Mission StatementThe purpose of the Department of Education is to prepare caring, competent, and qualified teachers who act in the best interests of the students they will serve.
The education program at Concordia College coheres around a single, fundamental principle. We believe teachers have a moral obligation to act in the best interests of the students they serve. This principle arises from the most ordinary of sources, a combination of common sense and personal experience. It is so simple as to be, for the most part, automatically assumed--an "unspoken policy" for schools and teachers. (Jackson, et al, 1993) Yet it strikes us that this principle expresses something fundamental to teaching, something without which teaching would make no sense. That is, it is a truth that in some emphatic way defines the endeavor we call teaching. It is a principle that orients the education program and coheres with the institutional mission of Concordia College (The purpose of Concordia College is to influence the affairs of the world by sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women dedicated to the Christian life.)
In taking this as the guiding principle for our education program, our program has two intimately related purposes: one, how we can best prepare caring, competent, and qualified teachers who act in the best interests of the students they will serve; two, how we can best prepare caring, competent, and qualified teachers to accept the obligation to act in the best interests of the students they will serve. The first task has to do with the knowledge and skills teachers need and the judgments they must be able to make in order to act wisely in the best interests of their students (Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Beginning Teachers, 1999). The second task has to do with what are sometimes called attitudes or dispositions teachers must adopt. They are also sometimes called virtues (Hare, 1993) and refer to the qualities or excellences of the person acting with understanding in his or her role as teacher.
In focusing our education program on these two tasks, we honor the complexity of teaching and what we understand as being the difficulties involved in preparing someone to be a teacher. Deciding what "is in the best interests of students" and knowing how to serve those best interests involves for the teacher consideration of any number of factors and contexts, and requires of him or her knowledge and skill in a number of areas. Among other things, it involves (1) having a knowledgeable and informed opinion about what it is in the best interests of students to know, do, or become; (2) to know the students served have a role in identifying their own best interests; (3) to accurately and sensitively assess the readiness or abilities of students to achieve what is in their best interests; and (4) to have the skill and ability to most ably assist students in achieving what is in their best interests.
But knowledge, skill, and ability are not enough. We believe teachers must accept the moral obligation to act in the best interests of the students they serve. We are committed to examining with students the depth and breadth of this moral obligation and what it can, should or must mean for the individual teacher. We, along with our colleagues in the liberal arts and science, are committed to examining the different qualities, or excellences, that teachers should possess, such as intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, judgment, imagination, and self-discipline--in addition to such virtues as empathy, fairness, respect for others, and patience. We see these qualities as essential if our teacher candidates are to fully understand, believe in, and learn to use what we give them to "know" about teaching. It is, furthermore, our task, as teacher educators, not only to help our students understand these qualities as necessary for teachers, but to do all in our power to help them acquire, further, or deepen these qualities. Moreover, we realize the importance of modeling these qualities to our students--that we, as teacher educators, must accept the moral obligation to act in the best interests of the students we serve.
In declaring this single, fundamental principle around which our education program coheres, we as an education faculty continue to envision our graduates as teachers able and willing to reflect on their teaching. We anticipate our students will be able to nurture and trust their educational visions and to value and draw upon their own self-understandings. We anticipate they will engage with others in philosophical questioning and political discussion of the activities of teaching, the place and value of learning, the processes of inquiry, current trends and time-worn practices in education, and other important issues. That is, we envision our graduates as realizing themselves as learners--still growing and changing, still acquiring new knowledge, still developing new questions.
In accordance with what we understand as the task of the education program at Concordia College, we offer the following five propositions--propositions about teachers and teaching which, in a more particular way, orient the education program as it prepares teacher candidates to act in the best interests of the students they will serve. These propositions are drawn from the work of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and are aligned with the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Beginning Teachers.
In being obliged to act in the best interests of the students they serve, we believe:
- Teachers must possess or acquire knowledge of their students. (Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers 2, 3.)
- Teachers must know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students. (Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers 1, 4, 7.)
- Teachers must be responsible for managing and monitoring student learning. (Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers 5, 6, 8.)
- Teachers must reflect regularly about their practice. (Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers 9.)
- Teachers must understand their role in the context of the communities and society they serve. (Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Teachers 10.)
1. Teachers must possess or acquire knowledge of their students.
Teachers must come to know about their students whatever it is they need to know in order to effectively instruct those students. At a basic level, teachers must have some general knowledge of what their students are like, what things appeal to them, what the limits of their understanding might be, and so forth. This they may acquire both from practical experience and formal training. Teachers must also have some knowledge of how students learn, and they must understand that students' learning is influenced by such things as individual experiences, talents, and prior learning, as well as by language, gender, culture, and family and community values. (Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice for Beginning Teachers, 1999) Teachers must come to know the needs, interests, and abilities of particular students, and they must accurately diagnose and respond to students of different developmental or ability levels.
2. Teachers must know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
Teachers must know, and must be committed to, the integrity of the methods, substance and structures of the discipline(s) they teach, and they must accurately represent these to students. But in considering how to represent this disciplinary knowledge to students, teachers must bring to bear their knowledge of students--including an awareness of the most common subject matter misconceptions held by students, the aspects of the discipline students will find most difficult, and the kinds of prior knowledge, experience and skills that students of different ages and backgrounds typically bring to the learning of particular topics. (NBPTS, 1994) Teachers must make effective decisions about what aspects of their subject matter they will emphasize and how they will sequence and pace instruction. They must develop a varied and appropriate repertoire of representations and instructional techniques. They must know how to address the important questions in their discipline, how to pose those questions to students, and how to encourage students to pose those questions for and to themselves. Teachers must, furthermore, become acquainted with, and use, available resources (such as educational technology and community resources) to assist instruction.
3. Teachers must be responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
Teachers are responsible for identifying and elaborating educational objectives, for developing activities to help students meet those objectives, for assessing whether students have met the objectives set for them, and for responding to students who fail to meet objectives set for them. Teachers must choose effective and varied instructional techniques; promote student engagement in learning activities; set forth the social norms by which students and teacher act and interact; establish consequences when those norms are violated (NBPTS, 1994); and help students become independent learners by encouraging the fair assessment of their own processes and products of learning.
4. Teachers must reflect regularly about their practice.
Teachers share responsibility with colleagues, administrators and others for decisions fundamental to the creation of productive learning communities--thus, they share the responsibility to reflect carefully about those communities and their role in them. Teachers have a professional obligation to be lifelong students of their craft, seeking to expand their repertoire, deepen their knowledge and skill, and become wiser in rendering judgments. (NBPTS, 1994) They must continue to learn and explore in their disciplinary fields and be willing to incorporate new findings and new pedagogies into their teaching. Teachers ought to seek the advice of others, and they ought to draw on, and contribute to, educational research and scholarship. Teachers should seek out opportunities to collaborate with other professionals and community members on interdisciplinary projects, curriculum proposals, and other important tasks.
5. Teachers must understand their role in the context of the communities and society they serve.
Teachers must understand their role in the larger contexts that help define that role. In a limited sense, this means that teachers must see themselves as partners, with parents and other community members, in the education of students. Teachers must communicate regularly with parents and guardians regarding the successes and problems their students are experiencing. Teachers must become aware of and use in-school and community resources, and they must become knowledgeable about, and respect, the mores and values that help define the communities they serve.
Teachers should strive to understand their role in the historical and social context of education. Through the study of the foundations of education, teachers should seek to understand and question the moral, social and political dimensions of classrooms, teaching, and schools.
We believe all five of these propositions about teachers and teaching are necessary if our teacher candidates are to act in the best interests of the students they will serve. We believe our students must not only come to "know" these things, but take them to heart--to begin to see and understand themselves as teachers in light of these obligations.
Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Hare, W. (1993). What Makes a Good Teacher. Winnipeg: The Althouse Press.
Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium. (1992). Model Standards for Beginning Teacher Licensure and Development: A Resource for State Dialogue."
Jackson, P. (1986). The Practice of Teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.
Jackson, P., Boostrom, R. and Hansen, D. (1993). The Moral Life of Schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Minnesota Board of Teaching. (1999). Adopted Permanent Rules Relating to Teacher Licensing. http://www.educ.state.mn.us/teachbrd/rd2873_toc.html.