The Conceptual Framework for Professional Education at Towson University is based upon a foundation of shared beliefs. These shared beliefs are performance-based, describing what educators should know and be able to do to improve student learning, and are specifically focused on professional knowledge, skills and dispositions. These shared beliefs place the learner at the center of an active learning process, and embrace a constructivist conception of learner-centered teaching and learning aimed at higher order skills and understanding. The Conceptual Framework is grounded in Towson University 2010: Mapping the Future (2004; see Appendix A), the University’s strategic plan, the Teacher Education Executive Board’s mission and vision statements, and the belief that preparation of educators is a collaborative P-16 responsibility. It provides direction for unit programs, courses, teaching, candidate proficiencies, scholarship, service, and Unit accountability. Reflecting continuous, systematic assessment, and internal and external reform efforts, the Conceptual Framework has been revisited, expanded, and revised numerous times: 1995-1996, 1997-1999, 2005-2006 (see Appendices B-E), since the initial development of the unit “knowledge base” in 1990. This continuous evolution, evidence of growth and vitality, has been inclusive, reflecting input, review, and refinement from internal and external stakeholders, and is reflective of state and national educational policies.
Development of the University’s Strategic Plan, Mission and Vision
The development of the current strategic plan, mission, and vision statements for Towson University began with the arrival of the current president, Robert Caret, in July 2003. Since that time, there have been multiple campus, community, and business focus group sessions, communications with the entire campus community, and university and division planning activities. Resulting from those activities was a new strategic plan, Towson 2010: Mapping the Future; in that document and its embedded goals, and in its revised MHEC state plan (2005; see Appendix F), Towson University reaffirmed its Mission Statement:
Developing the Unit’s Mission and Vision Statements
The unit’s NCATE Steering Committee, established by the Teacher Education Executive Board, held its initial meeting in January 2003 to identify tasks needed for its then-scheduled 2005 accreditation visit. Due to the March 2003 death of the Dean of the College of Education/Chair of the TEEB and the subsequent search for a new dean, Towson received a two year delay of its accreditation visit. Nevertheless, planning for and collection of evidence for the 2007 accreditation visit continued through the TEEB, several ad hoc committees (e.g., the 2003-2005 work of the Portfolio Assessment Ad Hoc Committee), and close attention to the external environment (e.g., research, policy changes).
In spring and fall 2005, the previous Unit Mission and Vision Statements and Conceptual Framework were distributed to the TEEB and College of Education faculty for review. A new NCATE Steering Committee was formed and held its first meeting in August 2005. Among its early tasks was to review the previous Mission and Vision Statements and Conceptual Framework, and faculty feedback to the documents, in light of Towson 2010, continuing changes within national and state policy initiatives, and research in the field that are impacting educational environments, especially performance-based and professional association standards and assessments for initial and advanced preparation.
Representative of the policy initiatives within the State of Maryland focused on improving student learning are the aggressive Maryland Partnership for Teaching and Learning K-16, involving the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE); Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC); and University System of Maryland (USM); the ongoing and evolving dominance of the MHEC Redesign of Teacher Education (1995); the continuing curriculum changes required in Reading (Maryland Task Force on Reading, 1997, to Maryland’s Reading First Initiative, MSDE 2003b); the development of the Associate of Arts in Teaching and the resulting programmatic changes (MHEC, 2002), Maryland’s Teacher Technology Standards (MSDE, 2002); the PDS Implementation Manual (K-16 Partnership, 2003) and state PDS Standards and Assessment Framework (MSDE, 2005); MSDE’s Achievement Matters Most (2002, 2003); the development of the Voluntary State Curriculum, the Maryland Content Standards and Core Learning Goals and the aligned, mandated assessments (e.g., the Maryland School Assessments and the High School Assessments; MSDE, 2004); and the development of the Maryland Instructional Leadership Framework and resulting programmatic changes (MSDE, 2005).
At the national level, No Child Left Behind’s (2002) focus on standards and assessments, and emphasis on subject matter as the hallmark of “highly qualified teachers” has greatly impacted P-16 education (Imig, 2003; Cochran-Smith, 2005). The development and implementation of the NCATE PDS Standards, which predated the Maryland PDS Standards, also impacted the Professional Education Unit. Finally, the related emergence of evidence-based accreditation standards from NCATE (2000) and the Middle States Commission (2004) have refocused the university and the unit on the centrality of student learning as the ultimate outcome of our work.
From spring 2005 to spring 2006, the Unit Mission, Vision, and Conceptual Framework evolved through the collaborative efforts of the Teacher Education Executive Board, the NCATE Steering Committee, unit faculty, and external stakeholders, and other members of the professional community. On April 11, 2006, the revised unit mission and vision statements were approved as “final copy” by the TEEB. These statements are found in Table 1.
Reflecting Towson 2010: Mapping the Future (2004), the prominence of the unit's unifying mission -to inspire, educate, and prepare facilitators of active learning for diverse and inclusive communities of learners in environments that are technologically advanced- continues in the unit mission statement, emphasizing the centrality of student learning. This statement also includes the multiple levels of academic programming for initial teacher candidates as well as experienced teachers. The vision statement reflects Towson University’s heritage and reputation for leadership in professional education, its continued commitment to quality program planning and implementation, and its role in public policy formulation. Reflecting the national, state, and local educational environment, the vision statement delineates seven revised, integrated themes/goals/commitments, focused on the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to enhance teaching and learning for all students, which form the foundation for the Towson University Conceptual Framework for Professional Education.
Finalizing the Conceptual Framework
Reflecting the work of and feedback from the TEEB, NCATE Steering Committee, and unit faculty, the TEEB final approval of the unit mission and Vision statements enabled the final revisions to the Conceptual Framework. With the integrated themes of the Vision statement, focused on teaching and learning for all students, serving as the foundation of the Conceptual Framework, and reflecting feedback from the TEEB, the NCATE Steering, Unit faculty, and P-16 stakeholders, the NCATE Steering drafted the revised Conceptual Framework. Upon completion of this process, the graphic representation of the Conceptual Framework was developed, see Figure 1, illustrating the linkage between the following:
On September 12, 2006 the Conceptual Framework f or Professional Education was approved as “final copy” at the TEEB Retreat.
Table 1. Mission and Vision Statements for Professional Education
The mission of the Professional Education Unit at Towson University is to inspire, educate, and prepare educators as facilitators of active learning for diverse and inclusive communities of learners in environments that are technologically advanced. In this process, faculty assume responsibility for designing, developing, implementing, and assessing academic programs for:
The vision for Professional Education at Towson University is to build upon its rich heritage and excellent reputation and to position itself to enhance its leadership role in academic program planning and public policy formulation. Through its leadership, the Professional Education Unit can ensure that active learning occurs in diverse and inclusive educational environments where contemporary information resources are available. Thus, the unit can, in collaboration with other public/private agencies, assist in the readiness of all learners to succeed in a rapidly changing, diverse, and highly technical world. In order to achieve this vision, the unit at Towson University is committed to:
Vision statements enabled the final revisions to the Conceptual Framework. With the integrated themes of the Vision statement, focused on teaching and learning for all students, serving as the foundation of the Conceptual Framework, and reflecting feedback from the TEEB, the NCATE Steering Committee, Unit faculty, and P-16 stakeholders, the NCATE Steering drafted the revised Conceptual Framework. Upon completion of this process, the graphic representation of the Conceptual Framework was developed (see Figure 1), illustrating the linkage between the following:
1. mission statement;
2. seven integrated themes from the vision statement;
3. national specialty professional associations (SPA) and state performance-based standards and assessments for initial and advanced programs; and
4. underlying mission/theme: facilitators of active learning for diverse and inclusive communities of learners.
On September 12, 2006, the Conceptual Framework for Professional Education was approved as “final copy” by the TEEB.