Continuous Improvement

The unit is committed to continuously improving the professional expertise of its faculty for positive impact on candidate performance and the achievement of P-12 students. As the unit analyzes a variety of data for program improvement, it has determined four areas on which to focus its efforts: the refinement of the unit's expectations for teaching, scholarship, and service for annual evaluation and tenure and promotion; the establishment of a differentiated new faculty mentoring plan; the expansion of mentoring and faculty supervision in the undergraduate junior field practicum and the Master of Arts in Teaching alternative certification program; and a renewed commitment to professional development by the unit, particularly through the Bellarmine Center for Teaching Excellence and Leadership (BCTEL). These improvements have begun since the last accreditation visit and will continue to enhance professional performance in the future.

1) Beginning in spring, 2011, the unit engaged in a year-long re-evaluation of its guidelines for faculty annual evaluation and the university's requirements for the tenure and promotion process. Two dynamics occurred to promote the unit's re-consideration of its evaluation system: the university's move to a 5-tier system of rating teaching, scholarship, and service (beginning fall 2011), and the reduction of faculty teaching load from a 24-hour per academic year load to a 21-hour load in order to encourage more scholarly activity. The unit proactively moved from the university's 3-tier system to the 5-tier system in 2009, but felt a need to study further the criteria in each category of teaching, scholarship and service to mesh with the other schools in the university. Since the unit head's final determination of a faculty member's ratings becomes connected to the Presidential Merit Award (Exhibit 5.3.f.3), the unit felt it necessary to refine our criteria to ensure consistency with university-wide expectations. The unit will continue to monitor the efficacy of its criteria with respect to faculty annual evaluation and the tenure and promotion process, ensuring that new faculty are well-oriented to the criteria through the new faculty mentoring program.

2) Substantive changes have been made to the unit's faculty mentoring plan based on feedback from first and second-year faculty. In the past three years, the unit has added six new tenure track faculty members due to program expansion. The full-time faculty approved a differentiated mentoring plan in fall, 2011, to better address the variety of needs and expectations of entering faculty (Exhibit 5.3.f.2, p. 42). The plan includes common trainings for all new faculty, with specifically designed mentoring based on individual need. Differentiated mentoring is provided by experienced professional education faculty who have expertise in the area of need; understanding that new faculty may have more than one mentor. Thus, differentiated mentoring provides support and encouragement to new education faculty across all domains by a mentor who is highly experienced in a specific area. The unit will continue to evaluate the new faculty differentiated mentoring plan by surveying new faculty and mentors each academic year to determine its effectiveness.

3) Based on disposition assessment data, specifically an increase in the number of Disposition Intervention Plans developed on candidates in the professional semester (see Standard 1 dispositions data), and feedback from cooperating teachers in field placements, the unit determined a need to mentor/supervise initial certification candidates in the undergraduate program by adding an intensive junior field practicum in 2005. An extended practicum experience at the same P-12 school during the candidates' junior year was formalized, incorporating additional evaluation measures of candidate performance – with the hope of decreasing the number of candidates performing poorly in the professional semester. Practicum supervisors are oriented to their responsibilities, regularly meet with cooperating teachers, formally observe candidates' teaching lessons in their placements in both semesters, and regularly monitor candidates' progress in the practicum (Exhibit 5.3.h.1). Regular feedback from the cooperating teachers and performance on formal teaching observations conducted by junior field practicum mentors/supervisors allow the unit to be more proactive and intervene earlier when issues arise with candidate performance in the field. Additionally, the unit has more valid data with which to make sound decisions for Transition Point 2 – Admission to the Professional Semester. The additional mentoring responsibilities of the faculty supervisors has resulted in a decrease in the number of candidates removed from the professional semester as well as increased the proficiencies of candidates entering it. The unit surveys cooperating teachers and supervisors to obtain feedback on the quality of the practicum experience for candidates. These data will continue to be monitored to make improvements in the practicum.

Similar concerns arose with candidates in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Alternative Certification program during their professional semester, resulting in an increase in Dispositions Intervention Plans and in some extreme cases, removal from teaching positions. In compliance with state requirements and in an effort to provide more intensive supervision, the unit expanded the number of alternative certification mentors and their duties to provide increased feedback and supervision, including continuous monitoring of progress in collaboration with P-12 school personnel, increased number of formal observations, and weekly journal submission. A more formalized recommendation process is now in place including oversight by the certification officer and an interview process for recommendation for alternative certification (see Exhibit 5.3.h.2 for expanded description). An orientation for mentors/supervisors and alternative certification candidates, as well as ongoing seminars, are conducted to increase the effectiveness of both the supervision and candidates' performance. Data on candidate progress and surveys of supervisors are monitored to determine the effectiveness of supervision.

4) The unit has committed to increasing the number of "in-house" professional development sessions for full-time faculty by devoting a portion of at least one faculty meeting per month (beginning fall 2011) to a professional development topic, such as the use of "clickers" in the classroom and understanding the Kentucky Core Academic Standards. Additionally, the unit has re-affirmed its commitment to offering a variety of professional development sessions to the community, P-12 partners, and adjunct faculty through the Bellarmine Center for Teaching Excellence and Leadership (BCTEL). Established in 2009, the BCTEL offer diverse programming to meet the needs of today's educators (including university faculty) and their students. Topics have included new teacher mentoring, educator renewal, and specific strategies such as Response to Intervention (Exhibit 5.3.g.1). The Bellarmine Center for Economic Education (BCEE) is under the auspices of the BCTEL, and is an affiliate of the Kentucky Council on Economic Education. The BCEE provides preservice and inservice teachers with the resources to make daily economic decisions relevant for a new generation. It includes a lending library with the latest materials related to financial literacy, including lesson plans for all levels. The center is an example of how the unit uses authentic experiences and materials to train teachers, while also providing a valuable service to the region. The BCTEL responds to requests from the P-12 education community to offer professional development in areas of need, and continuously monitors new developments that warrant exploration.

An additional component of professional development that provides authentic experiences to preservice and inservice teachers, while meeting a community need, is the Bellarmine University Regional Assessment Clinic (BURAC). The BURAC opened in 2009 with the generous support of the WHAS Crusade for Children, with the intent of providing AFTSE candidates with authentic, clinical experiences in the assessment of learning challenges and the development of interventions, and as a community service provided to P-12 students, their families, and teachers in Louisville and surrounding communities at no cost. The BURAC houses professional and parent resources as well as an extensive collection of assistive technology, available for assessment and for training of candidates and teachers. Data on the clinic are continually collected and monitored, with reports generated annually (Exhibit 5.3.h.3). The BURAC plans to expand in 2012-13 to include psychological assessments to meet the needs of the community for no-cost, full-range assessments.


5.3.f.2 AFTSE 11-12 Full-Time Faculty Handbook

5.3.f.3 Ratings of Faculty Annual Performance by Unit Head 2009-2011

5.3.g.1 University Professional Development Opportunities

5.3.h.1 Mentors of Junior Field Practicum

5.3.h.2 Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Alternative Certification Handbook 2011

5.3.h.3 BURAC Annual Report