changes have focused on enhancing candidates' direct experiences with diverse populations and thus improving their proficiencies in the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to work effectively with all students. Similarly, unit faculty have been provided with various opportunities and resources to enhance their understanding of diversity and how to enrich the experiences of the candidates they teach.

The unit has begun two new student organizations that work with individuals with disabilities: Best Buddies, a volunteer organization that sponsors one-on-one relationships with individuals with cognitive disabilities, and a student chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children. Both of these organizations provide opportunities for candidates to collaborate with and learn from individuals with exceptionalities, and were initiated by undergraduate candidates enrolled in the dual certification program. These organizations are open to candidates in all programs, offering a variety of opportunities for educational and service events. For example, the student CEC chapter conducted a fund-raiser, "Fill the Boot," to raise money for the WHAS Crusade for Children, and the Best Buddies program sponsored a buddy event at the university Halloween party.

The university's Quality Enhancement Plan has been focused on globalization, with a particular emphasis on study abroad. The unit has encouraged undergraduate candidates to study abroad by conducting early advising sessions designed to accommodate curricular needs while abroad, offering student teaching (professional semester) abroad opportunities, and conducting a study abroad course in Ireland on Irish democratic schooling in summer 2010, taught by an AFTSE faculty and attended by three undergraduate education majors. The unit sent a faculty member to India in December 2011 to explore opportunities for graduate study abroad, and will continue to promote other sites for faculty to investigate in the near future. The unit is encouraging candidates to study and (student) teach abroad in an effort to broaden their understanding of culture and global issues.

To deepen candidates' understanding of diversity and its function as an asset to schooling experiences, a number of curricular additions and experiential opportunities have been implemented across programs, including the addition of the Iris Modules (Vanderbilt University) in both general education and special education coursework (Exhibit 4.3.b.2). The IRIS Center is a national center that provides free, research-based, online interactive training resources for college and university faculty about students with disabilities. Project Impact (Harvard University), a computerized assessment of implicit attitudes toward a variety of human characteristics, has been implemented in MAED coursework (Exhibit 4.3.j.6). Candidates receive a confidential report of their personal biases, then share via class discussion, followed by an intensive reflection on how these beliefs impact P-12 children and schools. Additionally, the Community Action Poverty Simulation (Missouri Association for Community Action, Inc.), has been successfully implemented by the unit since spring 2010, with over 360 participants – including candidates, P-12 teachers, and community agency participants (Exhibit 4.3.j.7). Perhaps most significant is that the simulation is led by candidates in the MAED and EdS in Instructional Leadership programs. The unit will continue to explore curricular resources that will enhance candidate proficiencies and faculty expertise in working with diverse learners.

As previously mentioned, field experiences have been expanded to include non-traditional schools and community settings, which are now being tracked by a new, expansive unit database, the Degree Audit Portlet, that manages candidates' placements by diversity of students and cooperating teachers. This system will enhance the unit's ability to more effectively monitor diversity of placements across all programs. To reach the full spectrum of diverse learners and schooling opportunities, the unit has added placement sites that include residential schools, such as Maryhurst and Home of the Innocents, and agency and alternative schools such as Buechel Metropolitan and Peace Academy. These sites provide unique experiences for candidates to see the full spectrum of school services provided to diverse learners often affected by multiple environmental and personal factors including: severe emotional trauma, medical and mental health disabilities, destructive behavior, and court adjudication. Additionally, the unit has begun to hold periodic faculty meetings at community agencies such as Volunteers of America Family Emergency Center (Exhibit 4.3.g.2) and YMCA Safe Space (scheduled for May 10, 2012), so that faculty can become more aware of community needs and services as well as investigate sites for candidate experiences.

Two significant additions to the unit, the university, and the community since the last accreditation visit have been the Bellarmine Center for Economic Education (BCEE) and the Bellarmine University Regional Assessment Clinic (BURAC). Both of these initiatives involve extensive collaboration with the community, including P-12 educators. The focus of the BCEE has been on financial literacy, including workshops conducted with P-12 students, such as: Junior Achievement, Presentation Academy, Project One – serving over 300 African-American males, and a partnership with the Kentucky State Treasurer's Office and PNC Bank that designed financial literacy training for over 1,900 high school seniors in eastern Kentucky (Exhibit 4.3.j.8). The initial Poverty Simulation project was initiated by the BCEE. The center is housed within the unit, providing economic education materials to candidates, faculty, P-12 educators, and community agencies to improve economic equity among children and adults. The unit began the center in collaboration with the Kentucky Council on Economic Education to better inform candidates and faculty of the realities of economic inequities and the consequences of poverty for school-age children.

The BURAC has a similar motivation in providing a community service to P-12 students and their families, in addition to training unit candidates, by offering free educational assessments and intervention strategies to improve student success. Candidates have authentic training experiences in assessing children who are struggling academically, developing intervention plans, and reporting results to parents and P-12 teachers. This interaction enhances candidates' understanding of diverse learners and their need for differentiated instruction, as well as the need for collaboration among parents and schools for student success. The BURAC has received more requests for assistance than it is able to handle, but continues to expand its services each year (Exhibit 4.3.i.4).

Finally, the unit continues to focus on candidate assessment data relative to effectively working with all students across all proficiencies (knowledge, skills, and dispositions). Most recently the unit examined in depth the dispositions assessment data and dispositions intervention plan data to determine reasons for intervention plans and any existing patterns. The goal of this analysis is to target those areas in which candidates are having the most difficulty, then initiate proactive measures for improved candidate performance. Theme III, Cultural Responsiveness, received the lowest number of identified dispositional concerns among initial certification candidates as determined by aggregated data from 2007 to 2011 (Exhibit 4.3.c.4). Hopefully, the unit's efforts to develop candidates' proficiencies in the area of cultural responsiveness and the ability to effectively teach all students are the reason behind positive ratings on Theme III.

The unit and the university continue efforts to increase diversity in all aspects of campus life, with a particular emphasis on the recruitment and retention of a diverse student body. The university has received a grant to establish a first-year living/learning community program, the Galileo Community, which is designed to enhance academic and social experiences on campus while focusing on connectedness and retention of students. With the theme, "Body, Mind, and Spirit," first-year students will share common classes and activities, including the option to live together in a residence hall. This experience will pair faculty, students, and advisors with the goal of a unique, holistic first-year experience.

4.3.b.2 IRIS Modules in AFTSE Curriculum

4.3.c.4 Disposition Intervention Plan Candidate Data

4.3.g.2 VOA Faculty Meeting Minutes from January 13, 2012

4.3.i.4 BURAC Annual Report

4.3.j.6 Project Implicit from Harvard

4.3.j.7 Community Action Poverty Simulation

4.3.j.8 Bellarmine Center for Economic Education