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College of Education

Conceptual Framework 2006

Theme 5: Helping develop, internalize, and display professional conscience (dispositions of commitment, caring, and collaboration)

A growing body of literature, reflecting on the emerging educational demands of our knowledge-based and global society continues to point to the urgent need to “reaffirm a consensus about the role and purposes of public education in a democracy and the prime importance of learning in meeting those purposes” (NCTAF, 1996, p. 11; NCTAF, 2003; also see Feinberg, 1990; Goodlad, Soder & Sirotnik, 1990; Strike, 1996). Indeed, much of the rhetoric of the educational reform reports of the last two decades, which centered almost exclusively on the instrumental role of schools in creating jobs and on the technical competence of teachers, failed to address the moral and ethical roots of education (Bransford, Darling-Hammond, & LePage, 2005; Colby et al., 2003; Fenstermacher, 1990; Goodlad, 1994; Goodlad, Soder & Sirotnik, 1990; Goodlad, 2001; Musil, 2005; NCTAF, 2003). In recognition of the shortsightedness of these reform reports, NCTAF (1996) declared that:

Education must not attend simply to the nation’s well being, but to its human core as well. We must reclaim the soul of America. And to do so, we need an education system that helps people to forge shared values, to understand and respect other perspectives, to learn and work at high levels of competence, to take risks and persevere against the odds, to work comfortably with people from diverse backgrounds, and to continue to learn throughout life (pp.11-12).

As a result, the challenge for professional education extends beyond preparing educators with the technical competencies needed for contemporary schools. Rather, the basis for all professional preparation must rest on the fundamental moral and ethical relationships of “society, schooling, teaching and preparing to teach” (Bransford, Darling-Hammond, & LePage, 2005; Sirotnik, 1990, p. 296) as we construct a “future that is just and humane as well as productive, that is socially vibrant and civil in its pluralism as it is competitive” (NCTAF, 1996, p. 11; Putnam, 1995).

Accordingly and reflecting the unit’s mission and vision, professional education addresses the development, internalization, and display of professional conscience—the dispositions of commitment, caring, and collaboration—by our initial and advanced level candidates that promote student learning and respond to the role and purpose of schools in a democratic society and the ethical responsibilities of public education and educators (Fullan, 2001; Hanson, 2001; Sirotnik, 1990). The concept of professional conscience has long been one of the major themes of the unit Vision Statement, but was only broadly defined. In the current preparation for accreditation, and reflecting state and national professional standards, a statement of unit dispositions was developed to operationalize “professional conscience.” These three major dispositions that impact student learning are:

  • commitment to professional practice
  • caring for the success and well-being of all students
  • collaboration with colleagues and stakeholders

The concept of professional conscience –as demonstrated by identified dispositions- is integrated throughout all aspects of Towson University’s preparation of educators. Embracing the professional imperative, a “social calling” (Bransford, p.12; also see Darling-Hammond, & LePage) on behalf of all students, professional education strives to serve as a change agent guided by a critical perspective addressing issues of social justice in this country and in the larger global society. In this perspective, professional education develops educators’ capacities for reflective practice in order to help them thoughtfully examine the moral, ethical, political, and instrumental issues embedded in daily educational practice (Howey, 1996; Colby et al., 2003; Fullan, 2001; Grossman, 2005; Noddings, 1984 & 2001).

This dispositional awareness is the foundation of professional development, allowing educators to see the relationship of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and leadership to the nurturing of individuals and groups. It is a professional conscience that causes the work of educators to be transformative and schools to be democratic sites for social transformation.



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