Message From the Dean - November 2013

Re-Imagining Teaching

Several colleagues had the opportunity to attend the Iowa Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (IACTE) conference in Osceola, Iowa. We were fortunate to have our very own Dr. Nadene Davidson, as the current president of the state's professional organization, preside over the conference. We were very proud that she was at the helm. The conference was high-quality and provided us opportunities to pause and reflect on the various programs and practices that we are supporting across teacher education. Throughout the conference, the colleagues in attendance – Rob Boody, Lyn Countryman, Chad Christopher, JD Cryer, Susan Fischer, Becky Hawbaker, Terri Lasswell, Jill Uhlenberg, and Dwight C. Watson – dialoged about the various aspects of teaching and how we are preparing our students for the current profession.

The keynote speaker was Katherine Bassett who was the 2000 recipient of the New Jersey Teacher of the Year award. She is currently the executive director of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). Her topic focused on the characteristics the network has been researching that would make teaching a viable profession comparable to the fields of medicine and law. She spoke of five structures of effective practice the teaching profession should embrace: professional career continuums, distributed leadership models, collaborative practices, actionable feedback to inform practices, and guiding professional principles. She stated these practices are inter-connected and build upon each other. She shared many slides that showcased this integration. She proposed the profession must advocate for these structures because, as educators, we are best suited and situated to determine what the profession should look like internally and externally. Also, the inclusion of these structures in the profession creates an educator-developed framework around which district, state, and federal policies can be developed.

As Katherine presented each structure, she provided time for table talks so the audience could think about how these structures would affect their context. For each of the structures, our University of Northern Iowa table discussed what is occurring in Iowa's schools and how our preservice teachers should engage in these structures. For instance, when we discussed collaborative practices, we noted several teachers are co-teaching and that inclusion seems to be the preferred practice in most districts. We were wondering if we could model this more effectively by having our field-based coordinators co-teach with the cooperating teachers to model lessons for our preservice teachers so they can co-teach with the cooperating teacher and eventually co-teach with each other absent of the cooperating teacher. Becky explained how Mary Stichter was already modeling this practice.

When Katherine spoke about the career continuum, she said we need to move away from career ladders and move toward career lattices. A career ladder is hierarchical and the ascension up the ladder means that eventually the highly effective teacher moves out of the classroom and into administration. In a career lattice model, teachers can fluidly move in and out of the classroom to model practices for other teachers, take on curriculum tasks, or provide assessment direction for the school, and then move back into the classroom the next year. This fluidity allows for continuous professional development as a teacher moves from novice to advanced beginner to competent to proficient to expert. As the teacher moves along the continuum, he or she has opportunities to enrich and fortify practices through distributed leadership roles. Our UNI table embraced this model and spoke about how these practices could be envisioned in our partner schools.

Finally, we discussed guiding principles. We spoke about the teaching standards and the InTASC standards. We conversed about how we need to embed the new InTASC standards into our current courses, how Chapter 79 should be amended to embrace these standards, and ideally inservice practice should also utilize these standards so teachers could see a progression of professional growth from preservice novice to inservice expert.

At the conference, each participant was given a white paper. See the link to the white paper below, Re-Imagining Teaching: Five Structures to Transform the Profession. I encourage you all to read it and have your own table talks in your professional learning communities, department gatherings, or program planning meetings. I truly enjoy professional gatherings that enable us to discuss critical issues and apply them to our own contexts. I appreciated and valued the wisdom of my peers as we used this professional development opportunity to re-imagine teaching.

Dr. Dwight C. Watson, Dean

College of Education

University of Northern Iowa